Tag: aging

Wisdom Wednesday – Being Authentic

Wisdom Wednesday – Being Authentic

Being Authentic

Being authentic requires us to change…

and change doesn’t come easily for any of us. In fact, it becomes more difficult with age. Decades of buried hurts and confusion have clouded our vision, damped our courage and our ability to be authentic. We no longer even know where to begin.

We must remind ourselves, however, that we have gained strength along the way. Strength and endurance are beneficial characteristics for digging deep.

When we begin the journey toward authenticity, it’s common to feel as though we’re groping in the dark. We have been temporarily blinded us to ourselves and to what we cannot bear to see or feel.  Our subconscious muted it for our survival sake, so that we might continue to live the life we had in front of us. There comes a time to unearth that which has been hidden in order to reconnect with our true selves.

We must go beneath our facade, even when we don’t know what that looks like or how to go about it. All we know is that it’s time to find and bring forth our authentic selves, and to face all that we have buried and denied and abandoned about ourselves. It’s a primary task of aging.

For some the call is so loud we can’t hear ourselves think, until we stop and start paying attention. It’s time to turn around and face it, whatever “it” is. We must answer the call of our deeper selves. It is time.

“Be gentle with yourself for you are living through a major expansion of your faith and how you use it in the world. You are rewiring decades of old beliefs and shifting how you live your life. This is no small feat. It is OK to feel uncomfortable. Great change often brings with it discomfort and second guessing one’s self. Do not shrink back from this mission.”  ~ From The Celtic Christian Tradition

This period of change is ushering in a new beginning, a new opportunity for a deeper, richer life, one that creates abundance of a different sort.  A phase of deep reflection, of wrestling with our shadow self, of learning to once again let in the light, is a time that contains challenges like none we’ve faced before, an inner war perhaps, a straining toward our interior and away from externals. Being authentic requires work, contemplation, an openness to the teaching of others, and learning to listen to our inner world, to show up and be present to ourselves and all that lives within. Above all, we must learn to be still. Be silent. Be open to life itself.  [tweetthis display_mode=”button_link”]Above all, we must learn to be still. Be silent. Be open to life itself.[/tweetthis]

 

EPIPHANY

epiphany quote CM

Epiphany, is a word/concept that comes from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, and refers to a sudden awareness, an awakening of understanding, a striking realization that one’s perception has changed and deepened. The Christian Season of Epiphany, where this word is most often heard, is observed on January 6th and commemorates the manifestation of Christ to the Magus. Epiphany, however, is a rich symbolic word that is open to a wide variety of interpretations. Religious scholars have spent countless hours researching the history, the changes in language and understanding in the context of the words use and still cannot come to any real agreement. As time goes on, the slope becomes slippery. Yet, that is the very nature of symbolic language.

Symbolism is a powerful tool for personal use when delving into spiritual matters. There is no other way to talk about, or describe, that which we know but cannot see. Language is often a stumbling block for conversation as we misinterpret one another simply because we assign a different meaning to a word. I have avoided talking here too much about spiritual matters precisely because the language is so fluid at this point in time. “I had an epiphany” is a statement that means very different things to different people.

In spite of these obstacles, it’s a subject that can’t be overlooked. It’s a subject that is close to my heart. Those who are on the path of personal growth often find themselves at some point along the way here, in the spiritual arena.  One cannot get too far down the road of life without asking a few questions about the nature of life itself.  The spiritual quest is a fundamental thread that has run through my life, a thread that I picked up in earnest a decade ago. I will begin talking more about such things here on Wisdom Wednesday. I hope you’ll join me. I hope you’ll share pieces of your journey and we’ll struggle together with the language issues. Understanding is all I’m after here, growing in faith and wisdom, coming out of the shadows and into awareness of expanded consciousness. I believe, regardless of the words we use, we are all talking about the same thing.

