Way back in the 1960s I had a revelation. I was only in my twenties when the Women's Movement was born, and I learned about Women's Lib, as it was called then. I was raised to believe that biology is destiny, that because I was born female, my life was meant to support a man's career and that having a career of my own was silly. My parents told me that going to college was a waste, because I would be spending a lot of money just to find a husband. So I didn't and instead got pregnant and got married (in that order), a mother at nineteen.
I read Betty Friedan and remember the chapter in her book called "Housewifery Expands to Fill the Time Available" or something like that, and I wanted a way out. I found it. I did end up going to college in my thirties, night school after divorce. This story is familiar to a lot of women. But what stayed with me from Women's Lib is that I could be anything I wanted, that I was smart and talented.
Now the time is different. It's the first decade of a new millennium, and the world has changed. Just yesterday, I had another revelation, as profound in my thinking as the first one almost half a century ago: that aging and entering into old age can be transforming, just as freeing as the first revelation.
How many of us have heard the saying that they are having a "senior moment"? All of us, and I am no different. I've used it myself. What I learned yesterday is that having a senior moment is actually setting foot into another reality. I happened to watch a PBS show called Retirement Revolution: The New Reality and was stunned to see beautiful elderly people gracefully dancing and moving in ways that don't look like young people, but like gazelles. They have a dance studio in Manhattan called Paradigm. These people inspired me to celebrate my age. Carmen de Lavallade, 78, has been dancing for 50 years and says she has no intention of letting age stop her.
I also learned in the section on Use It or Lose It that the brain has a real advantage as it ages. The right brain or the left brain tends to dominate our thinking when we are younger, and as we age, we begin to balance this out by using both sides equally. This gives us wisdom, and the ability to think in ways that we couldn't do very well before. Mental challenge and stimulation causes the brain to form new dendrites all through our lives.
I woke up in the middle of the night with this post forming in my head. It's early but I felt compelled to get over to the computer to write it all down, because I want to share with you this exceptional program on PBS. I also discovered a wonderful link while browsing for a picture, an artist who has a website called Birthing the Crone: Aging into Full Creativity. Helen Redman is my age and has a wonderful body of work to explore here. Enjoy!