Friday, March 07, 2008

Crone Power! (Happy Birthday to Me!)

Today is my birthday. I’m 56 years old – which officially makes me a Crone. Here in the 21st century, Crone is a derogatory term, as is hag. But in centuries past, these words were used to describe a Wise Woman: post-menopausal, seasoned, tempered (and distempered) by life, marriage and motherhood, and in a position to wax philosophic and even psychic. Some of modern history’s most lauded women – among them Agatha Christie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Edith Wharton, May Sarton, and a number of the turn-of-the-20th-century suffragists – have written with relief and pleasure about their 50s, 60s and beyond, and how much simpler life is without the insecurity of youth and the imperatives of assorted raging hormones. For the most part, I concur.

I’m more patient than I used to be. Although I’m still fairly preoccupied with myself, I’m more mindful and caring of others. I don’t feel a wild sense of urgency about much of anything – which I appreciate, whether it’s for good or ill. I’m still somewhat confused racially and spiritually, but Straightening It All Out no longer feels likely or terribly important. I don’t care as much about what other people think of me. I still mourn departed loved ones, but I’m more accepting of the loss.

I’ve never been what you’d call a happy person, but I’m more contented now than in any other phase of my life. I basically know who and what I am, and I’m okay with it. I’m more appreciative of anything good and more capable of enjoying simple pleasures. I also have more compassion for and insight about men than I did when I was younger – although I currently have no opportunity to apply this wisdom. It’s been awhile since my last Relationship and I wouldn’t mind having a nice man in my life again. But I haven’t forgotten how much work relationships are. My energies are channeled elsewhere – but I’m open to a compelling interruption (Viva Viagra)! I’m less physically attractive than I used to be, but I have a lot more confidence and experience.

I don’t mind growing old or being alone per se, but absent children, extended family or a Significant Other, it’s scary sometimes. One of my dearest friends and my downstairs neighbor for more than 30 years is a 94 year-old-woman who is very much alone. She’s been a dedicated working musician and opera coach for over 70 years, but now her mind is going and her body is betraying her and there’s no one around to take care of her. Friends (and she has many) are her safety net – as they are mine. It’s unsettling when pieces of one’s self-sufficiency begin to peel away. Throughout our lives, we know we’re mortal and we’ll eventually wind down and die, but until fundamental changes impose on day-to-day life, that reality seems distant and not really relevant.

Things change when you’re a Crone. People look at you differently, when they look at you at all; ours is a culture that doesn’t like to look age in the face, and the feeling is mutual. I find young people irritating, that distinctive combination of ignorance and self-assurance and the subconscious comfort that comes from knowing the years still stretch ahead.

But I’m not going to be gloomy today. I’m going to concentrate on feeling good about feeling as good as I do. I’m going to count my blessings. I’m going to do something good for myself (see my doctor) and something nice (sushi for dinner!). I’m going to be grateful for having an unusual, interesting life – and finally forgive myself for not making more of it. I’m going to “own” my Crone-ness and rejoice that I’ve made it this far, this well.

This has been my shot at imparting a little wisdom. If you don’t feel uplifted and enlightened, please cut me some slack. It’s my first day as a Crone.

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