You may also want to join the conversation in my closed group on Facebook:  Aging and the Inner Life

When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe one of two things: either there will be ground to stand on, or you will be given wings to fly. ~ O.R. Melling

————–

You might also enjoy:

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

More on Epiphany:

Epiphany, The Feasts of the Three Kings

The Season of Epiphany

 

 

A Post Went Viral – What It Says About Women Over Fifty

A Post Went Viral – What It Says About Women Over Fifty

A post went viralNo one was more surprised than I….

when I looked at my stats on the Aging Abundantly Facebook page a couple of weeks ago and saw that a post went viral.  I thought I was seeing things. What I was seeing was what going viral looks like in numbers! It made me giggle because I absolutely never advertise on Facebook and I bet if the powers that be happened to notice they’d be really bugged!

Historically I have gained on average 10 followers, give or take, a week since starting my page in 2010.  On February 2nd the page had 7,199 followers, all gathered like a rolling stone gathers moss. Today, a month later the number has nearly doubled.   One single post that I casually posted like every other post made that happen.

Reflecting on the nature of the post and the Aging Abundantly follower’s reactions to it, I began to reflect on what it meant. The post hit a nerve for a reason. It said something about the mindset and self-perception of women over fifty.

This is the post: Be sure to like it! 🙂 AND PLEASE COME BACK and let me know why you think the post went viral. 

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS THAT A POST WENT VIRAL

As of this moment, the post has reached 8,362,751 people. It has been shared 124,542 times. It has received 13 K Likes. I have read every single comment, and with maybe two or three exceptions the sentiment has been a variation of “what mirror, I avoid them!”, or “every day”, or “I hate mirrors”, or “How awful, I look just like my mother!”… or father…or great Aunt Betty. For some there is laughter, for many, many more there is sadness and disappointment, a feeling that they fear they are no longer of value because of the image there mirror reflects.

Mirrors appears in many ancient stories and tales. They symbolize a universal concept – an archetype. Think of the story of Snow White and the wicked witch who was obsessed with the magic mirror – “mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all”?  A mirror shows us something about ourselves that we are not paying attention to, or are not able to accept. A mirror, in this context, reflects to us our shadow selves.

This post went viral because women are experiencing great discomfort with the aging process, despite what the media is saying about us.  We do not like what is happening not only to our bodies or how we appear to the world.  No matter how much we try to make these feelings go away we just can’t seem to find a place of acceptance and love. We go about life either hating what we see in the mirror, not looking at all, or laughing it off hoping against hope that we will morph back to a younger age, the person we used to be.

I believe this is a symptom of both our victimization by a youth obsessed culture and our inability to see the truth about the gifts we now possess.  We continue to have distorted expectations, warped values that all translate into self-loathing and shame. Many of us have been talking about this for a decade or more, but it would seem that there is much work still to be done. I’d like to imagine that one day we could see the aging body as a beautiful symbol of a fully lived life – a body richly decorated with the beauty of life itself and the courage it has taken to survive. I would like to look into the eyes of an old woman and see strength and character, not fear and self-loathing.

Today I saw an article on Huffington Post – 11 Middle-Aged Women Strip Down to Reclaim Sexy On Their Own Terms.  Something about it really bothered me. I admire the women in the article who participated for trying to make sense of it all and for being willing to put themselves out there to do so. However, their unresolved issues around their sexuality caught my attention. The very context and approach of the article and photo shoot was ego-based. Nothing about it spoke to the deeper, more valuable beauty of women over fifty.  It’s as if we’re trying to mix apples and oranges. Why does sexy matter? Why do we talk about it endlessly? Why are we obsessed with sex at every age? Sex, like aging is a natural part of life. Beauty is an inside job at every age. Aging is an inside job as well. Physical beauty is an inside job most especially as we age. We keep talking about this, but keep being drawn back to the mirror provided by the culture.

I don’t think our obsession with mirrors and self-loathing has anything at all to do with our appearance. What it has to do with is what’s behind the eyes that are looking in the mirror – what we see when we look in the mirror tells us how we really feel about ourselves, our life, our value as human beings. It does not reflect the reality of who we are and it’s not about external appearances. I know there have been days I look in the mirror and I like what I see. There are days when I don’t. This can take place when in 24 hours of each other. Did I suddenly undergo an external transformation? I don’t think so. What’s changed is my outlook on myself and my life. It’s about my level of self-esteem. It’s whether I am feeling comfortable in my own skin from the inside out.

The fact that this post  went viral tells me that, ladies, we have work to do! There are masks to be removed, hurts to be healed, and a heavy dose of self-love to be swallowed.

