Month: October 2013

Devotion is a Gift of Aging

Devotion is a Gift of Aging

Devotion is a gift of aging.
Devotion is a gift of aging.

When I see elderly couples together it warms my heart. Whether they are husband and wife, or friends walking arm in arm offering support and comfort to one another, I am lifted up. Aging doesn’t have to be a lonely, miserable venture. It can be a time of building trust and lowering our defenses as we come face to face with our utter humanity.

Our culture is one that reveres independence. It heralds the valiant individualist. Women of our generation, in particular, fought hard to gain respect as individuals. We worked diligently to stand on our own two feet and not be depending on a man for our survival. We are a generation who is fiercely independent. Perhaps that is why we feel so threatened by the aging process.

We fear aging because we fear that sickness or frailty will rob us of the  independence we fought so hard to achieve.  We will become dependent on someone, or something other than ourselves. We will, in the end, somehow not be able to be there for ourselves.

Independence has its value, but what we really sought was the freedom to live up to our fullest potential as people, regardless of our gender. Independence, self-sufficiency was often a mask we wore to make sense of the surge of power with which we were not yet comfortable. We had to pretend we knew what we were doing because we didn’t. We were learning.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned as we age is how utterly interdependent we are as human beings, and how fortunate we are to be thus. Love and devotion, tolerance, sympathy, empathy, compassion are beautiful things to experience, both coming in and going out. It is our interdependence that provides the richness and texture to life. It’s not Hollywood perfect, but sharing life with another person in any given moment is rich, meaningful, and often even necessary.

As we age and lose our ability to maintain our independence we have the opportunity to learn humility, respect, gratitude and trust. What wonderful lessons to be learned.

© Dorothy Sander 2013

IT’S EASIER TO BE HAPPY WHEN….

CHOOSING THE REAL YOU

Self-Actualization….Really??

Self-Actualization….Really??

CherI was up later than usual last night. It was one of those sleepless nights. I don’t usually watch TV when I can’t sleep, but I had it on in the background for company while I worked on my laptop, and David Letterman came on. My curiosity peaked when he announced that Cher would be joining him, so I kept it on.

I have no idea whether or not the show was current or a re-run, as I rarely watch Letterman, but it was at the very least “recent”.  Cher, born in 1946, is 67. Cher, according to the blurb on Wikipedia is an “American singer and actress. Recognized for having brought the sense of female autonomy and self-actualization into the entertainment industry (the italics are mine).

Her entrance: Sitting high above the stage in a swing, wearing short shorts and fishnet stockings, properly posed with legs crossed, Cher was lowered to the stage with some sort of fanfare in the background. Letterman walked over to greet her and ushered her regally to a waiting chair. Her hair perfectly coiffed, her face frozen in place with something of a smile etched into it, she had not one visible wrinkle, blemish or expression mark.

I watched the interview for the next 20 minutes in utter shock, disbelief and profound sadness. Perhaps, not really shock, or even stepfordvdisbelief,  as there’s far too much of this going on in Hollywood to be surprised, but definitely sadness and very real disappointment. Cher is an icon for women of our generation. She has power and presence and incredible power at her fingertips. What is she doing with it? “Autonomy and self-actualization” are not words I would even put as close as down the street with Cher.

To my way of thinking, self-actualization is “real”; it’s truth, honesty, transparency, integration, transformation, evolution of body mind and spirit from a life time of living. Cher, self actualize? Not on your life. I don’t want to hear about show business or even business as being the reason, or the explanation behind the choices she made to show up on national television in some kind of senior citizen rendition of the Stepford Wives. Ironically, her new album is title “Closer to the Truth”. From where I’m sitting she couldn’t be further from the truth, as I see it.

We all evolve at our own rate and in our own way. As women in the 21st Century we each struggle with our relationship with our culture’s obsession with youth and it’s utter refusal to value, or even acknowledge, an aging population. And yet, every day I see women fighting and winning the battle; making inroads and broadening perspectives. Many are in the public eye and are wearing the battle publicly. I think of Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Tina Turner, Judi Dench, Betty White, Angela Lansbury, Valerie Harper; or Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Condolezza Rice; or Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Martha Beck, Byron Katie, Caroline Myss, Louise Hay, who are not so much in the public eye but having their impact.

We have a choice, each of us. We can choose to participate in self-actualization as I understand it, or we can choose a Stepford Wive’s version of aging.

Keeping Up Appearances

It’s Easier to Be Happy When…

It’s Easier to Be Happy When…

Rainbow Quilt from  the Jolly Jabber
Rainbow Quilt from
the Jolly Jabber

It’s easier to be happy when we get rid of the “shoulds” in our life and begin replacing them with “want tos”. Midlife is the perfect opportunity to shuck the things that are not working and get down to the business of enjoying life on our own terms. In my case, it meant emptying out a whole passel of drawers and closets, literally and figuratively, and starting from scratch.

I felt so stuck, so seemingly unable to figure out what was wrong with my life or how to fix it. All I knew was that I was not happy, or living the life I wanted to be living. Even worse, I could no longer will myself to keep doing the things I thought I should be doing. My essential self, my true self, had had enough; enough of pretending, enough of living for everyone else, enough of not doing the things I loved to do.

One of the first books I picked up was Simple Abundance, by Sarah ban Breathnach. I had read it once before, but I decided to read it again. I stuck it beside my bed and every day, usually in the morning I read the page of the day. This time the author’s guidance began to really sink in and I actually began doing some of things she suggested. My favorite exercises, one of the first I began practicing with regularity, was her suggestion to begin replacing things in your home that you hate, with things you love.

Money was tight, and I hated almost everything in my house, but finding the thing I hated the most was not difficult: a factory painting that I bought for $15 in some discount store because it matched the colors in my couch. It had absolutely no sentimental value, nor did it bring me an ounce of aesthetic pleasure. Taking it down and carting it to Goodwill was like going on a mini-vacation. As luck would have it, I found a replacement piece that I did love while I was there. My $3 replacement still gives me warm fuzzies.

Sometimes its the little changes we make over a period of time that brings about the biggest changes in our life. Creating space in a room, or in our day, is a necessary precursor for  to adding something better.  As we look for those things that bring us joy and stop giving our attention to those things we do not enjoy, our lives are transformed.

It’s a whole lot easier to be happy when we let go of the shoulds and the ought tos and replace them with love tos and want tos.

© Dorothy Sander 2013

If you liked this article, you might like:

Gratitude is Essential to Aging Abundantly

At the Heart of Hunger

 

 

Breakfast with Buddha – A Review

Breakfast with Buddha – A Review


The Aging Abundantly Book Club on Facebook just finished reading Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. What a delight! I think the thing I liked most about Breakfast with Buddha was the utter honesty portrayed by the main character. I doubt there’s a single person alive that can’t resonate in some way or another with his thoughts and behavior. He’s funny, bright and his narrative is thought-provoking. I’m still thinking about it, weeks later. The author draws the reader in quickly and completely and it read like a dream. Yet the underlying themes Merullo addresses are anything but simplistic.

I would encourage all midlife travelers, male and female alike to have Breakfast with Buddha. 

Our next read is Mom and Me and Mom by Maya Angelou. We won’t begin our discussion until October 15th, so there’s plenty of time to catch up. If you’d like to join us, just follow the link above and request to be added to the group. It’s a closed group to protect participants privacy and to help me manage interlopers (:))

© Dorothy Sander 2013

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