Age Never Mattered to Me……Until Now

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The truth is age never much mattered to me.  I have always joyfully celebrated every birthday-especially the ones that started a new decade.  I remember my 30th birthday party with the slinky male belly dancers gyrating  around my Berkeley living room with plates of lit candles on their heads…….And my 40th birthday party with all my friends stuffed into my tiny Mabel Street living room.  And that short black dress I wore to my 50th and the long skirt I had on for my 60th birthday……..hmmmmmm……maybe that was a clue of what was ahead……..

My enthusiasm about birthdays was not always in synch with those around me. Some of my friends were devastated at turning 30 (yes, that is true) and some of my friends wouldn’t tell their boyfriends or husbands, or even their girlfriends how old they were (how could they get away with that?  If you were their boyfriend, or fiancee or husband, or girlfriend, wouldn’t you wait until they were in the shower or fast asleep and sneak into their wallet to look at their driver’s license?  I would……).  And then of course, there was my parents generation, where not only did women not tell their age, it was considered rude to even ask or hint at her years. And, if there was some legal or compelling reason that you had to ask her age, there was the obligatory, “You certainly don’t look your age” lie. 

But the truth is age never much mattered to me…….until now.   And to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s really the age thing…..I think it’s more of what I see and notice and feel….. Where is that energy that allowed me to go out partying at 11pm instead of now being asleep by 9?   Why do I prefer to be home before dark instead of arriving home as the sun rises? Where has happened to the thickness of my skin….?  Now, if I happen to  poke myself with a bracelet or tap against something, I get these purplish, red blemishes that sprinkle my skin.   And then there are those things they call “age spots” that appear all over my body.  Can’t they call it something else, like wisdom mounds or beauty dots?  I have a special relationship with the ones on my face…..I just bought a product at Aveda this week called a “concealer” so I can hide these facial intrusions.  I keep forgetting to put it on……

And then there’s my neck……that protrusion of soft skin that no longer wants to adhere to whatever it was attached to before…….and the gray hair that I strive to color back to its natural state that I can no longer even remember.   And, oh how I miss my naturally wavy hair that the grey hairs insist on keeping straight.   If I happen to be in “just the right light” (really the very wrong light), and I look at myself in a mirror, sometimes I hear myself saying,  ““Oh, my God, who is that person peering back at me?  Look at her skin. When did those wrinkles move in?  Then I feel a sense of shame about my judgmental self.  And then I feel more shame and guilt because I shouldn’t be thinking these thoughts, at all.  But I am.

“Well”, I tell myself, this is just superficial crap.  It’s the youth mentality of our society or the fault of the media for not honestly portraying real older people and I don’t buy into any of it……But I do…..on some level at least.  That’s why I color my hair and I bought “the concealer”  the other day.  I want to look good, be considered attractive, pretty…….young????   Younger than I am??????.  And while  I probably would never really consider plastic surgery, I can kinda understand why (mostly, but not only) women spend huge amounts of money buying all kinds of cosmetics and promises of a youth returned, and pay exorbitant amounts of money to remove wrinkles and tighten up that loose skin.  And yet, not long ago, when I was watching the Academy Awards, I was shocked and revolted when I saw the new and improved John Travolta who looked mannequin like and other worldly.  Or have you seen Joan Rivers lately?  I don’t want THAT either.  

So I guess what I’m saying is that I too, am a victim of the youth oriented society and the ageist language and imaging of the culture we live in.  But with that said, never liking to consider myself a victim, I am also a survivor.  And while I haven’t come to completely embrace my physically aging self,  I have stopped trying to hide it or deny it or fix it…….I am moving towards  acceptance of it and of myself as a beautiful  67 year old woman with some wrinkles and beauty dots.  

Oh, and if you happen to see me in the middle of the summer with a gorgeous shawl wrapped tight around my neck, remember, I am a work in progress……and wink at me in solidarity.

By Roberta Teller

 

Greedy for Life: A Review

Greedy for Life, the first film of The Beauty of Aging Project is a wonderful 35 minute film that demonstrates the richness, vitality and spirit of women who live full, fun, creative lives well into their 80’s.  Through these wise women elders’ personal stories we finally get vibrant, positive role models so sorely needed in our overly saturated youth oriented culture.  Watching and listening to these women debunks the myths and images we have of older people.  Instead of the decrepit,, listless, sexless images that are prevalent in the media and in our cultural and personal belief systems, we see images of old age that not only challenge this outdated paradigm, but create a new vision for the third stage of life: one that is active, stimulating, and full of opportunities for growth, renewal and happiness. This is a “must see” film not only for 60+ women but for young adults as well.  Check out the trailer……And enjoy!

