Happy New Year to my dear reader friends. Thank you for following Matrignosis. May the new year bring you increasing health, prosperity, joy, and wisdom. Today a friend sent me this wonderful article by Mary Pipher. I share her sentiments and could not have said it better. Enjoy.
We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. –Maya Angelou
The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies, by Mary Pipher January 2, 2020
Aging and Becoming July 9, 2019
“These are writings about ‘becoming’ as an ongoing and active process with its especial significance as we age….becoming assumes a ‘changing to’ and a ‘moving toward.'” Susan Scott and Susan Schwartz
The above words are from the preface of Aging and Becoming: A Reflective Enquiry, by Susan Scott, a writer from Morningside, Johannesburg, and Susan Schwartz, a Jungian analyst from Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Each of the 26 chapters in this slender volume begins and ends with an appropriate quote, most from wise women throughout history. In between is a conversation between the authors on topics ranging from A–Aging & Attitude–to Z–Zero. Stitched together, these musings create a nurturing patchwork quilt of a month’s worth of meditations on how women can age consciously and wisely. Here aging is not treated as a downhill slide to a disastrous end, but a series of challenges and opportunities to grow your soul into its intended fruition.
A: Aging and Adapting
Susan Scott: Attitude is a word of motion that in its best sense expands and broadens. Many of us who do not allow for an expansion of attitude, a growth in our view of ourselves and the world and our place in it, can get stuck…This entrenchment of attitude is limiting and draining to personal power and leaves little room for movement or maneuver.
Susan Schwartz: We are not only on a descent but also on an ascent into a more complete rounding out of our personality….Perhaps what is referred to as wisdom is the ability to cope and find reasons, strategies or ways of being and for valuing the present moments….The wisdom and spirit of age can be demolished only if we agree or collude with those attitudes that denigrate and demean.
Susan Schwartz: The time for conformity and fitting in just to be accepted is over. Real forms of self-expression derive not from a false front or to superficially conform, but arise from the real self, a more complete woman self. As we age, the need to define and express our essence becomes more insistent. The image of the older woman as frumpy is not true. Voice, artistic writing, style, intellect comes in all these numerous garments and more for expressing her soul.
Susan Scott: Healthy self-care differs from the obsessive body panic. The fine line is to be aware of judgments about the body as negative or perfect. That signals the false ego rather than a devotion to restorative self-attention.
D: Dreams, Death & Depth
Susan Schwartz: Dreams are both messages and messengers. And how awful it is to be ignorant of them. The mystery of not understanding them while holding them preciously allows for secrets to gradually unfold….[Dreams] illustrate, through their mirroring function, how the personality keeps on presenting information about life events, aging and changing.
Susan Scott: The dream reveals our own metaphor, our own myth, as a gift to one’s self. It carries great responsibility and opportunities. The rich and honest soil of the dream, unconscious and wanting some light thrown on it requires attentive watering for its fertility and to bear fruit.
F: Fear & Fulfillment
Susan Scott: When I am assailed by fearful feelings I realize that they are often the spur that shakes me out of my languor and torpor. It is not easy sitting with them. Yet, by virtue of sitting and being in that fearful place, another kind of awareness may emerge creating a slight shift.
J: Joy & Journey
Susan Schwartz: Jouissance is a French word for physical or intellectual pleasure, delight, or ecstasy…it means to go beyond the superficial and metaphorically get out of the box. Jouissance transports us to what is beyond the familiar. It represents…intricacies to be appreciated as the journey wends its way even more uniquely and we continue to define and refine.
M: Moon, Mourning & Mystery
Susan Scott: The moon’s principle is constant change and as such is symbolic of an emotional inner and outer principle. What other force is there like the moon that pulls the oceans from shore to shore? Now as we age we are more mindful of the powers of darkness, the night atmosphere represented by the moon and its associations to the feminine energy.
Susan Schwartz: it is time to unravel the shadow pieces lying on the dark side of the moon. This expands the personality making us more inclusive and complete. We could then be more honest, openly accessible to ourselves and to others. Honesty is not hiding what we never had to hide to begin with.