 

FINDING HER HERE, by Jane Relaford Brown – A Poem on Aging

FINDING HER HERE, by Jane Relaford Brown – A Poem on Aging

A ran across this poem – Finding Her Here – the other day and wanted to share it with you. It sums up so beautifully what so many of us are experiencing as we accumulate years. I hope you enjoy it! DS

FINDING HER HERE  by Jayne Relaford Brown

I am becoming the woman I’ve wanted,
grey at the temples,
soft body, delighted,
cracked up by life
with a laugh that’s known bitter,
but, past it, got better,
knows she’s a survivor—
that whatever comes,
she can outlast it.
I am becoming a deep
         weathered basket.
I am becoming the woman I’ve longed for,
the motherly lover
with arms strong and tender,
the growing-up daughter
who blushes surprises.
I am becoming full moons
        and sunrises.
I find her becoming,
this woman I’ve wanted,
who knows she’ll encompass,
who knows she’s sufficient,
knows where she’s going
and travels with passion.
Who remembers she’s precious,
yet not at all scarce—
who knows she is plenty,
        plenty to share.
This poem is from the author’s book of poems:
My First Real Tree – a 68 page paperback, hand-sewn, with flat spine – $14.00 available for purchase on the publisher’s website, FootHillsPublishing.com. 
Jayne Relaford Brown received an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego
State University and teaches writing at Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley
College.  She lives near Kutztown, Pennsylvania with her partner of fifteen
years.
midlife poem
Soul Encounter – An Encounter that Goes Right to Our Soul

Soul Encounter – An Encounter that Goes Right to Our Soul

A soul encounter
A Soul Encounter

A soul encounter often comes when we least expect it.

My grand-dog Rowdy and I have done our fair share of walking in the rain lately! Like many on the east AND west coast, we’ve had one of the rainiest (and warmest) early winters on record.  I often walk to settle my nerves and with the holidays fast approaching Rowdy and I headed out for a “calming” walk up our blessed hill.  I live in a hilly, wooded area and as often as I curse the incline I am compelled to climb each day, I am grateful for its health providing benefits and its beauty.

As we rounded the corner and relaxed into the straightaway that takes us past a beautiful wooded stream, I happened to spy a pert, colorful leaf in the gutter. It jumped right out of the drab and dreary landscape, a splash of color on the soggy terrain. Despite its small stature and seeming insignificance, it drew my attention away from everything around it…and took my breath away. It was a soul encounter of the first order.

I moved in closer to snap the picture you see to your right, hoping beyond hope, that it would  convey the feeling it evoked in me. (It didn’t and doesn’t.) I stood a moment, trying to hold on to that something,  then continued on deep in thought.

Why did that seemingly insignificant encounter go right to my soul?

Did I only imagine it? Why did it draw me in? What did it symbolize to me? I thought about how often we must all pass just such incredible moments, never noticing. Would someone else passing this way see what I saw? Or would they be oblivious to it.  I wanted to understand the texture, the meaning, the emotion beneath this brief encounter.

I groped and reached and leaned into the moment, searching for its message. The first words that jumped into my mind were lone leaf. The singularity of the leaf was important. It stood alone. We usually think of a leaf as part of a collection of leaves. We don’t often see a tree with just one leaf, standing erect in full sight.  We usually take them in en masse. Of course, we may collect a few, wax and display them, but in their natural setting they are seldom seen alone. The juxtaposition of the solitary leaf, elevated on the twig that held it, against a backdrop devoid of color, turned the ordinary into extraordinary…for me at least. This lone leaf, in spite of being at the end of its life, made a statement, beautiful, strong and compelling.

As we add years to our lives, aren’t we very much like this lone leaf?  We are no longer green, yet we are colorful!  We are often set apart and alone, no longer a part of the main stream. We are weathered and scarred, but our strength and beauty shines forth in a different way than when we were young, but every bit as beautiful. Our uniqueness, our resilience, our ability to stand apart, impacts the landscape. Just as this lone leaf lit up the dreary, dark ground as I walked, we too have something to add to our surroundings. We are worn and scarred,  but the beauty that gathers in our veins, oozes through our pores and overshadows all else. We are also prone to soul encounters, and that is a gift, a gift of years lived and of wisdom gathered. It is ours for the taking should we be willing to open ourselves to it.

