03 Apr We are all getting older…
I was sitting on a plane going back to Amsterdam where I lived for 7 years to visit some friends, a baby free weekend for once! Typically I was also reading a parenting book on the plane, trying to multitask and make the most of my “free time”. I was sitting next to two young people (in their twenties I think) who were going to Amsterdam for the first time. I noticed that I promptly hid my parenting book and proceeded to give them partying tips, trying to remember the names of “cool” clubs (that I had never actually been to myself).
Afterwards I thought, why did I hide that I was a Mother? Why did I want to seem young and “cool”? And why was I not proud of the fact that I am a Mother and more mature than them?
This is something that I have noticed: some of us seem to be reluctant to “grow up”, to mature, and to, dare I say it, “get old”.
According to Robert Bly in The Sibling Society, one of my favourite books, we are currently observing in our society, trends of perpetual adolescence, a feeling of “sibling rivalry” amongst ourselves, a constant “busyness”, an absence of connection to our elders, as well as a lack of “leisure” necessary for maturity.
I am the first to admit that I am vain. The first grey hairs I spotted freaked me out, and as much as I can, I still hide them. I hate seeing wrinkles or lines around my eyes in photos. In the past, I thought perhaps that this aversion to ageing was because I was single and feeling “old”, or that I did not have children yet when I “should” have by then. Now that I am a mother in my forties, I do notice that I am generally more relaxed about my appearance and my “ageing”. However I cannot say that I really embrace the changes that my body goes through, and I definitely do not celebrate them.
When I see my 75 year old father who is still very active, including running his own business and looking after my 4 year old son, I see someone who has accomplished a lot in his life, however I am surprised to see that he does not seem that proud of his life, rather he seems to downplay getting old and how it is really not enviable. I now try and ask him questions and listen to his life stories to get to know my own roots and also learn from his life experiences. We often seem to see getting old as an inconvenience and elderly people as almost a burden. They also sometimes get blamed for certain things such as the current state of the planet for example, which I personally do not think is fair and I worry that this blaming of previous generations could actually cause issues for the younger generations and disconnect them from their roots. We can always learn and improve from previous generations but placing ourselves above them and looking down on them seems to cut us off from a very important part of ourselves.
If we could manage to honour our elders, without putting them on a pedestal of course, and give them space within our community as well as a meaningful role, perhaps this would also help us to honour our own ageing and maturity process.
With this current absence of clear homogeneous guidelines on how to live our lives, perhaps we could see this as an opportunity to redefine our own concept of “maturity”. We could draw inspiration from previous generations and elders, as well as our fellow contemporaries. I also find that my son teaches me a lot about who I want to be, as well as about intimacy, responsibility and “maturity”. We could decide if our own definition of maturity includes for example:
- Self-awareness and ownership for our feelings
- Authentic communication
- Self-love and forgiveness
- Honouring (and forgiving) our ancestors
- Healthy emotional and physical boundaries
- Tolerance for different beliefs (see my previous blog “Don’t take it personally…” which I actually need to re-read on a daily basis!),
- Embracing constant change, transitions and natural ageing
- A steady feeling of worthiness
- Respect for our physical bodies with conscious rest, movement and diet
Although we all go through the natural physical ageing process, I also think that feeling “youthful” and maintaining a playful, childlike side are positive qualities. Getting older need not be seen as something negative, rather just as a natural change and transition, which comes with its challenges and rewards.