Somewhere Towards the End: A Book Review

Somewhere Towards the End is an honest, realistic, thoughtful and beautifully written memoir that speaks to what it’s like to be old from the perspective of the then octogenarian (close to 90 years old) author Diana Athill.  Sometimes philosophical, often personal, this unsentimental, raw, candid and unapologetic,  free thinking and unconventional author recounts her experiences and views about children (and not having them), sex (even after 60), relationships, death, luck, authors whom she admires, and religion. 

While Somewhere Towards the End speaks to the diminishments of old age, it really is a testament to the potential gifts of these years and the opportunities and possibilities that one can experience as we grow older.

One cannot read this memoir without deep gratitude and appreciation to this feisty, cut to the chase, witty woman. Don’t expect any proselytizing or soap box wisdom. What you get is straight talk, a gutsy look at elder life and a chance to get a glimpse into the life of this remarkable, thoughtful and free thinking spirit. 

I loved this book and plan to read parts of it again and share it with women of all ages. My only regret is that I more than likely won’t get to meet this now 97 year old English woman in this lifetime. And while she may not believe in reincarnation, hey, you never know…….And just in case, she does have a few other memoirs out there. 

By Roberta Teller

Check out my Facebook Wise Woman Wisdom page.

 

 

A Circle of Women: Aging with Awareness, Intention and vitality

 

 

I don’t know about you, but no one taught me how to “grow up” and certainly no one is guiding me on my path to old age……. Join your sister 55+ women in a supportive community as we intentionally navigate this road to old age. Through our own awareness, we can realize and set our intentions to live  a rich and vital third life stage. 
At this meetup we will explore how our personal and cultural beliefs and assumptions define us as older women.  
     
Changing the world one circle at a time.
 
Where; Coffee Catz
              6761 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol
When:  Thursday, July 31, 2014
               9:30-11:30 am
 
                        $10 donation appreciated.
 
                             Scent free event
Roberta Teller
Enlighten tomorrow with a reading today.
Tarot Wisdom
510-301-1706
Call or e-mail for an appointment.
 
Reflections on Growing Older from an Aging, Saging Crone

Wise Woman Storytime: An Invitation to 55+ women to share life stories and lessons learned

 

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As older women, we have a lifetime of experiences with many rich lessons learned. As older women, in a youth oriented world, our voices are often not heard; our life lessons go unspoken.  As older women, we are often not honored or given the reverence we so deserve.  
AND WE ARE CHANGING THIS PARADIGM – ONE STORY CIRCLE AT A TIME!
Join a group of sister elders who are embracing and sharing their many years of lessons learned through storytelling circles.  All you have to do is show up and tell your story.  If you don’t think you have a story, are feeling too shy to tell one  or just don’t want to share one, come listen and support those who do……And just in case…….there will be a brief presentation on Tips for Storytelling.
The storytelling theme this month is Turning Points.  
Hope to see you.
When: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 9:30am
Where: Coffee Catz
              6761 Sebastopol Avenue
              Sebastopol, CA 95472
 

If you have any questions, please contact me at womenownyourcrone@gmail.com or 510-301-1706

                      
$5-$10 offering appreciated (no one turned away for lack of funds)

                                                 

                                    COMING SOON: 
                       WISE WOMAN STORYTELLING CLASS
 

From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older – A Book Review

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From Age-ing to Sage-ing written by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller presents a new vision for growing older……one that looks at old age as the natural and meaningful next step in our life cycle- the journey to the full completion of life –  not a dead end as we travel the latter years of life’s road.    

Challenging cultural norms and beliefs that see old age as a time of deterioration and decline, this paradigm redefines the third stage of life as one that can be active and spiritual, contemplative and practical  and purposeful and realistic. What is required is to do the inner work – through contemplative practices that allow us to look back, reflect, explore the lessons learned, harvest the gifts, make peace with the mistakes, understand the challenges – we ultimately see the vast panorama of our lives and from this, the wisdom flows.  

Elderhood, besides being a time of deep personal reflection and introspection carries much responsibility.  Following in the footsteps of many indigenous cultures where elders are revered for their great wisdom and honored for their contributions to the society, Rabbi Schacter calls upon elders to not only tap into their wisdom, as a form of personal growth, but to take the lessons learned, the life long skills  and to share it with others through mentoring, volunteering, becoming a steward of the earth and creating a lasting legacy that lives beyond our years. 

The strength of this book is that it is very real, honest and practical  It addresses the realities of growing older while offering a multitude of choices and options to live an old age that allows for a deeper and more profound experience of life and an acceptance and preparation for death. And yes, Rabbi Schacter takes death out of the closet. Instead of denial, he views dying “as a unique opportunity for spiritual awakening.” He articulates the importance of being fully prepared for the experience of ones death. He explores spiritual beliefs about a life after death. He even provides exercises in the preparation for death. 

And it is through stories, personal accounts, extensive research, exercises and practices, the authors offer the reader a road map into what Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi calls “an elderhood that is the anticipated fulfillment of life.” Age-ing to Sage-ing is a beautifully written and most important book that redefines what it means to grow old, be old and how to live fully, with meaning until we draw our last breath.  In a culture that glorifies youth and demeans the elderly, the teachings of Rabbi Schacter-Shalomi offer a new way of living and being alive.