A soul encounter is a gift of age.

When we stand strong, resilient and grounded in all that has gone before, acknowledging and letting in what life has taught us,  we are able to cast a light upon the path of those who follow us. Each soul encounter we experience serves to ground us further.

We cannot, nor should we, deny the passing of time or the wounds we have suffered. As women of wisdom we are gifted with the responsibility to rise out of the ashes and like the Phoenix soar;  prove to all who follow that the journey is worth every bit of the pain and struggle.  It is our job to share what we have learned while staying focused on rising from the ashes.  Let’s cease wasting our energy trying to turn back the hands of time. Rowdy Resting

REFLECT ON PEACE – A Selection of Quotes on Peace

A COURAGEOUS OLD WOMAN

A COURAGEOUS OLD WOMAN

Dogwood BlossomsWhen we moved into our home nearly twenty years ago I was delighted to discover that we had a beautiful dogwood tree right outside the living room window.  Healthy, strong and stately — in a delicate dogwood kind of way – our tree has delighted us year after year. Unlike the wild dogwoods one sees along the Carolina back roads, with spindly limbs and small white blossoms, this tree provides a showy display of large white blossoms, and has the distinct feature of a whole branch of pink blossoms!  While this is not altogether uncommon in cultivated dogwoods, I have always felt fortunate to have such a beautiful tree growing and healthy in my front yard.

The tree was probably at least as old as the house was when we bought it, if not a bit older.  That would have made her twenty-five plus years then.  Now, she’s much, much older, and like me, she has gathered a hitch or two in her get-a-long.  Sadly, she’s less and less showy each year and I was heartbroken to discover her pink branch was lost last winter in an ice storm. There were no pink blossoms this year.

She has been battered and bruised over the years; neglected during a long dry spell in our business when we could not afford to give her the extra care she needed. She weathered another dry spell when nature held back necessary sustenance, a drought that brought an end to the life of our beautiful big maple, and it took its toll. I study her weathered bark and broken limbs, the scaly lichens that finds her a delightful host. I bear witness to her crooked starts and stops and feel aches and pains as if they were my own. I often wish we’d treated her better and taken her less for granted.

I sit beside the window and drink my morning coffee each day and still feel blessed to have her here with me. She holds a different sort of delicate beauty and like an old woman who has more inner determination than physical strength to keep on keeping on, her vulnerabilities are overshadowed by her strength to live on.

I can’t help but wonder about her vulnerability to disease and weather extremes. When her leaves fall in recent years one can see her scars more plainly. I wonder if I should fertilize her, prune away the dead bark, or leave her be.  I wonder if there are things that are weakening her that I can’t even see. I fear not doing enough for her, and I fear doing too much. I felt very much the same way when my mother lay close to death. Should I force her to eat? Should I just let her be. No one wants to be responsible for neglecting a loved one; for not doing something one should to sustain them; but I learned then that there is a time for letting go and letting God.

As for the dogwood,  I learned too late that trimming her branches in an effort to help her grow into her fullness actually created openings for insects and disease.

Many days I feel much like this old dogwood tree. Once innocent and resplendent as only the young can be, I have no doubt that an oddity or gift or two escaped my notice.  I believed myself strong and capable of weathering most any storm that might come my way. Like our lady, I was assailed on many sides, but it was the ones that I did not anticipate or perceive that created the most harm. I’ve lost a branch or two along the way. I’m not as physically strong as I would like to be, and yet my will to live and be and continue to become grows stronger with each passing day. I know it will be a race to the finish. I also know which will win!

No matter how things turn out for the dogwood, or for me, we’ve had a hell of a run and put up a hell of a fight to blossom and share what beauty we can. I hope she out lives me. I would hate to see her go.

