Today is Susannah Conway’s 41st birthday. She’s not nearly as old as I am, but in a space of fabulous insight and profound inspiration, she asked a number of women to write and post on this particular day, about what it means and feels like to be getting older. I’m honored to be one of them.
Because I believe our voices need to be heard, I offer the words that follows in first-person, audible version. Listen to me tell you the story.
Because I am old(er)…*
I could talk about what I have learned these past 53 years, about how my body doesn’t move or respond quite the way it used to, about how I sometimes don’t recognize the face that stares back at me in the morning, about what it feels like to walk through the mall or thumb through a magazine or flip through channels surrounded by youth and its glorification, about
often usually being the oldest person in the room, house, business, even social settings. None of this is what I really want to say. Here it is:
I’ve heard and felt it for the past few years: a sort-of distant drum beat to begin with, now, closer than my very heartbeat; a pulse, a whisper, a chorus, a chant – a nearly-visceral awareness that I am compelled, called, and required to say and give what I know – because I am old(er).
It’s not about content – what I’ve studied, the expertise I’ve gained, the work I’ve done – though that matters. It’s not about my unique experiences – places lived, relationships survived and lost, lessons learned – though those matter. It’s not about my particular story – family of origin, personality, choices, preferences – though this matters, as well. It’s about all of this and then some. And it’s the “then-some” of which I really want to tell you; the ways in which each of these elements have impacted all that I know, believe, doubt, question, and trust.
I did some research for this post, looking online and in books I own for quotes, perspective, data on what I’m feeling and trying to say. Oddly,
maybe profoundly, nothing showed up. And though I know it’s out there, I closed the last book and every-single-extra tab on my laptop screen then moved my keyboard in front of me.
This is what it’s about: not looking other places for the wisdom that’s within; speaking what I know because it matters and needs to be heard; trusting that my thoughts must be articulated and shared. I am compelled, called, and required to step into the world with more strength, more perspective, more volume, more fierceness, more determination, just more, than ever before. I am compelled, called, and required to walk through my world as one who sees, who hears, who knows, and who offers all of this and then some to my daughters, my friends, my peers, my world.
I am compelled, called, and required to speak and give me, expressly because I am old(er).
I couldn’t/wouldn’t have seen, let alone said this ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. The credibility or authority (whether offered internally or externally) would not have been mine. But now it is. At 53 I can and must sit at my kitchen table or my laptop, stand on a soap-box or a mountain-top , and speak/give what I know. No holding back. No editing. No censoring. Because what I know and who I am matters.
A part of me All of me wants to say, “Come. I have so much to tell you, so much to offer, so much to give.” But it sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? (The too-long-listened-to voices within still attempt to control and quiet.) And right now, in this very moment, I see myself reflected in the windows that front my desk: a woman in her 50s, questioning her right and ability to speak! I laugh, out loud. Mostly at myself, but also at any who would think me too much and ever dare to say so.
So consider yourself warned and wooed: I am waaaaaay too much! Which is exactly the way I like it, the way it should be, the way it is. Risky. Bold. Dangerous. Deal with it. Deal with me – or don’t. But if you can, if you want, if you will, oh, how much I will give, how much I will offer, how much I will say, how much I will love. Because I can. Because I must. Because I’m old(er).
And at the end of this post, what I realize is this: Even the remotest feeling that as I age I should somehow quiet down, slip away, or fade into the background is a lie from the pit of hell. More, the endless attempts by the over-culture and media itself to convince me of such, is evil embodied. Here is what is true: the older I get, the louder, the more present, the more fiery and alive and passionate and impossible-to-ignore.
This is no small story – mine. I carry the lineage, the blood, the hope-and-strength of thousands of women before me and it is my right and responsibility to keep them alive, just as they keep me alive in every single way possible. I am the daughter of Eve, Hagar, Deborah, Jael, Mary, Mary Magdalene, the woman who wept, the women at the tomb, the countless others who have names we’ve never heard, tales we’ve neglected to tell, stories that thunder, lives that yet live. They will not be silent, nor will I. And this closer-than-my-heartbeat pulse, whisper, chorus, and chant is what keeps me alive; hardly old, rather, old(er), wis(er), strong(er) than ever before.
I’ve heard and felt it for the past few years: a sort-of distant drum beat to begin with, now, closer than my very heartbeat; a pulse, a whisper, a chorus, a chant – a nearly-visceral awareness that I am compelled, called, and required to say and give what I know.
Do you hear it? Do you feel it?
It resonates, reverberates, and shakes the rooftops (as do I). I am here. And oh, how much I have to tell you, to say, to give…because I am old(er).
May it be so.
(Happy Birthday, Susannah!)