 By Roberta Teller

 

Betty Friedan Got it Right…….a Wise Woman Quote and Comment

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Betty Friedan got it right when she said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”  I cannot remember a time in my life when I was happier and more fulfilled than I am right now in my 66th year of life.  Retired from my 35+ years in education, I now have more opportunities available to me than ever before. Unburdened by NOT having to adhere to a work week of commuting, earning my paycheck, squeezing in a workout at the gym and running myself ragged on my days off to get all my errands done, I am now free to explore the world however I want. I have the options to do whatever I want, when I want or quite honestly, I can sit on my ass all day and do nothing……

I choose to pursue what I derive great meaning from and dive in. 

I’m one of those people who thrives on feeling fully alive. What feeds that aliveness is being connected to myself, my loved ones and the world.  And now, more than any other time in my life,  I have the opportunity to do all of this. I have the time to nourish myself with ample rest, relaxation and exercise. I have more time (never enough) to spend with loved ones. And my world has been broadened by travel to foreign places expanding my personal horizons, mastering new skills, meandering through creative projects, and moving out of my comfort zone by doing things that I’ve never done before.

And it’s not to say that I haven’t had my challenges.  I have had some health issues that have required surgical procedures, hospitalization and months long recuperation.  I have lost loved ones and some dear friends  have died way too young. People I care about are getting sick and suffering. I look at my body sometimes and wonder, “Who are you?”

And yet, I find strength – some comes directly from lessons learned from the myriad of experiences of my life.  Some strength comes from the wisdom of those around me and honestly much of it arises from a wellspring of understanding, empathy, compassion and humor that I am able to offer myself when the going gets tough or the road becomes a little rocky.

To me, when Betty Friedan says, “Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength,” she offers us a view of growing older that is rich with possibilities and ripe for personal growth.  And to me, what is much more important than being a youth or young, is that feeling of being alive and vital coupled with the wisdom of life’s lessons and learnings and understandings.  Some say, “youth is wasted on the young.”  I say, “Young’ums, the best is yet to come.”

 

By Roberta Teller

 

 

 

 

Refections on Making Mistakes from this Aging, Saging Crone.

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Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” When I was a child in elementary school, I used to hide under my desk whenever the teacher asked a question.  I was terrified that I would be called upon and convinced that I would be mortified when of course, I wouldn’t know the answer.  I hid out for years like this.  Occasionally, I would be discovered and asked to respond to a question. All I can remember is leaving my body, mumbling something and trying to get back under cover as soon as possible.

I have no understanding of why I was so afraid of making a mistake.  I suppose it can go back to this persona that my parents created for me as being smart and responsible and perfect. Maybe it was about not letting them down, but the truth be told, how could I let them down if they never really saw who I was?

I suppose it really doesn’t matter why this happened.

The first time I stood up in front of a group was in 1968 when I faced my class of  32 eleven and twelve year old 6th graders at PS 116 in Brooklyn, New York.  And once again I was terrified.  Here I was, 21 years old, straight from the suburbs of Queens facing a group of African American, Puerto Rican and a smattering of white kids in a red brick building built in 1898 located in one of the poorest sections of the city.  Did I tell you that my father had actually driven me to the school just before it opened for the school year ( and unbeknownst to me )  planned to meet the principal, Mr. Kash and to elicit a commitment from him to watch out for me while I was there…..Mr. Kash did agree.

But it wasn’t necessary.

From the moment I stepped in front of that classroom, terrified, sleep deprived (for most of my teaching career, I rarely slept the night before the opening of school) and wearing the dress that I had bought for this most audacious moment in my life, something began to shift for me.  I didn’t know it at first, but I realize now, that by looking at my beautiful, hopeful, enthusiastic, and mostly underachieving (that’s test scores) students, I was looking at myself.  And that was especially true of Julio.  Mr. Kash had warned me about Julio.  Well, in actuality, he warned every brand new teacher and staff member about Julio; everyone else knew him. He was the major behavior problem of PS 116.  It seemed, nobody wanted him in their class. And while you could say that Julio’s reputation preceded him, the sad fact was that nobody  knew this child nor took the time to get to know him.  He was viewed as one big mistake, screwing up left and right. I can only imagine how Julio felt about himself. But we had  a couple of things in common.  I felt like one big mistake about to happen and no one had really taken the time to see me either.

I have come to believe that we teach most what we need to learn.  It doesn’t matter what your profession or hobby or avocation, we seek out that which will help us better understand and know who we are.  By being a classroom teacher, I morphed into being a fierce advocate for my students to be the best they could be; to take chances and make lots of mistakes as long as these errors became tools for reflection and change and growth and momentum to move forward and not become dead ends or unfulfilled dreams. I encouraged them to ask questions, especially if they didn’t understand something. “The only stupid question,” I said, “is the one not asked.”  And I meant it.

I know now that whatever I was doing for my students, I was doing for myself. When I stood next to a student who was required to give an oral report in front of the class, that was me I had my arm around, saying, “Of course you can do it.  I’m proud of you.”  As they did it, so did I. When we did art projects, I threw away anything with lines on it (like coloring books) and encouraged imagination, creative expression and individuality. While I think of myself as someone who likes to think out of the box, for my students, there would be no box………”take a chance,”  I said to them and to myself.

Learning, creativity and life are risky. Often times it requires stepping out of our comfort zone and taking chances. Trying new things and doing things differently  opens us up to, yes, the risk of making mistakes. It also opens us up to our greatest potential.

I have come to appreciate the value of making mistakes as wonderful opportunities to learn and grow. I thank my hundreds and hundreds of students for showing me how with a little support and encouragement, we can become our best selves. Mistakes are valuable teachers and opportunities to see and do things differently.  No one is ever a mistake….we make mistakes, only.  And one more thing……...There is no such thing as perfection. Mistakes are as natural as sunshine and air……..

By Roberta Teller