Originally published 12.7.13 - Republished 11.16
Stereotyping, not exactly a new concept especially since 9.11. We hear the TSA does it all the time touted of course as for our own good. We might even subconsciously do it ourselves, it's almost sadly an instinct to categorize things and unfortunately that has turned toward people also. Who doesn't remember; whether you were a young viewer or a seasoned veteran watching with a young viewer (or just happened to be flipping channels and stopped at Sesame Street;)) the singsong of
"one of these things is not like the other..." (Yes you can thank me if that runs circles in your head for the rest of the day. I'll be smiling as I sing it to myself.)
But stereotyping "a woman my age?" And since when did I become a"woman my age" and exactly what does that mean, exactly? I happily quit a renowned gynecologist when those words tumbled out of her mouth over and over again and never for the better. I always left her office feeling way worse and much older than when I walked in, hopeless even. While I don't dream of the fountain of youth I do believe that aging is much a state of mind and that the art of aging gracefully is the gift of becoming yourself. At least that's what Hallmark said on a card a decade ago (still under copyright protection, giving due) when I bought the card and framed it. It's been on my studio wall ever since, and I've given thought to having it permanently engraved somewhere on myself to remind me as it shifts and shrinks with gravity and becomes unreadable at some point (yes, I mean a tattoo, now you'll always wonder, did she or didn't she...) that it is one of the few absolute real truths.
It is not confined to gender or age or ethnicity. It does not belong solely to one religion or philosophy stolen from and spread around as if it's a new thought THEY just came up with. It doesn't belong to anyone but yet belongs to everyone, and is something I hope to impress on those who know me and those who don't.
I find these two concepts, aging gracefully and becoming yourself, inexplicably intertwined and unisex, transgendered. When I was young I loved riding grocery carts and skateboards. In my middle age-ness I know the best parking lots in the area with enough incline that if you push off a bit you can just about ride your cart all the way to the car. I'm not alone in this sport, I saw another "woman my age" doing it too. I'm not sure I'd venture out with a skateboard because now they are slick and smooth and glide like oil on glass. The skateboard of my youth was made from wood scraps from the garage, with an old fashioned key-skate opened all the way up and was screwed onto the bottom of the hardwood board. These skates were foot powered, they went against all promise of ever really traveling fast with no ball bearings and when your body stopped swaying from side-to-side, those skates stopped swaying too, they stopped immediately, right in their tracks. The less graceful of us, which I am one of, would go head over heels as if we didn't know that would happen or were just willing to except the consequences. Then skateboards improved as did my riding skills and I'd steal, er, borrow my brothers more store-slick ball-bearings model and ride down our hilly street which dead-ended in a fairly busy 45 mph 2 lane, somehow I managed to never ride into the traffic but learned how to leap off gracefully. The skateboard wasn't always so lucky because as you might imagine it didn't leap with me but exhibited a senseless mind of its own and kept going, but those drivers were always quick in dodging and it survived, ball bearings intact. To my memory I was never told no but rather don't ride into oncoming traffic, I never damaged the skateboard and never got caught by my brother. I think he knew though, he always knew stuff and is an awesome big brother who still knows stuff, and he does "a guy his age" really well. ( I had to put that in here in case he really didn't know I used his skateboard whenever I could, but hey! I was a girl and wasn't graced with one of my own store bought models!)
So what defines a woman my age, or a man for that matter? Is it our soul, our spirit, or wisdom? Is it our audacity to ride that grocery cart, or perhaps nude sunbathe? (Be sensible on that one, there's a difference between the privacy of your own yard and a public park unless you're in Europe. Note to grown children: Call ahead before you stop by. Note to passing motorists: It's fenced. Note to squirrels: Give me back my binoculars, I'm serious now!) Is it our ability to know we can say what we please but have developed the wisdom to know when no words are the best words you could say?
So ride the cart or the skateboard, do those things you would love to do, no matter how silly or who is watching. Color outside of the lines onto the table. Use sharpie markers and draw a tattoo on yourself, if you're brave enough for that you are probably brave enough for the real thing! Build a sand castle, a snowman or make snow angels. Buy yourself something you've really wanted but didn't think you deserved while you're shopping for others this holiday season. Roast marshmallows in your fireplace, ride a bicycle not safely attached to a stationary base. Spend time outside with the full moon, sleeping bag advised for cold temperatures. Stay up extra late to catch the Northern Lights if you are graced with their beauty in your area. Find a bench in a park, a mall, a public square and do nothing but watch people for an afternoon. Hike a path you've never taken in woods you've never explored. Do Tree Pose on a log. Paint on canvas even if you've never held a brush. Try new things. Why not? You are your own inner daredevil, you are your own worst critic and your very best friend. Because really, no matter your age, there is no time like the present and if not now, then when?
I'll say it again.
"The art of aging gracefully is the gift of becoming yourself."
It has a nice ring, don't you think? Love to all.