In Passing

Today I passed an older resident on her way out of our building as I was coming in.

As I automatically prompted myself to say “Good morning,” I was aware of the conditioning that I learned growing up to respect those older than me kicking in, still, so many years later.

I was the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of two very stylish, very elegant women. I was taught, when with them and my mother, to hold the door for them to enter, or to step aside and honor their age. “Age before beauty!” was the motto that I learned.

I carry that in my system, alongside so many familial and societal conditionings. This one, I do not mind. I love it, in fact. I carry the tradition on easily.

As this woman passed by and returned my greeting with elegance and dignity and a public manner that is becoming extinct, I was moved, as I often am, by my sense of the world of experience that she carries within her.

I say becoming extinct, because the generation of my great-grandmother has passed away. My grandparents’ peers are probably almost all gone. Those of my parents’ generation do remain, but it is a fifty-fifty chance of whether or not they carried forward the kind of public demeanor and carriage that the woman has this morning. Perhaps she was my grandparent’s age. It is hard for me to gauge age. I feel eternally young inside, so often relate to others as if I am still that 14 year old. I passed her as if she was my Great-Grandmother. She was my Grandmother’s age, I think. Or maybe even my mom’s.

When I am her age, will someone pass by me and find something in my manner or expression that leads her to remember her grandmother’s generation’s “quaint” or old-fashioned ways? Or will I not even see her because I am still texting or taking selfies, even though I am sure in 20- 30 years those things will long-since been replaced by newer ways of communicating?

I wonder where such things are headed. What of my ways today will be no longer be observed on the whole when I am that woman’s age.

Will there be someone around my age now who appreciates the “old ways” as I do now?

I hope so.

I send her my appreciation in advance. I hope that when she passes me, we have an exchange, and she feels somehow touched by me on a deeper, human level.

#generations #customs #appreciation #olderpeoplerock

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Fast-Forward

I reach forward through time

Caress my own face

Trace the worn rivulets

Heart-lines that reveal

The worries, the laughter

The life that I have lived

I tuck the silver hair behind my ear

I run my finger down the

Cords and veins on my hand

Touch the wedding ring

My pride, my true love, my joy

I whisper, “Rest now, my friend.

You did it. You survived.

And then you thrived.

And now, you can let go.”

I feel such love for her

The me I came to be

I come back into my present

Filled with love-swell and peace

And deep knowing

Nothing to fear at the end

Nothing to fear

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The In-between Space

If I squint, I can still see it in my mind’s eye

The back of the front seat

of my parents’ doo doo brown

Buick Estate Wagon: my permanent view

Sandwiched between the adolescent sweaty arms

of my older brothers, their elbows poking my small shoulders

Fighting the space wars that only siblings know about

Gum popping, punches passed across me

Pre-digital age entertainment

Counting cars, Mad Libs, I Spy, rounds of car songs

I could barely see out the windows

But my whole world was inside anyways

I was in heaven between those two

Even their ignoring me was attention I loved

What I wouldn’t give to be back there

Lulled into a happy daze

The faint smell of my dad’s pipe

The tinkle of my mom’s laugh

And those two on either side

Holding me in tight, safe and sound

On the road, together

 

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Forever Young

I was with family this past Memorial Day weekend, and it was eye-opening.

I have often noted through the years the many things that get stirred up when I visit family. I know that we all tend to regress when we “go home.” For my recovery over the years I have had to pay close attention to this: going home was always a minefield emotionally. I had to learn to prepare and take care of myself while home.

All the old stuff would resurface, seemingly immediately, upon stepping onto Houston soil.

Often, it centered around my body and appearance. Depending on how I was feeling in my body, I would have negative thoughts and distorted thinking about how my body looked and also about how much others were thinking about how I looked.

I learned not to look in mirrors. To not trust the voices in my head that told me I had become monstrous overnight. I worked hard to distinguish the voices from my own “core,” and to be able to trust that “they” were not “real.”

It was painful, but over time, I have healed much of the sources of the genesis of those voices. They were, in their twisted way, a way for my psyche to protect itself from other much more complex feelings. Feelings that felt way out of my control and way out of my coping capabilities at the time.

I have also come to know that some of what I was feeling underneath it all was shame. I would feel shame around my family about how I looked and how I was. Who I was. I would not been able to name it as such then. It was just how I felt. It actually felt like “me.” But I know now it was shame.

Thankfully, with a great deal of personal work, I have had many visits home in the past several years where those voices were a very low murmur. Sometimes, they were totally quiet. Sometimes they flared up, but I had the relief of knowing that they were not “real.” It made a huge difference. I was not a victim to them. I could observe them and know the truth.

So imagine my surprise when, on this visit, I noticed a totally new form of that old shame.

This shame? It actually had to do with the shame of having gotten older.

I could not believe it. I actually felt ashamed for having aged.

In reflecting on this, I realize that as I am the youngest, when I am around my aunts and uncle, I have been carrying this sense of responsibility somehow to stay young forever. To stay that little girl. Well, my physical appearance belies that illusion. I will always remain the youngest in relation to them, but I am no longer young by any means.

So why the shame? I know that our culture creates an atmosphere of shame around aging, so it makes sense. But around my own loved ones? Wow. That just blew me away.

I actually had to stop myself from apologizing for having aged. I am still trying to process that. I have some unraveling to do for sure.

For now, I breathe and find compassion, once again, for the young parts in me that still feel like all of my value is tied up in my looks.

I take myself by the hand yet again and say, “I love you, just as you are right now.” It is a ceremony of self-love, and if I were to do it a million times, it would still never be enough.

Inspired by The Daily Post: ceremony

A Sea Change

I write a lot about being a woman and aging.

(See A Table of One’s Own and On Aging.)

I am committed to changing the narrative around middle-aged and older women (and men.)

I want the women (and men) who come after me to have a better path, a more welcoming one, as they move out of “youth” into their 40’s, 50’s and beyond.

I want them to never have to feel “invisible.”

I blame advertising and other forms of media.

We simply stop seeing people on television and film, for the most part, after they turn 45 or so.

Sure, we see a few as needed for the main story. The parent of the lead. The grandparent of the lead’s kids. A judge, a doctor, maybe — although today, for the most part, you see lawyers and doctors on shows and in movies who are in their mid-20’s to mid 30’s.

Oh, sure, there is the occasional uptight matron, or kooky neighbor or unmarried aunt. Or maybe a ball-busting woman playing a politician or high-ranking military officer.

But usually, we stop seeing any stories of people over 45 until they become grumpy old men or grandma’s on rampage.

In advertising, there is a gap between women and men aged 45 until over 65 or so. We see parents until their kids go off to college, and then “bam”! Nothing until it is time for dentures and Depends.

There’s just this big gap. And in that gap would be those of us between the ages of 45 and 65.

So my theory is that because youth grow up literally not seeing people ages 45 to 65 reflected back to them on TV and in magazines and films, they simply do not see us.

We are invisible to them.

I want this to change. I want to be a part of this change.

I am doing what I can by finding people who are brave enough to write stories that contain middle-aged and older people in central roles and stories and doing all I can to get cast in their pieces or support their work however I can by donating or watching or simply giving them a “Way to go!”

And I am writing my own stories that will reflect that population and am working to produce them.

I can go and support films of the people who have already done this. I can watch shows such as “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix who are featuring stories of people in their 70’s to support the efforts being made to get people over 45 into meaningful stories.

I do not yet know how else, but I know that I will be a part of this change.

It will be a sea change, for sure. But a change is a’coming, if I have my way.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: invisible