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!

The wisdom of aging …

Wise old owl

Over seven years ago, I decided I’d had enough of dyeing my hair.  I ‘d been resisting my ‘greyness’ for so long, and didn’t even know how much was there, or what my ‘real’ colour was any more.  Every six weeks I would visit the hairdresser to have my roots coloured, and every other visit I would also have ‘highlights’ put in.

At the age of 46, in my first year of immigration to New Zealand, I decided enough was enough – I’d reached a stage where I felt ‘comfortable’ with my ‘self’, so much so that I decided to embrace my age instead of being fearful of it.  I didn’t want to look 20 years younger, and importantly I didn’t want to keep paying all that money to try and make myself someone I wasn’t – I’d heard a scare about the possibilities of hair dye and cancer which pushed me a little too.

I had my hair cut very short, and a few ‘blonde’ highlights put in to soften the change as the grey grew out.  I’d hated those unsightly roots when they grew back, and it was so liberating not to have to worry about them anymore.  Most people (generally women) were aghast when they heard that I was ‘embracing my grey’ and couldn’t comprehend why I would do such a thing.

You’re never too old

Two months later, I met the love of my life, Barry, and we married in 2009.  So that talk I’d heard so often about ‘loving yourself’ before you can truly love someone else, was true after all!

I’ve been invited to talk about ‘Life Coaching’ to a group called ‘The University of the Third Age’ or U3A, here in Gisborne, New Zealand.  The person who asked me initially to present, wondered whether there would be anything to interest older people in ‘Life Coaching’.  “Of course!”, said I.  “We’re never too old to let go of anything that’s holding us back or to embrace change and find more life in our lives.”

One of the ways of preparing for this talk was to post on my Facebook page a ‘call to action’ – here it is and responses I received:

On 7th March I’ve been invited to talk to around 60, over 60 year olds, about ‘Life Coaching’.

 What are your thoughts on growing older, maturing, being an ‘elder’?

 What words spring to mind when you think of life after 60?

I’d really appreciate your feedback and comments …”

Respect, I definitely feel that the ‘youngsters’ have no respect for their elders anymore, don’t know that that’s going to help you though.”

 “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~Satchel Paige

It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. ~Brigitte Bardot

Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. ~Robert Browning

You can’t turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again. ~Bonnie Prudden”

 “Funny I have quite a few friends that over 60 and they are as active and some are musicians, teachers and artist and they and myself most definitely don’t even think of them being over 60 lol Some people are definitely growing older and maturing others are just living life to the fullest and they most certainly don’t look like they are in their 60’s lol.

I think it would be how old would you think I was if you didn’t know how old I was!!!

“We don’t stop having fun because we get old; we get old because we stop having fun.’ – unknown. There is a wonderful story that does the email rounds from time to time about an elderly lady who is entering a retirement home. The nurse describes her room to her on the way up, and the elderly lady says ‘I love it already’. The nurse said, ‘But you haven’t seen it yet’. The elderly lady said it wasn’t how the furniture was arranged that would determine whether she loved her room or not; it was the way she arranged her thoughts.”

“It might seem more difficult to find things to appreciate as we get older, but it is the secret to being content with life. A good reminder is that the alternative to growing old, is dying young!

“I remember my mother telling me on her 70th birthday ‘I never wanted to get old’ – she died at 99! When I reached my 70th birthday I wondered whether or not I would live until I was 99 as my mother did. We had two things in common, firstly the desire to have a peaceful death (my mother did), and secondly to enjoy the time we have left – and for that I honestly don’t think you need life coaching; you’ve already had it!” 

“I’m 60 a week on Saturday and don’t feel any different to what I did at 30 or 40, all just numbers really. I don’t think I have any notion of death or nearing closer to it, sometimes I wonder if I am a live or is what I am doing just a dream in death … weird really, and certainly don’t care about dying personally. What I am looking forward to is becoming even older maybe the 80 age and being able to say and do things and get away with them as it being an age thing … or does that not happen lol is it just in my head that I accept old people and their semi senility.” 

“Clapped out but still dancing?”

 “Age and wisdom don’t always go hand in hand. Respect should be given unconditionally, but that is only learnt through experience. Experience isn’t about longevity, some people hang on to their preconceptions and prejudices their whole lives. Being over sixty is no different to being under sixty, except in the way you perceive yourself. Don’t think about a change in life because of a birthday, think about a party and the lovely range of people who could be there – of all ages.”

 “Gets a bit scary when the NHS start to bombard you with Cancer smear tests and bowel cancer tests in the week you turn 60!!!!

Also, one reaches 60 to be told sorry dear you can’t retire you need to work another 23/4 years now till you get your pension! No free bus pass now till one gets ones pension but free NHS for prescriptions!”

 “If it’s not fun or profitable…don’t do it!”

 “Hi Sandra saw you thing about 60s plus. Interesting – I think old age will be a totally different experience in years to come. Why .. Technology! Not just wellbeing, mobility and aids to living – but web access / twitter / FB / movies on demand / gaming etc. think our generation will be the tech oldies!”

 “I feel a bit guilty about being 60 plus (63 actually) for all of 5 seconds.  My children will never have the retirement I am having so I feel I owe it to myself to make the most of it.  What really annoys me is that they think because you are older that you want to settle for second best.  Well we don’t, we want to enjoy every opportunity that is given to us.  Take what ever you enjoy and makes you happy and do it.  After all it is only a number and that number doesn’t necessarily exist in your mind only sometimes in the joints!”

Some fascinating responses, diverse and similar all at the same time.  We all have different ways of approaching aging …

I also spoke with an inspirational woman from California, by the wonders of Skype, who started a business in her 60s called the ‘You University‘ .  She and her husband lost all of their retirement savings and considered committing suicide at one point rather than asking for help – but they managed, by various means, to change their viewpoint about what it is to age and now, in the ‘Age of Happiness’ blog it’s reported:

It had taken Maia and Bart nearly a lifetime to find their callings. The path towards them had cost a fortune. Maia and Bart are convinced that it was a reasonable price.”

Another way of informing my talk is by reading ‘Ram Dass: Still Here: Embracing aging, changing and dying’, which really resonates with my beliefs and is giving me greater respect for aging, as well as letting go of our consumer driven society, which judges us more on what we DO than WHO we ARE – mainly because most people are so busy they don’t really know!

Letting go of ‘stuff’

I’m also de-cluttering our possessions as Barry and I are making the move to England in just over two weeks, and plan to be there for the forseeable future.  There’s something very cathartic about letting go of the need for ‘stuff’, both literally and metaphorically, and I can feel my life becoming simpler.

I’m also letting go of my ‘career’ as a midwife – in spite of still occasionally feeling that it would be ‘safer’ to keep doing it, I know I can earn a good salary doing that, even though I know I’ve ‘grown out’ of the passion that it used to evoke in me.

However I know so many people who’ve spent their lives working hard to build up a career and save for their pension, and never manage to change even though they dream of doing so – then when it comes to leaving the role that they’ve become, they’re left in despair and don’t know what to ‘do’ with themselves.  Because they’ve been so busy making a living that they forgot to make a life!

As I grow and mature as a Holistic Life Coach, I’m inspired by the changes clients make towards letting go of the need for filling their life with work because they’re too afraid of facing change in their career and/or personal life.

And I’m really looking forward to talking with these elders about Life Coaching and what resonates with them – I’m sure there’s going to be much wisdom to be gained …

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts?