Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Want To Be An Old Woman by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Do you ever wake up and just feel old? Could be hormones, or I’m just tired or who knows what, but I think it’s just the waning of my youth seeping ever so slowly out of me. Aging is mostly attitude, right? If I feel young, I am young. Maybe...

In my mind, aging is understanding how helpless and inconsequential one really is and not caring. The warrior self of my youth is giving way to a sense that I have little impact in the world beyond my family and even then I am but fleeting.

Oh to wax so poetically when really I am just feeling pissy. Right now, I am reading Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. It’s the third book of really profound, life-changing books I have recently read and I’m feeling depressed, sad, helpless and finally wondering how to make the world a less nutty place. The other two books I finished include The Mask of Motherhood by Susan Maushart and The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden.

I know that I am sensitive person and others might read these books and not feel as deeply or as emotionally impacted as I do. My guess is that society has always asked the question “What are we coming to...” But, when one starts asking the question and feeling powerless to change things then there is that feeling of being “old.” Now maybe if becoming old wasn’t such a horror than I might feel differently. I remember telling an older friend—a woman who was 35 years older than myself—that her time for being a “warrior” was over, but remembering and educating and sharing her wisdom was of great importance and equally as valuable.

We had been talking about Bella Abzug, who was this woman’s personal friend and who knew that Bella died feeling she was a failure. My friend was explaining that feeling and I—in my youthful exuberancewas trying to console her. Now I am beginning to understand what my friend was talking about. The wisdom of age is not valued and when the warrior self is too tired to carry on the fight (of anything that we believe in) then the feeling of hopelessness can harden in the heart like a bitter lump.

So maybe this pissiness is just mid-life angst. Angst from the German meaning a great abiding fear. Do I feel fear? I do. I am reading Skenaky’s book and feeling it deeply. Not even the reflection of seeing all that I am doing right with my daughter can remove the underlying fear I feel about everything. Fear of aging, fear of not being successful, fear of being a bad parent, fear of isolation, fear of waking up wondering how did I end up...where ever. Fear is a great motivator, but one can choke on too much of it.

When I see an old woman wearing shorts with spider vein legs, baggy knees, no makeup, gray hair and her oldness hanging all about her and she is just having fun out in the world, I know that she is not afraid. She just doesn’t care anymore. I would like to have that freedom too. It looks a lot more appealing than the old woman who is trying to be youthful in clothes, hair, makeup etc. Right now I am in the in-between stage. I sometimes feel old, but I don’t really look it and I am still very invested in maintaining a youthfulish appearance because of fear. Oldness has not fully settled on me. I am walking a fine line. I have a sense of my mortality, my smallness and a part of me still wants to fight...the warrior that is down, but struggles to their feet...a hero's journey. Yeah right, this is just life, not a movie with a three act structure and dramatic arc. Oh well...

As I often say about my daughter, she is just going through a development phase...she’ll get beyond this (whatever this is). You know, she’ll grow out of it—hopefully sooner rather than later. I think I am going through a phase and I hope I grow out of it sooner rather than later.

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Blogger Cara Meyers said...

I also read The Mask of Motherhood and both loved and was disturbed by it, just like you. Free-Range Parenting is on my bookshelf, waiting to be cracked open.

It is hard to ascertain how your parenting will ultimately affect your child. And I, too, am feeling my age! And with an active kid, the days get longer and more exhausting. My own mother was a "later" Mom, and I can remember being my son's age of 7 or 8 and wanting my Mother to keep up with my play. But she would often say, "Maybe later, Honey. Mommy is too tired now." I can still feel the let-down, disappointment, not quite understanding why my Mother could be tired so often. I try to never say that to my son. I push through the exhaustion and at least give him some of what he wants from me. But it is HARD because I usually end up sore and even more exhausted than before. But my Mother's words resonate in my head, so I forge on.

The only regret I have about being an older Mom is being endlessly tired and fatigued. Can espresso be given intravenously?

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