Saturday, May 23, 2009

Contraction


Reya at Gold Puppy started me thinking about middle age this morning. And I hope that if nothing else happens in our culture and society over the next many years, it will allow women to age gracefully and with dignity. For far too long woman have been victimized into believing that their looks, body and sex appeal were their only real attributes. We have sliced, diced, dyed, and abused ourselves into believing we could somehow hang on to our youth. But it is a natural process to contract. We are a microcosm of the world and universe. We are born, we expand, maybe multiply, then we begin to contract, and eventually die. As it is with all living things. Without acceptance of this process we do not allow the richness, that is a woman in the latter part of her life, to be accepted and revered. As it should be.

Of course, the same applies to men. How many old men do you just never pay much attention to? We believe that our old people have no value because our society is obsessed with youth and beauty. I think of all the men on Viagra and other "male enhancements" to hang on to the youth and vigor that was once so easy. Can these drugs be good for you? Seriously, do you think mixing these drugs with whatever else older men have to take can "enhance" their health? And what about the beauty of an older man? He has experienced so much to get where he is in his middle to latter years. Most men have worked all their lives for their families, only to be marginalized because they no longer can keep up with people in their twenties or thirties. What about all the knowledge, history, trials and errors that he has gone through that could be of value if someone only listened? Couldn't our senior citizens have warned us of an economic blowout if they had lived through the 1930's? Why does history keep repeating itself when it comes to economic policy? Because it is run by younger men and women that are focused on self, and not the greater whole. They are in the expanding stage of their lives.

I would hope we will look at our elderly differently in the future, and not just because I am headed that way. I would hope they will be there to teach their families, including their grandchildren, what they have learned - and have it accepted as information of value. I would like people to see the beauty of an aging woman. She is the contraction of life. As much a part of the lifespan as youth. The respect should be there. Don't you think?

47 comments:

Expat From Hell said...

This is a great post. The Japanese taught us a valuable lesson in the reverence of the aged. These people know this, and participate fully in society there - because they are important. Hopefully we will all grow this way - and your next post will be called "Expansion"!

ExpatFromHell

ellen abbott said...

I agree with you whole heartedly. I have tried not to let the youth culture affect my well being, I accept who, what and where I am. Why is this so hard for women to do. Why do they let themselves be convinced that they have no worth if they are not young and beautiful or really, just beautiful? That without make-up, dyed hair, breast implants and plastic surgery they are not attractive? The sad thing is that women are willing participants and do this to themselves. (sorry, this is one of my rants.)

W will not stay young by refusing to acknowledge aging. Ignoring our aged does not stop the process and brings dishonor to them.

Thank you Lover of Life for this post.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Fabulous Post, LoL!!!!!!! We need you to shout this from the rooftops!!!! Thanks for using your wonderful platform/blog to cause ALL of us to think about what REALLY matters!!! You are superb!!!!!!!! An angel in the blogosphere!!! I LOVED THIS!!! And send my love to you~ Janine XO

Marguerite said...

Very insightful post and I agree that in most cultures, it is the status quo. However, in the Cajun culture, we are taught from a very early age to respect and revere our elders. After all, with age, comes wisdom and wisdom is the greatest teacher of all. Age is to me, a state of mind. In Cajun Country, you will find the dance floors full of boomers and even people in their 70's and 80's, cutting the rug, and enjoying life to the fullest. This is their secret to staying, looking and feeling young.

Lover of Life said...

Expat - The Japanese, and most Asian cultures are much more advanced in this area than we are. They could teach us much, I think. You are lucky to have had this experience.

Ellen - We are on the same wavelength!

Sniffles - Thanks!

Marguerite - I have been reading your blog and have noted all of the older people out on the dance floor. What came to mind was the interaction of age groups. Wonderful!

Jo said...

I happened to click onto "The Real Housewives of Orange County" a couple of times, and what I saw there terrified me. It was as if the women were trying to preserve themselves in formaldehyde. But the saddest thing was watching them complete with their grown children. For all their effort, the women did not look particularly attractive, because they looked as if they had been "petrified". One woman had no expression when she spoke, and she could not smile.

