Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Being an Old Woman

"Full Circle" by Sandra Bierman
Recently, my husband and I had lunch with a friend whom we had not seen for a long time. We talked about the usual topics people of our age discuss, including thoughts about retirement and what's next. Along with being a hospice physician, she is also a writer, but has done little writing since she broke her leg several years ago. She said that accident changed her life.

I'm not exactly sure what she meant by that, and I hope we can explore that more in the future, but she was clear about making a commitment to healing her body. That has been her focus. I am beginning to understand what that means, as I realize how much energy needs to be directed towards the care and restoration of my ankle. I admit I resent it in part, don't quite believe it, and wonder what that really means. How much longer will healing have to be my focus? Will the physical healing continue to be to the detriment of my writing, of doing things I have said I want to do during this stage of my life? Is there really only so much energy to go around? Is the health of the body--the strength and the stamina of the body--worth giving up what I've said I want to do, what I do, where I think my passion and purpose is? Must it be either/or? What does my life consist of from this time on?

Glimpses of Being Old
I told my friend when I catch a glimpse of myself now in a window or mirror, I see an old woman with a cane, and she said when she broke her leg, she knew she was an old woman and decided to own that designation. I understand that, for I have always felt old, I think. I was not comfortable as a teenager or even when I was in my 20's or 30's. I was always eager to get beyond the focus of how I look to what I think and what I know. An old soul whose wisdom is valued. Perhaps that is why I gravitated towards being a spiritual director. 

Over the weekend my husband and I went to a 4:20 movie along with all the other "old" people. We purchased our senior citizen tickets and shuffled into the theatre. I noticed all of those with canes, and trust me, I wasn't the only one. Earlier in the day at lunch I noticed a very attractive "older" woman stylishly dressed in a sort of put-together Bohemian style, and she had a cane, too. I commented to my husband how she needed my animal print cane as the ultimate accessory. It's still a cane, however. She needed a cane, for whatever reason, as did others going to the movie. I don't need to use mine all the time, and I am grateful I have it when I need it, and I do need it sometimes, but I know I look old, instead of distinguished, when I use it. I look less than what I want to be.  

Forty-eight years ago this fall I met eleven young women as we started the adventure of being college women. Last week eight of us gathered for a leisurely catch-up lunch. Not one of us has escaped difficult times in our lives, and several are currently faced with ongoing challenges. We are old women. We are old women learning to maneuver this stage of our lives. We are old women discovering the wisdom of being at this stage. 

Words of Wisdom
Perhaps Jean Shinoda Bolen http://www.jeanshinodabolen.com in her book Crones Don't Whine, Concentrated Wisdom from Juicy Women can guide the way:
     I wonder what is going to happen next?…Years ago, 
     in the midst of my own midlife transition, I had heard
     myself saying these words, because the only thing that
     seemed predictable was the unpredictability of each day's
     events. Since then, I have found them to be the best words
     and attitude to have when going through the choppy waters
     and storms that occur when people are going through times
     which change their lives and can change them. Anyone
     who thinks they are entitled to smoother sailing or better
     accommodations or different company, in the midst of
     the major transitions that we go through in this life, better
     disabuse themselves of such ideas. Otherwise they will
     whine and not be prepared to grow and change. 
                                                         pp 111-112

Bolen also suggests we "pray for the best outcome," for others, but also for ourselves. As wise as we may be, we don't always know or perhaps, ever know what the best outcome may be. "We cannot control or even know the full potential of what lies ahead." (p. 110) We can, however, own our lives in the present moment and we can allow ourselves healing time and the use of a cane. 

An Invitation
What "cane" is currently supporting you in your life and what healing time do you require? I would love to know. 

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