Friday, March 5, 2010

On Keeping the Barnacles Off my Hull I'd like to age gracefully.

I recently had a birthday...the kind of birthday that puts me in a whole new [less valued] category for marketers and poll takers.  I'm no longer young...but not old...not elderly...yet. I'm about the same age as Michelle Obama, Conan O'Brien and Mary Louise Parker [nice company!]

I started  thinking about what kind of old lady I want to be.

I don't want to have a lot of barnacles on my hull. [Bear with me here.]

Of the people I know who in their 70's to late 80's-- there are just a few who have aged gracefully. 

I don't mean their appearance-- I mean their wisdom.

There's a tendency, as we get older, to resist change, to want to hold on to what we know, to look at the young generation as hopeless, reckless, lazy. As people age and lose their health, their family and friends, their station in life [all natural parts of  the cycle of life] they can do two things:
  • Get ornery and suspicious, and greedy about sharing resources with the younger generation [keep your government hands off my medicare]
  • Or surrender to the natural arc of life [and death] and  notice the wonder of life as it continues, keep an open mind about youth and change. Be wise.

The former group [which, by the way, is a powerful voting block in this country-- nuff said] have hulls covered with barnacles. Hulls being one's life; barnacles being negative stuff. They seem to hold onto every slight they've ever experienced, every fear in their lives. They are suspicious of change [The Beatles, Elvis, Twitter]. They are convinced no one works as hard as they did [I walked to school 10 miles in the snow. . .]

The second group. Ah, they are a pleasure to be around. They listen, they don't judge, they tell their own stories but not as a finger-wagging lesson.They are still curious about the world, curious like a child. Their hulls are barnacle-free. I have friends in this category, and have had some relatives, and they bring such light to this world. The writer Dot Jackson is just one example. The memoirist Diane Athill by is another example. That's the kind of old lady I want to be.

I think it helps to remind oneself-- am I getting rigid about my own beliefs? Am I feeling bitter and suspicious of change? Am I writing the younger generation off?

If I live to 80 or beyond--I'm going to do my best to keep the barnacles off my hull.


  1. You bare a resemblance to Mary-Louise. Great company, indeed. She’s excellent in the film “Fried Green Tomatoes.”

  2. I know exactly what you mean, Mindy. My mother, who retires this year, has surprised me by becoming softer and more open with each passing year. She laughs more, she's more accepting, and she's more generous than ever. If you'd have told me this back in her 40s, I wouldn't have predicted it, but it's so wonderful to watch, and such an inspiring example.

    Happy belated b-day!

  3. Constantine, I'm flattered--Mary Louise Parker of Weeds. Thanks for the compliment!

  4. Meredith,
    I agree-- my mom is a pleasure to be around, too. It's good to have inspiring examples of how to grow old and wise.

  5. Oops—I meant “bear,” not “bare.” And, yes, that Mary-Louise.

  6. I hope I never get barnacles. Maybe there's an over-the-counter anti-barnacle cream? :)

  7. Mindy...I agree 100%! I too want to be in Group #2 when I get to that stage in my life. As my father always used to tell me: "Son, if you are in a room with anyone other than yourself, you';re most likely not going to be the smartest person in that room." He'd go on to remind me that I was given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Wise advice.


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