Friday, 24 October 2008

I'm Not Old But I Can See It From Here...

My beautiful cousin, Carol, (barely recognizable as being qualified to join the "over 60" crowd") sent me this article on women and aging. I thought it was too good not to share.

Susan Schwartz, Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm not old, but I can see it from here -- not that I think of old age as a monolithic state any more than I believe youth is. We all fight battles with fear or despair, whatever our stage of life. But I have been here for more time than lies ahead and, these days, I'm more mindful about time and how I use it.
Lately, books on growing older seem to be tumbling from the presses more quickly than ever. I spent the past week with The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully (Novalis, $22.95), a lovely new meditation on aging by a 72-year-old Benedictine nun from Erie, Pa.
There is purpose to every stage of life, Sister Joan Chittister believes -- old age no less than any other. She says one function of aging is to become comfortable with the self we are now rather than to mourn what we are not or to regret paths chosen.
For many years of our adult lives, jobs and other roles give us a measure of status and power. The challenge is to avoid what Chittister calls the hollowness that comes with the stripping away of that status that comes, inevitably, with age. We are more than what we do for a living -- or did. Meaning, she says, comes in being, not doing: being interested and being available, being honest and being helpful.
Most of us will live into old age; assuming we stay healthy, the choice of how we live is, for the most part, ours -- whether to experience life as a long list of continuing losses and endings, or as a new stage of development intended to challenge us.
"Aging well does not mean that we will not change physically. But it does mean that we will not define ourselves only by our continuing physical proficiencies," Chittister writes.
"Our moral obligation is not, as society might lead us to believe, to ski at 60 and jog at 70 and bike at 80. No, our moral obligation is to stay as well as we can, to avoid abusing our bodies, to do the things that interest us and to enrich the lives of those around us."
The greatest danger in one's 60s, as Carolyn Heilbrun, author of The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty observed, "is to be trapped in one's body and one's habits, not to recognize those supposedly sedate years as a time to discover new choices and to act upon them."
Chittister says there is nothing we can't do if we want to -- whether it's learn another language or start a book club. With age, she has begun to understand that "holiness is made of dailiness, of living life as it comes to me, not as I insist it be."
But an important part of growing older is simply growing accustomed to the state -- and this in a culture in which preparation for aging "seems to be concentrated almost entirely on buying anti-wrinkle creams and joining a health club," as Chittister puts it. What must change is our attitude. "We begin to look inside ourselves," she writes. "We begin to find more strength in the spirit than in the flesh."

1 comment:

persephone said...

Great food for thought! Thank you Carol and Marylou for sharing this.
I was reading a favourite book that I pick up again and again before bed as so comforting. It is called "Simple Abundance" by Sarah Ban Breathnach. My dear sis Cath gave it to me years ago. It has lovely quotes as well as passages to read for each day of the year. Last night I read "You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by. Yes, but some of them are golden because we let them slip " ~ J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)
I like that.
All the best from Claire