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.