As I have lived for eighty-three or so years I should be able to write about ageing. However, I am not quite sure what that is! I know that there are perceptions in society about ageing, particularly for women. There is the perception that a woman past her child-bearing years is not fully a woman any more. How mad is that in reality?
It is not only within cultures that perceptions of ageing occur. I feel people also have their own perceptions and experiences about ageing. I remember when I was thirty-two years old, shortly after I had my third child, I was visited by friends who were both just a few years older. The woman was bemoaning the fact that she was now ‘middle aged’ but I simply could not buy into that belief because I still considered myself 'young',
During my life I have been a student, a young married, a mother, a grandmother and a mature woman who has continued to learn and grow during all those years. I have only once felt that I was growing old and that was when I had several years of ill health, had my sixtieth birthday and stopped colouring my hair allowing it to revert to its natural grey colour! However, once my health issue was sorted out I did not feel ‘old’ anymore.
The health issue was simply a matter of listening to my body and knowing there was something wrong. I had known there was something not quite right after I had my third child. However, I was branded as something of a hypochondriac by the medical profession as I kept demanding to know what was wrong. It was not until I moved to the Northern Rivers area that I met a doctor who took my condition seriously and tested me for gluten intolerance. By then I was really suffering with rashes all over my body. Once I stopped all gluten I began to feel much better, then I stopped all dairy produce as well and felt even better! Obviously continuing to ingest gluten for the thirty years between when I first felt ill and when I was finally diagnosed meant that I had damaged my immune system. However, I can honestly say that at eighty-three years I feel better than I did at forty!
Feeling ill does make one feel ‘older’, however I did not ever feel ‘old’. There was always something new to do and see and learn. I have found the years after motherhood more rewarding than any other time in my life. I have had the energy to learn and explore new ways of living and being. I have learned to really appreciate my body and how it has served me over the many years of my life and thus to nurture it as it deserves.
We talk about ‘living’ here and there, we take great care of our houses and cars etc., but in reality we actually ‘live’ in our bodies all the time so we should look after our bodies before all else.
I would say to all women, “appreciate your bodies - they are incredibly complex and wonderful”. We have a beauty deep within us that expresses in our harmony and stillness. This is something that never ‘ages’ so that we, men and women in our mature years, have so much to offer the world. We have wisdom that we have gained over our years of life, but we have an innate knowing and wisdom that is with us from birth. It is never too early to dip into this, one can become an 'elder' at any age and the earlier the better really. A wise mother is a great gift to any child. The wisdom I speak of is, as I have said, innate not learned from outside oneself but that inner knowing that we all do have if we can just learn to trust it and let it manifest itself.
This is the true wisdom of the elder and sometimes it does take years of living before one is ready to let go of all the beliefs and ideals that get in the way of our expressing who we truly are.
Once one can do that there is a wonderful sense of freedom and release. So I would encourage all to look at life anew and free oneself. I have found it such a profound joy I can’t help but say – JUST TRY IT!
Rowena P., NSW Australia