There is beauty at every age, and our society needs to stop worshipping youth. Older, more experienced folks have so much to offer, and I wish we could learn to appreciate them, as people in other cultures do.

Anna said...

I've never been too connected with my age group, and as I began to let the world go, I found myself seeking out the older generation for advice, as friends, as partners in crime...and I don't even think about it. It just naturally happens. If you seek good advice, comforting words, honesty- you'll end up looking towards those that have lived a lot of life.

MzzLily said...

We built this home with my in-laws in mind. We brought them to live with us so that we could help them in their last years. My F-i-L is in his 80s and teaches Hubby lots about gardening. This used to be a normal thing, but it seems now to be rare. The nursing homes are full of vibrant people that could be of use to their children, if only their children could see...

Lover of Life said...

Jo - i watch Housewives of New York for the pure fascination of watching women so out of touch with life cycles, acceptance, and joy in the small things. At least what is portrayed in a 60-minute television program once a week.

Anna - It sounds like you are way ahead of the generation before you. You will be the example for your generation.

Mzz - I couldn't agree with you more.

Star said...

I suppose it's all about being happy and safe in your own skin. I fluctuate between wanting to be young again and enjoying being older. My Blog is called Star-forever-young and I called it that because of my outlook on life. I embrace the younger culture but I am happy in my own wrinkly skin. Perhaps I have the best of both worlds at the moment, but how long will that last, I wonder? I hope I have the grace to let go when the time comes. I have already decided to let my hair grow grey when I reach 60!
Blessings, Star

Lover of Life said...

Star - You do embody both, I think. I love youth. I love babies, children, adolescence. I love hanging around the twenty-somethings. They are often funny and irreverent and I love that about them. I respect where they are in life, but I don't wish to go back. I think that's where you are, too. That whole gray hair thing is bothering me - why can't I just let go?? Is it because my ego will think less of me?

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks for this! As you know it is much on my mind today (and many days).

One of the reasons I love it that more middle aged and older women (and men) are blogging is because this is an opportunity for us to share some of our stories, maybe some wisdom, too. At the very least we are able to share a point of view that can only come from people who are a bit older than the 30 somethings that dominate the blog world.

I'm so glad you're out there writing and thinking and posting!! Thank you!!

Reya Mellicker said...

Lover of Life - When I finally did let go and let my hair just be GRAY, my whole head got so much happier. My hair is healthy and shiny like it hasn't been in decades.

I get compliments on my hair every day. But - don't do it till you're ready. The growing out phase is a frickin PROCESS!

Lover of Life said...

Reya - Thanks - I agree with what you said about the blogging community. I love all the wisdom and perspectives - especially yours. Thanks also for saying that going gray is okay!! You look beautiful, so it gives me some incentive. I'm working on it...

Rain said...

I agree with you! The Joan Rivers look is just awful if you ask me. Aging with dignity shouldn't be something we are ashamed of...My Grandfather was the most handsome man in his old age, he had white hair, wrinkles and a few age spots, but he was beautiful. Gosh I miss him!!!
:-)

Lover of Life said...

Rain - What a wonderful tribute to your Grandfather that you think of him in this way.

Rain said...

Thanks LOL, he was the real father figure in my life!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Good post....as usual. I am glad to be the age I am and have no yearnings to be young again. The extra lbs I could do without, but I am healthy so I don't fixate on it. There is a lot of freedom that comes with age, but you are so right about the lack of reverence.

Nancy said...

I had no wise adults to look up to, I hope to be one though. My family is not hurt by the youth culture so much as the drug culture, both legal and illegal. I am attempting to be a wise old lady one day though and if by chance its not appreciated by people, i have my old standby thats never let me down...my cats and dogs!

Lover of Life said...

Kathy - I could live without the extra pounds, as well.

Nancy - All of my wise adults are gone, except for my mother-in-law. Cats and dogs love us unconditionally. Yay to that.

Joanne said...

