Wise woman grandmother power

Between 7th and 14th May, hundreds of bloggers around the world will be writing about ‘Grandmother Power‘. This opportunity resonated with me following my talk at U3A (University of the Third Age) in Gisborne, New Zealand in March, where I was inspired by a room full of wise women (admittedly it included men!) over 60 years of age.

Preparing for my talk, I read Ram Dass’s book ‘Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying’, and during the presentation I read out the following poem from this:

If I could live my life again.
Next time, I would try to make more mistakes.
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be sillier than I have been.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would be less fastidious.
Accept more risks, I would take more trips,
Contemplate more evenings,
Climb more mountains, and swim more rivers…
I would go to more places where I have not been,
Eat more ice cream and fewer beans.
I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.
I was one of those people who lived
sensibly and meticulously every minute of their life.
Of course I have had moments of happiness.
But if I could go back in time, I would try to
have good moments only,
and not waste precious time.
I was someone who never went
anywhere without a thermometer, a
hot water bag, an umbrella
and a parachute. If I could live again,
I would travel more frivolously.
If I could live again, I would begin
to walk barefoot at the beginning of the spring
and I would continue to do so until the end of autumn.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would contemplate more evenings and I would play
with more children.
If I could have another life ahead.
But I am 85 years old you see, and I know that I am dying.

Never too late

I wasn’t sure if anyone was taking on board what I’d been saying about it never being too late to let go of limiting beliefs and find more ‘life’ in your life, so was touched shortly after reading the poem when a small, effusively smiling lady in the front row said “I have that poem printed out and on my fridge, and look at it every day.”

How many of us can say we’re truly embracing allowing ourselves to ‘make mistakes’, rather than taking life too seriously and working so hard we don’t have time to be silly? Do you really have to wait until you’re retired?

My grandmothers both died many years ago, in their eighties. I was only 12 years old when my paternal grandmother died (her husband had died when my father was just 13 years old), and she’d been senile for many years before that. My maternal grandmother I recall being quite eccentric, with so many regrets about things she hadn’t been able or ‘allowed’ to do during her long marriage to my grandfather due to his ‘fear’ of most things in life.

Since 2011 I’ve become a grandmother myself – how amazing! I don’t FEEL like a grandmother. When I was growing up, the word conjured up images of sitting in a rocking chair with my knitting. Instead I’ve just moved hemispheres, am in the midst of changing careers, and living very joyfully (with a lot less money but a lot more time) on a narrowboat with my husband!

Grandmothers, I feel, need to be revered and respected as wise women – we’ve had so many experiences in our lives, had to be and do so much to and for so many people, and through this learnt an abundance of useful lessons.

I recall thinking my grandmothers were so old, and couldn’t imagine anything they had to say was relevant to me. Looking back, I’d love to go back in time and talk to them, now I’m open to hearing their wisdom and words, and learn more about their worlds, the experiences they had, and what made them who they were. I wonder what they would make of the technological age that we’re living in?

What does it mean to be ‘wise’? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ‘…having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement’.

I hope I’m able to live a long and healthy life, and be seen as a wise woman to my grandchildren, supporting them to embrace the magic all around us in the world, instead of getting drawn into the dramas of the media and politics, and definitely to not be too ‘careful’ but to take risks, have adventures and truly live.

And I hope that as a grandmother, they’ll see me as a role model rather than someone who should be sitting in a rocking chair knitting!

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