 

By Roberta Teller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wise Woman Storytime

WISE WOMAN STORYTIME

STORIES FROM REAL LIFE TOLD BY OUR OWN SONOMA COUNTY WISE WOMEN

Everyone welcome and encouraged to attend to hear life stories from our Elder Women

Stories are important because they connect us to one another, expand our horizons, preserve our history, communicate values and help us understand the world.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

3-5pm

Free Event

Coffee Catz

6761 Sebastopol Ave.

Sebastopol, CA

For more information, contact Roberta Teller at womenownyourcrone@gmail.com or 510-301-1706

Check out my blog:  robertatellerblog.com

The Warmth of the Heart Prevents the Body from Rusting…..A Book Review

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The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting by Marie de Hennezel is a book worth reading if you are contemplating the third stage of life and looking to get some insights into how best to live these years. With humor, lessons learned by the author, wise words from elders and ideas presented by laymen, poets and philosophers, this gem of a book advocates what the title implies; With an open and loving heart, one may grow physically old, but the heart, that center of spirit, creativity and vitality can remain forever young….up until our last breath.

One of the great values of this book is that it is a treatise on how to grow old and not become old.  Growing old is natural…..we start growing old from the day we are born. Being old is a state of mind characterized by feelings of bitterness and sadness about life. It is a refusal to age, to accept this life stage, and paradoxically, results in the inability to step in and embrace the “golden years” and the richness that it has to offer.

One of the greatest gifts this book has to offer is that while very positive and supportive about the opportunities that become available to us as we grow older, it acknowledges the realities of aging as well.  As someone in the parking lot of my gym said the other day, “Growing older is not for sissies.” Ms Hennezel doesn’t sugarcoat what happens as our bodies begin to fail us. But instead of leaving us there, she offers us a new paradigm of living WITH all the frailties and failings while embracing a deeper and richer connection to oneself and the world around us.

This new paradigm requires each and every one of us to show up in our own aging. It demands that we not fall prey to what we no longer have or what we can no longer do. Instead, it calls upon us to let go of our youth, accept our inevitable death and to use the time we have left to discover parts of ourselves that we never knew existed: To see things we may have missed and to hear what was  up until now, unspoken. It is a time for new realizations and self discovery – a time to be get in touch with our deepest selves and to be open to what is revealed to us. And, it is through the warm and open heart that we make this journey back to ourselves.

By Roberta Teller

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How AARP and the Media Whitewash the Realities of Growing Old

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Carol Orsborne’s Article,  AARP: Mortality Whitewash hits it on the head when she discusses how AARP, the largest publication for boomer adults continually whitewashes and dresses down the realities older adults face about growing old. We know that there are very happy and thriving 60, 70 & 80 year olds. We know that older adults are enjoying life, reinventing themselves, honoring their pasts and opening up to new vistas of travel. We get it that seniors are living and exploring life, all the while enjoying active and healthy lifestyles.  Most older adults experience this and are witnesses to this in others. It is a reality for us.

The problem is that there is more to the story…….We also get sick, have physical challenges, and experience the deterioration of our own bodies. Loved ones fade away through disease and die. We grieve and mourn not only those we have lost, but parts of our lives that no longer exist or that we know one day will disappear and never be what was. We struggle and begin, to varying degrees, to come to some acceptance and peace about our own mortality.  Being older is a time of paradoxes and complexities: a time of joy, yet a time of new challenges; a life stage of great opportunities mixed with loss and knowledge that things will never be the same. It is a time of life mixed with the light and the shadow. 

Dr. Orsborn describes AARP’s romantic depiction of Valerie Harper as she was facing her mortality: “Faced with inoperable cancer, the beloved star of Rhoda, reacts just the way we’d want her to; with gritty determination and a hearty laugh.”

Reacts just the way we’d want her to???????  Are they serious?   

That’s not the depiction I want to see of anyone facing death.  I don’t want to see some sanitized version of the real story. I want the truth. I want to know how she grappled with the diagnosis: what choices she made about her medical care and how, and if she accepted her own death…… 

And that “hearty laugh.” Did she have a hearty laugh when she got the diagnosis or as she lie on her deathbed, surrounded by her loved ones? 