Like so much else, I think the respect is there on subtle, quiet levels, within families, among friends. But the media is what we see, and what many people feed off of, and so we think it is all the norm. Dignity and taking care of ourselves and eachother, at any age, are qualities to seek, strive for, and acknowledge.

Lover of Life said...

Joanne - Good point. We need to beware of media-driven stereotypes.

nurturingwisdom said...

As young children growing up in America, my siblings and I were surrounded by my grandfather and his friends from our village in China.

In traditional China, old age was an elder person's social security. The elders were respected and admired. They were well taken care of by the son and daughter-in-law. Fortunately, this was continued in America by my family. My parents took care of my grandparents into their last days, and we in turn took care of our parents into their last days.

I have many fond memories of my grandfather. We still keep in touch with many of the village members, the children and grand-children of my grandfather's generation.

My hair has been gray for many years. I exercise to keep fit, eat properly, and have a wonderful relationship with God. Some people have even urged my to dye it, but I always say to them, "I love my gray. It's a sign of wisdom."

Thank you for your post. We as women have much wisdom that the world is eager to hear about. We are beautiful. We've been transformed by life's experiences. Thank you for your wisdom, Lover of Life!

Sink said...

Wonderful. Have you read "Circle of Stones"? Appreciating women wisdom and finding a way to respect it and pass it on. As always, thoughtful.

PeacefulWmn9 said...

Today is my mom's 86th birthday, and she is still the person I most trust and look to for an example in this whole world. The old among us, of which I will soon be one, have so much to offer.

Lisa said...

great post and yes i am lost to find a world that treats its elderly with so little respect- the wisdom of our crones is astounding, if we can just realize it x

Lover of Life said...

nuturing - You family had it right. It's wonderful that revering the aged was part of your family paradigm. And you are also comfortable with your grey hair as a result.

Sink - Thank you for the book recommendation, I will check it out!

Peaceful - Happy birthday to your mother! It's a tribute to a life well lived when she is loved by you as she is.

Lisa - I couldn't agree more. I miss having old women in my life. They can be such guiding influences.

pranksygang said...

wow! your post made me realize many things.. you made me open my mind and think a lot! thanks for your thoughts! you are a very good teacher!

once i asked my mom whether she enjoys becoming old, she replied that.. her skin is getting old.. and never felt old by heart!

Beatriz Kim said...

I wholeheartedly believe in respect for the elderly. Experience counts for a lot and we have much to learn from the older generation.

I have worked with the elderly in skilled nursing facilities for over 12 years. I have met so many interesting, intelligent, and kind people.

After working with these wonderful people for so long, I have come to understand that you're not in the "elderly" category until you hit 80 years of age!

So for those of you that feel old at 50...you're still a spring chicken for at least another 30 years!

I think that if people stay connected to young people, they stay young. And if young people spend more time with the elderly, they will respect them more!

Wouldn't it be great if it was required for high school students to volunteer in the community...including activities with seniors? This is usually required for honors programs, but it would be great if it was also extended to the other 80% of the student population.

Most importantly...Lover of Life...you are not close to being elderly! You are still young at heart and yet you have the advantage of wisdom!

I love reading your thought provoking posts! I hope to continue learning from you for some time to come!

Thank you for your blog! I'm sure many feel the same way!

mo'ikeha said...

Ojos que ven, no envejecen.
(Seening eyes don't age. Span. proverb)
Many times they do see even more of what young people are able to see. Giving me the 'mission' to lead my students towards what they should see.

Valerie said...

I once saw an elderly lady who was so heavily lined her face looked like crinkled parchment, but she radiated her own kind of beauty. When a little girl stopped to stare, her Mom pulled her away telling her not to be rude. Little girl pulled free of her Mom saying she wanted to talk to the peaceful lady. I'll never forget the wisdom that came from a child.

susan said...

You're so right. The mirror says I'm no longer so young as I used to be but I don't feel it and that's what matters.

I remember a lesson from a fine Sunday morning in Providence when I met an old man who'd obviously spent the night in our back yard. We said 'good morning' and I gave him some money for his breakfast. There was no shame on either side. At the checkout line was an old lady in front of me searching her purse for the extra $5 she knew she had somewhere to pay for her cat food. I was happy to give her the money but although she was grateful she was embarrassed to accept it.