P: Path & Pain
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Gloria Steinem
Susan Scott: The quest in life is being aware of the questions–about who we are, our place in this mystery of life as we experience it. We can ask the questions, stir things up a bit as it will surely do…we can welcome whatever arises as we would a guest, coming newly into our home. Can I live the questions I ask of myself? The only foolish question is the one not asked.
Susan Schwartz: The end of the alphabet, zero, is a letter than denotes what begins and ends…An aspect to Zen is waiting, awareness, feeling and not feeling the body and its sensations and reactions, being and not being caught in the mind….And the zebra that is such a lovely and unusual animal…Like the zebras none of us have the same stripes. This is similar to how we move through aging by negotiating its complexities and living consciously….Aging presents challenges that we do not escape at life endings.
Aging and Becoming is not a work to rush through. It is contemplative reading, packed with thoughts to savor slowly, like a leisurely conversation over coffee with a beloved friend. It will activate your ego’s awareness of your soul’s natural condition: an appreciation for wonder, mystery, and curiosity, and a knowing of the essential meaning and potential of your life. Like winter, these inner events portend spring’s renewal.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.
Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge May 23, 2014
Okay. Time for a confession. Until recently I’ve been quite mature about aging. I’ve believed platitudes like, Why fight the inevitable? It’s just a number. Accept it with grace. It’s a phase everyone goes through…if they’re lucky enough to live that long. Stay active. You can still be a useful member of society. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…. Then, about halfway into my 70th year, the s**t hit the fan.
It began with some pain in a toe after a few weeks of vigorous walking on brick roads in wornout tennis shoes. The coup de gras was delivered on Thanksgiving Day when I squatted for about three minutes in front of a low kitchen cabinet looking for just the right serving dish. The next morning my toe was so painful I couldn’t walk without limping. Determined to tough it out, I didn’t consult a podiatrist until January. The black boot I had to wear until my stress fracture healed wasn’t pretty, but at least it brought me a lot of sympathy! Squatting, for heaven’s sake? Who knew squatting could be a health risk?
Then one day in February I woke up with the lids of my right eye stuck together. When I got them open I was appalled at the intense shade of pink staring at me from the mirror. Could I get an eye doctor to see me? Of course not! I’d just have to tough it out until next Monday. Fortunately, I had an appointment with my podiatrist that afternoon. After his eyes widened at the sight of mine, he asked his assistant to make me an appointment with the eye doctor down the hall. The good news is that I saw him 30 minutes later. The bad news is that the next day both eyes were stuck shut and as red as alligator eyes in the glow of a flashlight at night. Eat your heart out, Bob Costas! Speaking of… that was a weird coincidence, especially since I had made such a big deal about his case of pink eye at the Winter Olympics only a few days earlier. “Look at that, Fred! He’s got something wrong with his eye. Gross! What is that?”
The third indignity, this one even grosser than pink eye, cropped up soon afterwards. One day I developed an annoying itch in the center of my upper chest. Several mornings later I awoke scratching a wart! A wart? Seriously? I’d always secretly suspected that only people with character flaws got warts and now I was one of them! How could that be? Luckily, specially treated Band-Aids make them go away, but I have to tell you, hiding mine was a wardrobe challenge for the next three weeks!
So now I was hobbling around with a bum toe, alligator eyes, an unsightly growth and high-necked blouses! Next came a sinus infection. What was happening here? After a few weeks of moping around the house feeling as sorry for myself as a child, I finally had to admit the universe was sending me a humbling message: “Wake up, Princess. You’re not in Kansas any more! Aging is no tea party and you might as well get used to it!”
I’m trying. So here, thoroughly chastened by this latest wake-up call and determined to handle it like a grownup so I can get on with my life, I present my top Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge.
1. To my horror, health complaints are getting to be a common conversation topic.
2. When I don’t feel well I get cranky, petulant and depressed.
3. Your reflexes actually do get slower as you age, which explains why your driving does too. I’m thinking that if you see me behind the wheel 20 years from now (I’m determined to be optimistic about this) you better hope I’m headed the other way.
4. I don’t laugh at people who watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in bed any more.
5. I’ve been sitting at my desk writing all day every day for so many years that sometimes just walking requires aspirin. I hope I haven’t done myself some permanent damage. At any rate, now I get the Tim Conway shuffle. (Check out the link for some good laughs.)
