Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Big Six-Oh: A Lot to Crone About

Dear Readers,

I’ve been on vacation from the blogosphere for some celebrations—a big milestone birthday for both my husband and me (born 10 days apart) and our recent “church wedding.” Last year I returned to the faith of my childhood, and we had our marriage blessed after nine years--the sacrament in Sacramento. This was written on my 60th birthday—September 22, 2007.

Blessings All,

I am the world’s greatest birthday enthusiast. My mom was good at remembering birthdays; we always celebrated them in a big way; and when I meet people who don’t whoop it up with joy or relief that they’ve made it through another trip around the Sun, I think they’re culturally deprived—or depressed.

After studying and practicing astrology for many years, I got even better at remembering them. Birth charts start with the exact date, time, and place of birth, forming your individual horoscope. Once I ever set eyes on that round wheel and its starting date, it was a piece of cake to memorize someone’s Sun Sign. Once I knew that, I’d have it narrowed down to the few weeks when their birthday had to occur. Nailing the exact day was easy, once I was in the neighborhood of their potential calendar squares. (How dated and boomer of me! I admit: I still prefer paper calendars with their tidy cells, even though I use electronic ones, too.)

That said, as my Big Six-Oh approached, I knew something was “off” as I did not have my usual yen for partying with my overgrown Child Within. As the daughter of a self-proclaimed culture maven, I knew it wasn’t losing my taste for the art of birthday celebrations, especially the butter cream frosting. I’d never give up my annual birthday wish while blowing out the candles. I’d feel naked in my personal new year without it, and to miss it would feel like bad juju—a superstition defied, like stepping on the sidewalk cracks. What would happen to my mother?

Only in this case, my moms—both of them (birth and adoptive) are gone. What bad luck or blues was I avoiding when, for the first time in my life, I had no spark about celebrating my birthday? The Big Six-Oh? For our 50th birthdays, my honey and I had a joint bash in a park that even our dog attended. It was great, and I had no qualms about stepping into that big number—just the dog’s Number Two.

I wasn’t too far off when I let my 60th birthday thoughts carry me to Step on the crack and you’ll break your mother’s back. What a weird, boomerlet ditty. We’d say it whether walking on the sidewalk or playing hopscotch.

The cracks I am afraid to step on are my own wrinkles, and the mom I’ve been trying to save is my own mother stage of life. Of the three classical stages of a woman’s life—maiden, mother, and crone—it was time to crone me queen of a new era in my own existence in a culture that hates aging.

I am a consummate mother, even though I have never had children, at least not the two-legged variety. (I’ve had four leggers “aglore” as my mom used to say.) Remember those old boxes at amusement parks where you grip a handle and, supposedly, it registers on a chart from cold fish to torrid how hot you are as a lover? Well, if there were one of those that measured your juice for nurturing, I’d break the glass.

In Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights (HFCI) I talk a lot about how I had to find a place to put all that maternal love, and one place I have put it with all my might is into my pets. Two of my four are ill and probably not long for this world. My cat Darrin, in particular, is the child who holds without reservation my enormous load of love. He can’t get enough of it. When I think about losing him, I can’t breathe. I sometimes fear I will actually die. It seems cruel, on so many levels, that the one I’m most bonded to is the one I will probably lose first.

Yet, I also know this is an endbeginning. I picked up this wonderful term in an article in Yoga Journal some time ago. If I had human children, I’d be a grandmother now, maybe even a great-grandma—long past the mother stage of life. It’s time to let go of mother as my innermost source of fulfillment. It’s time to embrace being a sage and crone.

When old parts of us die, the loss is profound, especially when we have put so much energy into them. Darrin is my love teacher, and he is teaching me that I have to let go to embrace the next phase, where I give what I have learned back to the world--where being mom is not my juice.

I don’t blame myself for not being up for a big birthday celebration. This kind of transition is big. It asks me to mourn before I dance. Every atom of my being has been poured into an extended mother phase of life. Take that away, and what do I do? How do I do it? Will I ever feel completely connected again?

But soon, I will dance. My gift to myself, belatedly, will be a croning ceremony. It’s time. Here I will mark the passage from the maiden to crone phase of life (long overdue), and my close friends will do various rituals to mark the change, including wrapping me for the first time in my Sage Shawl. It is literally sage green and gold, a 60th birthday gift from another friend, and a symbol of this stage of life and its cool insights, our reward for living life fully while paying close attention to the results of actions and interactions.

The concepts in HFCI help us embrace this phase of our lives in a dazzling way. The power of so many women stepping up as teachers and mentors boggles the imagination. The things boomer women could do with their collective wisdom in service, now that we have no kids to rear and barely give a damn what others think of us.

But stuffing emotions is unhealthy, even dangerous. So give motherhood, your youth, your cute bod, and your flawless complexion its proper funeral. Stay as lively and good-looking as you can, recognizing your wow now comes mostly from the inside out—the only kind of beauty that never fades.

Then go out and dance on the grave of all those losses. Soon you’ll be singing, because truly, in the great Grand Scheme, the best was saved for last when it comes to what life has to offer.

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