Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Old at Heart: Reframing How We Talk about Aging and Being Old

It's not like anything
they compare it to--
the summer moon.

Though that poem has nothing to do with this photo, I had to start out with it. Summer, and we are moving toward the full moon. Glorious. Now let's proceed.

I am a fan of Tao Porchon-Lynch, the nonagenarian yogini and ballroom dancer, whom I have written about before in this blog. She is a wonderful example of vitality and joy in old age.

But what is wrong with this picture, or rather the quote that is included with it? Like Tao, I believe in energy, certainly. Energy. Vitality. Being uplifted. All that.

But I believe in age, too. And isn't Tao's comment a bit off key? To me it is. Perhaps it just needs a few more words. I think it would read better this way.

"I don't believe in stereotypes about age. I believe in tapping into cosmic energy."

I think that is what Tao is wanting to say here. I am sensitive to how words are used about aging. I don't really warm up to being addressed as 74-years young. I will not be happy to be called young at heart. I have live! live! lived! as Auntie Mame exhorted a repressed character to do in the wonderful old flick of that name.

I have 74 years' of life experience. I am old at heart. I don't want somebody who believes that youth is the main stage of life to be telling me I am young at heart. No thanks. Youth is not the pinnacle of life experience necessarily. Perhaps for some it is the peak and everything afterwards is downhill. But for many of us, life after youth contains a great deal of uplift, ecstasy and richness.  I am happy to be old at heart, with everything I know at this age. Which is certainly a great deal more than I knew when I was in my twenties, thirties or forties or even fifties. Just writing that line and taking a brief retrospective reminds me of how I have changed and matured. I am not perfected, but I have certainly changed and matured.

The experience of maturing, the depth a person can come to in maturity is something worth recognizing, not one to deny or ignore. I aspire to more maturity, to being even older at heart. To becoming more altruistic, kind, to having a more integrated, panoramic awareness, to being more loving.

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know I am on a campaign to reclaim the word OLD from the trashpile of corrupted words. Old has a lot of power, a lot of rich qualities. Be happy to be old at heart, my friend. Young at heart has delightful qualities. Old at heart is another territory, one whose qualities are deep and worthwhile--let's honor it!

Meanwhile in the Laboratory

"Into the Mystery," the 4-week online course on life review I've developed, will have its virgin run in July. Folks are arriving to register and it is  fun to do the last minute tweaks on the course material, preparing to send it out. Life review is considered one of the important tasks of later life, and I am happy to be able to offer this course, which I plan to offer again online  this winter.

I am developing a talk titled "In Praise of Old Age" and will offer it for the first time on July 12th at the Unity Service in Ashland. Looking forward to this new way of sharing the Sage's Play pro-aging perspective--at churches and synagogues.  And it may be that a song or two from our musical revue A New Wrinkle makes its way into these church presentations. That would be fun, too.

With my focus on connecting with people through their church, one of my current adventures is meeting with ministers and rabbis.  I had a delightful meeting with Nan White, the minister at the Unitarian Church. She is so direct and down to earth. I really liked her. I am looking forward to more conversations about creative aging and aging as a spiritual journey with clergy.

Next week, I am getting together with Daniel Sperry, a cellist. I have never met him, but like the things he shares about music and poetry on Facebook. We are going to play music together, with his cello and my tamboura and voice. I want more singing and music in my life now.

I've been experimenting with Facebook ads. Right now I have one running to let folks know about the Audacious Aging Kit I've developed.  It's a process, it's a process, and one must have patience with the unfolding of it all.

Another event I am offering in July is "The Poetry of Aging" which I will present on July 19th at the Ashland Library. I did a similar event there two or three years ago. In it, I will share poems by many wonderful poets and talk about the experience of aging as a poetic and spiritual journey.

Living here at Kate's place as I am these days is quite wonderful. Though I do find myself in daydreams walking on the streets of Oaxaca at times. Yesterday morning, a beautiful fox darted out at the far end of the garden and darted here and there-- looking for fallen cherries probably--before disappearing. There are many many birds here and the variety of their songs and forms fill my days with delight. The deer appear daily, nibbling this and that and moving on. There are blue dragonflies and red ones, snakes, butterflies, and the old lavender bushes are bursting with bloom at this very moment. The fenced garden is filled with vegetables and flowers. I will take some pictures in a few weeks and share them with you. Every night as I lie in bed I can see the stars in the skylight directly overhead. It is quite glorious. Hope that your summer is glorious, too. Right in this very moment.