The Wisdom of the Crone?
Where has all my allure gone?
The picture above is of me at 26, taken when my daughter was about 15 months old.
I was suffering with mild post-natal depression which came in bouts and I felt very mixed up and confused about life. I am now 63 and have moved into the final, 'crone', stage of my life.
So where did all my allure go? I guess it just got wrinkly and dropped off. But if you ask me if I would trade my present age to return to my youth I would have to answer, 'No, thanks'.
Okay, I can hear the derisive snorts from here and maybe that is a strange answer when so many of us are trying so desperately to hold back the ageing process, to appear forever young.
So why would I say that? In our 'old age is a dirty word' culture, why would I not want to be young again?
Remembering the angst of youth.
The reason why I would not trade age for youth is all because of confidence. Such confidence, so painfully gathered by age and experience, has had the effect of setting me free to be who I really want to be at this late stage of my life.
My teenage years were exciting, but they were not without angst. Like most teenagers the changes in my body and the growing freedom to plot my own life, and make my own mistakes, were both heady and terrifying.
Although a reasonably bright scholar my new liberation made me choose the wrong path over and over again and confidence in who I was had not yet kicked in. I spent far too much of my time weeping over boys and writing depressive doggerel. (That has only partly changed, I have finally learnt one lesson ... I no longer weep over men). The doggerel … er ...
My twenties were concerned with the mystery and overwhelming responsibility of child-rearing and the dawning realisation that I had elected to allow my heart, in the shape of my children, to walk about outside of my body. Child-rearing is not for the faint-hearted.
By my thirties my confidence had grown and hardened but I still made appalling errors of judgement that hurt all those I loved most. This was my most painful decade and the one I would love to change the most.
Moving on with life ... the antidote to the past.
But eventually, realising I was unable to change the past, I set about making the best of my forties. It became a happy, peaceful and forgiven decade and I began to see that life was not all about me. At last I had the chance to try and make reparation for my sins and I took it.
So my fifth decade saw me accept myself with all the warts of my past. This is not to say that I forgot the hurt that I had caused but I actively chose to move on, knowing that guilt did not help any of us. I could not go back, I could only go on.
There was another great sadness in this decade but that, for once, was not my fault. So, beneath it all, was a feeling of peace in who I was. I was doing my best for everyone ... and ultimately that helped me too.
Allowing the crone stage.
And so to date ... my sixties. I have finally relaxed into who I am and have long since given up being sinful (unless you include chocolate).
Now I feel I have a chance for wisdom, even though I have to guard against my attitudes which often seem to be atrophying into the same intolerances as my parents. The downside is that the very intolerances I argued against when I was younger are surfacing in me and I am constantly aware of this change in myself.
I put it down to a withering of the brain as it is inconceivable to me that my parents could always have been right about things. I work hard at trying to retain my liberality of belief.
A personal viewpoint of the ageing process?
Of course it is, surely personal viewpoints are the only ones that are valid?
So I make no apology for the personal aspect of this piece. It is written, not so much as a piece of advice, as a testament of faith. It is personal confirmation that good things can come out of turbulence but that is made much easier by accepting yourself first.
This piece was written in the spirit of nil desperandum. If I can come out blinking into the sunlight of a serene old age from the turmoil of my past, then anyone can.
The bliss of finally accepting who you are.
For the most part, my hard-won old age confidence, my loss of allure if you like, means I am free to have grey hair and to be somewhat more cuddly than I was (a euphemism for chubby). Now I can wear enormous knickers, droopy cardigans, and strange hats in which to garden.
I am free to do all of the above whilst wearing comfortable shoes and not giving two hoots what anyone thinks about me. That freedom, the freedom of not having to strive to be eternally young, for me, is utterly priceless.
It is a freedom that was taken for granted in the past, a freedom remembered from a more genuine age than our own shallow, image obsessed society.
Am I being honest about enjoying old age?
Does this sound like so much bravado to you? Well, perhaps there is some of that here.
Being honest I must admit there are times when I fear what is yet to come. I am in love with life, in love with being alive but occasionally I do fear dying. I'm not afraid of being dead ... just the process of getting into that condition.
I have no driving need to leave some sort of legacy, to be remembered, for most of us are forgotten in the end and that is just another fact of a mortal existence. Only the great leave a legacy … only the vain believe they should too.
Okay, so now I look as though I've had a bit of a hard paper-round and I must admit to sometimes wishing I did not have writer's thighs but those are small considerations and for the most part I have a strong desire to age naturally so I am content with how I am.
That final, hard-won, contentment is, for me, the silver lining of old age.