We don’t want to see a happily dying Rhoda……We want to see the real Valeria Harper.

As older adults, we deserve and I would say, demand that we be represented with images, language and stories that mirror who we really are – complex, beings, living life as fully as we can, as we embrace both the gifts and challenges of growing older. We do not want our lives trivialized, simplified, purified and sanitized. We do not want the media  fabricating who we are to make us look “pretty’ rather than real…….

Pretty may work for Hollywood, but not for us seniors……

Those of us who are getting older need real stories and we need to have real role models. Yes, we need to see images of vital, active, thriving 60+ people  We are out there and we are doing great. But we also deserve and demand to see the truth: people grappling with serious life and death choices, families having to make challenging and difficult decisions. And we need to see the unaltered faces of older adults who, wrinkles, and all, are real human beings facing the challenges of growing  older with courage, questions, spiritual quests, tears, fears and many unknowns.

I believe that it is incumbent upon us, the aging boomers, to step in and  step up and to become the change agents ourselves. We must speak out, write, dramatize, tell stories about who we really We must let it be known who we are, what we are doing and how we are living.

So, get your pens out or open your computer. When you see an article or even a photo in a newspaper or magazine depicting a senior that is supposed to represent us, let your opinion be known whether it works for you or not.  Write a letter to the editor or make a phone call. Write your own blog; read blogs written by real seniors.  Talk to young people – your grandkids or your neighbors children.  Let them know who you are and what you are doing.

We, as seniors, do not want to be whitewashed by the media nor do we want to be brainwashed about the realities of aging. We are complex, dynamic beings living our lives while facing the challenges of growing older.  We are real. We have wrinkles, aches and pains and and are confronting the eventual reality of our demise in this life form.

Let’s face it, seniors live in in a youth oriented society where we become more and more invisible the older we get. We say, NO MORE…….AARP  and all the other media……See us, feel us , take the time to know us……And to my fellow seniors, take charge and let us join forces to be the real voice and image of growing older.  That’s really the only way that we will be honestly represented and truly visible….

By Roberta Teller

Growing Older is Quite Different from Being Old

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We are always growing older.  It’s a fact of life. We begin to grow older from the moment we are born.  When someone is young, we say that the person is growing up. Growing up implies the physical changes that the years bring to the body as well as learning the life lessons required for the next stage of life. At some stage, usually after adolescence, but not always, we drop the language of growing up and we start talking about growing old and being old.

I contend that growing older and being old are not the same.

As long as we remain on this earth, we grow older. Being old, however, is a state of mind. One can be chronologically young and be “old,”  while an 80 or 90 year old can lead an active and full life. We call this young at heart for it is in the heart that age becomes irrelevant and attitude means everything.

I love what the great Chassidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said,

“It is forbidden to be old. Grow older but do not be old: that is to say, do not be bitter and despairing. Do not oppose reality, but do not prevent life from fulfilling its potential to bring forth new things, right up to your very last breath.”

I want to continue to grow old  like that. I want to live each and every day of my life with vitality, enthusiasm, enjoyment and with acceptance for who I am, where I am in my life cycle and yes, with the reality that one day I will die.

Growing old is not for the faint of heart.  Moving into the third stage of life can be daunting.  Physical challenges, loss of loved ones, isolation, loneliness, the emphasis on youth in our culture and the societal dismissal, disdain and subsequent invisibility of elders certainly contributes to the dilemma.

AND, growing older has the potential for being a rich, fulfilling, and incredibly stimulating, fun and adventurous time of life. It is a time to reap the rewards of one’s life lessons and be true to who we have come to be.

Being old, however, is quite another experience. It is giving up on the enjoyment and joys of being alive and living in suffering and despair.  It is a death before its time.

I want to grow old in a realistic way. I want to embrace all aspects of living with curiosity, enthusiasm, vitality, connections, awareness and intention to be completely alive. I want to do this with my eyes wide open; aware that changes are already happening and will continue;  that physical and mental decline is inevitable. I want to meet this head on………realistic, aware, alive and in my ageless heart.

I am learning to accept growing older. The older I become, the more I am coming to appreciate this as a great gift. And, as with any wonderful gift that I get, I treasure and savor the unwrapping, the unfolding and in this case,  find the gift of life itself.

By Roberta Teller