A Woman For Every Season
Hmmmm…a winter’s woman? Seriously, what exactly is old? One of my agemates once told me that her grandmother said that she didn’t feel old until she turned 90. By the same token, my 88 year old started saying that she felt old after having hip replacement surgery three years ago. Indeed, she has been a little rickety since then. I wonder if these women feel like their bodies are in winter while their minds are somewhere else. Is their season limited to how their bodies feel? My 88 year old is one of the most honest and fun-loving people I know. While we fiercely disagree on many a topic, she doesn’t try to control me. Likewise, I can’t convince her to do anything that jeopardizes her priorities or values, even if it’s making miserable some annoying telemarketer who forgot to block his number. She does NOT play: we once argued in a Starbucks because she refused to spend $4.57 for a cup of coffee. She didn’t care that the barista had already made it. She was offended that society has become so greedy that it would rip people off with a cup of $5 coffee! It wasn’t about the money, it was the principal behind the whole thang. But she did let me buy her that coffee, and told me how stupid I was as she drank it. Maybe she’s living an Indian summer.
I’m almost 43 years old and consider myself to be an early summer woman. For me, I think summer officially started at 40.Turning 40 freaked me out, and if I’m honest, being in my 40s is still freaking me out. Hats off to all of the women who are growing older and feeling carefree about it. I wish I was there with them. I wish it didn’t phase me. I wish I was 100% certain about all that is bothering me and comfortable sharing the unsettling parts that I am quite sure of. My fears aside, my favorite part of this season is setting boundaries. I’m like a 2 year old who has just learned the word, “NOOO!!!!!” I don’t do anything that I don’t want to do. I throw out no like I’m playing spades: I’m just waiting on somebody to do something so I can remind them that I cannot be pushed. My whole life is that scene in The Color Purple when Sophia wouldn’t work for Ms. Millie, I’m just trying not to get beat up or go to jail. I suspect that I’ll consider myself a mid-summer woman when I experience my first full-on hot flash: I remember being a teen and watching Aunt Bobbie strip down to her bra out of the blue. That woman was definitely in August! I’m gonna say that I’m in mid June.
On the other hand, I’ve befriended a young woman in her mid 20s who is definitely a spring chicken. I would say that she was actually a chick when we first met, a hatchling even. She was afraid of everything and second guessed herself often. She was also afraid of my judgement. But over time, I’ve watched her progress through her season. It has been some kind of cool to watch her begin to own who she is. I know she doesn’t do this in every area of her life just yet, but I love seeing her test the waters. Eventually, she’ll stop seeking my approval as she comes to realize that she and she alone will have to live with her choices. Such will be the beginning of questioning her newfound confidence: can I really live with this? As she makes decisions with higher and higher stakes, I hope she’ll seek me out to remind her of her undeniable personal goodness and intelligence despite her actual and perceived failures. It’s a gift to bear witness to and escort someone toward the next stage of life, no matter which stage. I even counted it a gift to be able to walk my favorite aunt to the grave.
Personally, I believe that autumn is the most beautiful of the seasons, for people and trees, and I believe this is especially true for women. Each year, by the time the fall sets in, things feel settled. Life feels like your favorite pair of heels, the ones that you feel sexy wearing, but they don’t hurt your feet. It’s like all of the living that has been done all year long has been preparing you for it. It’s during fall that I feel the most authentic, confident, and hopeful. It’s weightier than spring and summer, but it could not have happened without them. Oddly, while life prepares you for fall, it also forces you to use fall to prepare for winter.
I bet women in the autumn of their lives are just like this! At once, appreciating the past, but looking ahead. Fall lends itself to evaluating the wisdom of one’s choices, effectiveness, productivity, and purging what isn’t working. I also believe they are colorful and vibrant because they’ve moved past “the hell naw 2 year old” and toward those people, places, and experiences that affirm them as they are. They are honest with themselves about their values, their strengths, weaknesses, and desires. Most of all, I hope they’ve given up fixing everybody and being superwoman in order to make space for celebrating the joys of life and indulging simple, but regular pleasures. I wonder precisely how they are preparing for the coming winter that they know is coming.
As I think about these wonderful women of the fall, something has occurred to me: we live on two planes and our seasons progress independently. You can be in the winter in your body and still in the spring in your heart and mind. Progressing through the seasons is about building self-awareness, ever-increasing confidence, a sense of purpose, and real relationships.
What are your seasons? Where is your body? Where is your mind?