Thankfully, wisdom attaches to age, and it is one of the brightest gems in the treasure box of our later years.
Early on, everything that happens is new to us, and we respond with new sensations, emotions, reactions. As we age, that “shiny” aspect begins to dull, and eventually, we become beings of experience, better able to process, to understand, and, if we are lucky, to proffer our knowledge to those who are younger than us.
I’m currently in an awareness of how the intensities of my earlier years have shifted, along with my priorities. Rather than passionately follow the footlights or go on sea expeditions, I now find myself wanting comfort, good friendships, and ways to share the wisdom I have gained so that the world can be just a bit brighter.
If there is anything I miss about my young adult years, it is two things: the aliveness that came from the new experiences, and the challenges I encountered on my way to moments of “celebrity” and recognition within my social network.
Even now, in our own times, mature women can be more or less invisible. Their child-bearing and -rearing years behind them, their place in the traditional order of things is less clear. (In myth, the older woman moves from invisible to downright evil, a malevolent witch or hag, someone on the outside, someone to be feared.) I think this was likely a deliberate construct, set into place by the same powers that would have preferred women generally to have lesser voices in our culture and happily, it is dying away – though the destruction of that construct could be quicker.
In the past decades women (while acknowledging there is still work to be done before we achieve full equality) have made tremendous strides, and we now have educations, our own money, our own agency to direct our lives as we see fit. In opposition to the evil witch, in folk tales, women are beginning to use the force of their knowledge gained from their accumulated experience to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.
Your movement through time has made you an older woman; nature itself needs you to be this thing. In the folktale of your life, you are not only the vessel for your own accumulated knowledge, but you are also a keeper and chronicler of the family tales, the one who was there for the births of the generation after you and the one after that, the one who has been there from the beginning.
All of this brings about a deep shift, a re-ordering of ourselves, how we see our place in our families and our communities, how our priorities change as our responsibilities change, how we think about the way we’ve shaped our worlds so far and what it is we’d still like to do in the time we have left. We think about that time left: it is growing shorter–as it has always done, but now our sense of that is more acute.
This is a time when it is especially important to be present to yourself, your motivations and your desires.
Fear is a given, especially when we experience daily reminders via physical symptoms like our lovely locks of hair on the floor or unrelenting aches and pains getting in the way of our pleasure. While it is reasonable to have some fear about our changing bodies, what will you still do in your life? What matters?
Where could you focus and be in motion so that the passions in your soul remain ignited upon the landscape of your life? What can you still look forward to, what is there that needs to be done? If you give the boot to apathy and resignation and go within, you may discover what matters to you now, whether it be giving back, inventing something useful, healing family relationships, or going on a brilliant travel adventure.
In her poem The Summer Day, Mary Oliver asks us:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Tell me: what do you plan to do with yours?