THE MASKS WE WEAR

WOMEN STYLIN’ AT EVERY AGE

I STILL Honor You Robin Williams – July 21, 1951 to August 11, 2014

I STILL Honor You Robin Williams – July 21, 1951 to August 11, 2014

Robin WilliamsToo little has been said about Robin Wiliams’ suicide. Too little has been done to honor his life. I sense a world uncertain and confused about how to respond to his suicide, or how they “should” feel, and so they remain silent. Still caught in the archaic notion that depression and suicide are choices we make, sympathy, compassion and understanding are lacking. We are too often a heartless society, unable to rise above our baser instincts, our judgments, our egos.

Robin William’s death could have been a launch pad for vitally important and valuable conversations about mental health, depression, suicide, medically induced suicide, the emotional and mental aspects of illnesses such as  Parkinson’s and Dementia, how we allow advertising and drug companies to determine what is best for us, how doctor’s too often do the same. His death could have been an addition to his legacy, not an embarrassing post-script.

I was stunned by the lack of honor paid to this talented man and his incredible body of work at this year’s awards ceremonies.  When it came to the segment honoring those lost during the year, his picture seemed to be thrown in at the end, like an afterthought,  as if they were debating right up to show time whether or not to include him.  The fact that he died at his own hand seemed to somehow tarnish his legacy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the reasons behind his suicide were thrashed about as hotly on the internet as Donald Trump’s current insult to our collective intelligence are now? I didn’t see it, and I’m present here every day more than I often would like to be.  A few spoke up at the time of his death, like Dean Burnett’s article in The Guardian, Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish, otherwise the topic was dropped quickly; a lack of consensus perhaps, or a lack of understanding.

Robin Williams’ death was ruled a suicide. That is the black and white of medical science. It’s not the whole story. It never is. News reporting didn’t seem to want to go the distance. US Today reported:

The official cause of Williams death, released Friday by the Marin County coroner, was ruled a suicide by hanging, with no evidence of alcohol or illegal drugs in his system and only therapeutic concentrations of prescribed medications.

 

Williams had long battled alcoholism, drug addiction and depression, but in November 2013 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to his widow, after noticing a tremor in his left arm and difficulty moving on his left side as early as 2011.

 

Now a redacted pathology report from the autopsy on Williams’ body has been made public and it mentions Lewy body disease, a newly recognized disorder similar to Parkinson’s.

My mother-in-law who died a little over two years ago, and who was born on August 11th, the  same day on which Robin Williams life ended, was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She was given powerful doses of medication that created a vast array of difficult side affects, including anxiety, depression, and hallucinations. Several years into treatment the doctor said, “Oh, sorry, my mistake. You don’t have Parkinson’s.”

We need to question our medical practitioners with increasing frequency and regularity about the drugs they are prescribing, too often without respect for the consequences.  We must continue to be pro-active in our health care, questioning, reading, researching and evaluating in addition to seeking the advice of a professional. We need to stop being so agreeable and willing to accept whatever the multi-billion dollar drug industry prescribes for us, because the drug companies, more often than not, are dictating what doctor’s are prescribing and/or inducing us to ask for them.  They convince us with their expensive advertising that we need their product, much like McDonald’s, and the ill effects may be just as inauspicious.

DoubtfireIn addition, we need to continue to look harder at the underlying causes of mental illness. It is not always a difficult childhood, a trauma, a confused identity alone that leads to depression and suicide. These things may only be the precipitating factor behind a biological imbalance, or vice versa; a biological imbalance that may be corrected by diet, supplements, or remedies other than the chemicals prescribed by drug companies.

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications have served their purpose and continue to do so for many, during a time in history when they were the best option available to us. Now, however, research is reaching further every day into the body/mind connection. Let’s start listening to their findings and following common sense at least as often as we follow big business and advertising.

Lewy Body Dementia, the disease Robin Williams actually had, causes hhallucinations, visuospatial abnormalities, and other psychiatric disturbances. As mentioned above, Parkinson’s medications can cause these types of problems as well. Should he not have been monitored more carefully?

Robin Williams’ life was a gift. I hope one day I will be able to watch Mrs. Doubtfire without a deep sadness lurking behind each laugh; or Hook without wishing this vibrant life was still dancing across the screen. I don’t think I will ever force myself to decide which of his movies I love the best. Each expressed a piece of him.  How rich a life he lived; how very much of himself he gave in the process. We should all live so boldly. In light of such a life,  does the end really matter? I honor you Robin Williams.