Many of the writers for the ‘Joy of Ageing, Esoterically’ had been raised in the era when it was generally considered that people, especially women should put others first and that to care for oneself was selfish and actively discouraged. Hence, when it was first suggested that self-care was an important element in ageing joyously, they had some difficulty accepting that it was okay to self-care, let alone to love self!
Kathleen explains this further, “I felt a momentous shift the instant I decided to stop looking after everyone else first and started focusing on getting myself together. This was huge for me. The whole process of connecting with and caring for myself was totally foreign. I had no idea of ‘how to be’ in the world as I had no real relationship with myself, so learning to take care of myself first, did not come easily”.
Lyndy takes this further “I had viewed my body as something I had to drag around with me, something that inconveniently needed sleep, and feeding. I got increasingly exhausted and run-down as I struggled to keep going”.
Dorothy, now in her eighties, shares when she first heard about self-love, “When I was approximately sixty-five a friend had said to me "Dorothy, until you learn to love yourself how can you expect anyone else to love you?” At that time I thought ‘Love myself!’ In all my sixty-five years I had never heard anything like that before! Up until then I had only heard people talk about loving one’s self in a negative and selfish way. At that stage I did not know what true love was, let alone ‘love myself ’".
The pressures to conform to society’s view that it was selfish for a woman to take time for herself were very strong. As Mary shares in her story “. . . for most of my life I had been ignoring what my body was telling me and what I would have naturally done if I had not been conforming to other people’s perceived ‘normal’.”
All of these writers came to a point in life where, as Ulrike shares in her story “I realised that I had been living my life in a way that did not consider me as important or that was kind to myself, let alone being loving to myself.”
Sue had a similar realisation “One of the most amazing findings for me was that the answer doesn’t lie outside of ourselves. All those years I was looking outwards for healing and for truth, and it was and is inside me all the time. We are never taught this.”
Thus, all writers made the choice to be more self-caring and loving with their bodies. Jane explains how this worked for her, “Practically, what this meant during each day was a willingness to be open to seeing the way I was living and a willingness to give new things a go to learn more about what worked for me, and what didn’t. . . I started looking after myself in a new way. As I did, I realised that I didn’t really know what true love, caring and self-nurturing was, let alone the massive effect it has on everything in my life”
It was not just the women writers who came to the realisation that the way they had been living to that point was in total disregard of their body. As Greg shares in his story, “I started listening to my body; it would tell me very loudly when something was not right and I had to take responsibility for it and change – change my choices and my way of doing, being, eating and living.”
All would agree that the changes did not happen overnight. Ulrike writes “The decisions I started to make to take loving care of myself were small ones at first, because if I looked at the whole or thought of making big changes, they appeared too overwhelming. I decided to hold the intention to be gentle with myself, but mainly I focused lovingly on me – choosing to have loving thoughts about ‘Me’ instead of negative thoughts.”
It is never too late to change as Judy confirms, “Here I was, coming into my sixth decade and learning to make self-loving choices, to love and appreciate myself, to be tender with myself, to care for myself with gentleness and grace. In a nutshell, for the first time in my life I was learning to live more gently and make self-loving choices. Was this what had been missing from my life?”
So, where are our writers now? As Jane reports in her story, “Over many years of gently and lovingly reviewing my life . . . making many small changes to daily living such as hydration, nourishment, exercise, rest, and sleep . . . I now have the greatest relationship with myself that I have ever had and it continues to build day by day.” Carmel agrees when she says, “My vitality has increased enormously and sometimes I feel like I’m eighteen!” and from Mary, ”the more I make my choices from what I feel, the clearer I become about what supports me and the improvement in my health, my vitality and enjoyment in life continues to amaze me.“
And, a final word from Dorothy “I now know that to love myself is to be gentle, sensitive and to listen to my body”.
Compiled by Anne McR., Australia