I've never had money to throw around but some expenses are a natural part of living. The old deserve our respect and love.

Lover of Life said...

pranky - The ironic thing about aging is that the mind does not age - only the body.

Beatriz - I think it would be great for high-schoolers to spend some time with the elderly. It would be a win-win for both sides.

mo'ikeha - You are a wise teacher, in so many ways.

Valerie - What a wonderful story! The little girl seeing what the mother was unable.

susan - How wonderful you are. You see what is important in life, and do what needs to be done. The world is a better place for it.

Andrea said...

You and Reya both get me thinking! I think we've gotten a little better with our opinions on aging, afterall, we baby boomers make up just a large portion of our population! But, we still have a long way to go, especially with our stereotypes of women and age. It makes me sad when I see people lose patience with the elderly. I look at my own mom, who walks so much slower and with so much more difficulty! We'll all be wearing those shoes one day!

C.M. Jackson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C.M. Jackson said...

What a wonderful post--here's hoping that we can be the change we are looking for..best c

Lover of Life said...

Andrea - Yes, it won't be that long before the gait gets a little slower, the eyes aren't as sharp or bright, but the mind will remain the same young person it always was - amazing. If our brain didn't age - it would be like young people trapped in an older body.

CM - Let's do!!

Leah J. Utas said...

The ones who are hanging on now are the Boomers who owned the Sixties and were defined by their youth. No one wants to let that go.
I often think about this because I thought that once they (Okay. We. I was born in '58) were older they'd (we'd) get it. Didn't happen.
That said, I'm proud of my age and am looking forward to being old and cantankerous.

lscollison said...

Yes! We must command the respect we deserve, not just say it ought to be so.

Be the person you want to be. Let it shine, old woman, let it shine!

Lover of Life said...

Leah - Yep - them is us.

Is - Respect is nice.

ernahdime said...

i love love love your blog. It's so inspiring.

Hilary said...

Well put. There are some frighteningly hideous faces out there who are reluctant to let go of their youth. How could aging naturally NOT be better than that?

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

Oh boy! This post reminded me of my mother who has gone through several Botox treatments. Maybe it is because I am young and oblivious to the idea of ever having wrinkles one day, but I think it's ridiculous. She has earned every single line on her face and she is so beautiful.

She also has a thing with long hair. In the Bible it says, "A woman's hair is her crown." My mother would never leave me alone if I cut my hair short. I think she has pounded this fear of short hair into me.

I loved this post, btw.

Boomka said...

Aging is a funny thing. Its the only I don't really know how to do, but I do it anyway. I hope to god that I do not end up one of those 40 year old guys with bedazzled t-shirts and ripped jeans chatting with my facebook friends about how drunk we all just got. Aging gracefully has gone the way of the telegram. Its almost nonexistant!

Spiritual Journey said...

I have a theory about this. Having grown up in extended families in Asia, I was shocked to see how very nuclear-type families are here. I lived where in one compound, all cousins and their parents, with our grandparents, interact with each other on a daily basis. There were no daycares coz if a mother has an errand to do, she'll just dump her kid to her neighbor, which happens to be a relative. We were also taught to respect/revere anybody older than us so taunting or any form of disrespect of the elderly was punished severely. So there's pretty much solid emotional ties among different generations. When I arrived here, daycares abound so parents can work. TVs became babysitters in most cases, where kids seem to get most of their values now. Not only that - nursing homes are everywhere, too, where grandmas or grandpas are deposited by kids who were deposited in daycares when they were young. It seems as if there's an emotional disconnect between the older generation and the younger generation, aggravated by the fact that TVs glorify youth and beauty. Daycares, TVs and nursing homes have their advantages, I agree, but we are reaping now the downside of it -- disregard to older people.

Beatriz Kim said...

Yup. That's how Asian people live, though, some of the more westernized countries are starting to show a slow but determined move towards breaking the family bonds...for the same reasons we have here in America.

Just so sad!!

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