I still intend to live this phase of my life with grace, but after this winter I’m aspiring to more kindness and humor too.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks .
Five A’s of Inventive Aging May 20, 2014
The latest meeting of my writer’s group, The Purple Pros, was rich with splendid conversation about art, poetry, literature and theatre. In my update I mentioned how after 24 years of passionate—one might almost say obsessive—writing, teaching and speaking, I’ve been in a semi-fallow period since my last book came out. Little green shoots are popping up here and there, but as yet I have no clear direction. Lenny spoke of how various challenges and life changes leave her with little time to work on her long play and the four short ones she wants to start. What with Margie newly remarried after years of non-stop writing, speaking, and presenting, it quickly became apparent that we had found our theme for the meeting: the transition from our highly productive and creative middle years into the autumns of our lives.
For her writing activity, Margie had synchronistically chosen the same theme. She told us about visiting the Tate Museum’s exhibition of the cut-out art of Henri Matisse on her honeymoon. Bedridden and wheelchair-bound in the last decade of his life, Matisse was too frail to stand up or hold a brush for long. So, still driven to create by his daemon—in classical mythology a daemon was a benevolent semi-divine nature spirit who drives humans forward and upward—his new medium became colored paper and his tool, scissors. Margie shared some questions she’s been pondering since then and suggested we address any that appealed to us.
Two questions interested me: “Why is it important to re-invent myself at this stage of life?” and “What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?” Since crossroads and transitions are common to all at crucial times in our lives, I decided to share my musings here. A thought: If our daemons drive us to pursue and perfect our passions, our musings/muses infuse them with inspiration and creativity. After all, my musings on Margie’s incisive questions inspired this new post at a time when I’ve been writing less than usual.
So, “Why is it important to reinvent myself at this stage of life?” Because I may have completed my previous stage, but I’m not finished for good. My life is a miraculous gift, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m not ready to sit on the riverbank watching the rest of it flow past. I don’t want to leave without having made all the contributions that my driven daemon, creative muse and unique soul can make. I may not be Henri Matisse or Virginia Woolfe but I am Jean Raffa!
“What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?” Yes, writing is my craft, but so is my life. My ultimate mission is to make of myself and my life a work of art: something beautiful, original and meaningful, something that nourishes the growth not only of my soul but of others. As I wrote my answer to this question I recognized five qualities that have helped me reinvent myself and will continue to do so:
- Attention: Staying aware of my inner and outer life—what I’m feeling, sensing, intuiting, doing, and finding fulfilling and meaningful—in service to self-knowledge, authenticity and consciousness.
- Acceptance: Releasing my resistance to things I can’t control or change.
- Appreciation: Being grateful for whatever happens inside and outside of me, not just what I consider positive, but also what I’m inclined to view as negative, in the knowledge that every particle of life is valuable, necessary and instructive to my soul.
- Assimilation: Consciously integrating my experiences and perceptions into a growing and changing life stream of creative energy that keeps me moving forward.
- Action: Manifesting my soul’s creativity in my writing, loving and living so that my offerings will make a healing difference.
So far I’ve chosen to be a friend, wife, teacher, mother, Episcopal church-goer, homemaker, carpool driver, community volunteer, television producer, graduate student, college professor, vision quester, dream worker, shadow-tamer, author, workshop leader, social media networker, and music maker. Lately I hear the call to reinvent myself again. I don’t know what choices I’ll make or how they’ll turn out, but then I never did. What I do know is that my daemon, muse, soul and I intend to keep reinventing our life until this one ends and the next begins.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks
The Ten Best Things About Turning 70 April 23, 2013
It’s April and the red tail hawk that screeched his way through last spring has just arrived and is out back by the marshy canal that separates our backyard from the cypress swamp beyond. I’m sure it’s the same one. I think he decided to return for his courting. It’s an ideal spot for large water birds…except for the alligators, of course. The canal is connected to a large lake and is shallow enough for marsh birds to easily see the bass swimming by. Yesterday a great blue heron plucked a long squirmy thing out and lifted its beak so gravity could slide it down his gullet.
April’s my favorite month in Florida. Actually it’s my favorite month anywhere because it feels like my very own special month. I was born on April 23 in 1943, a year when the 23rd was on Good Friday. I always felt proud of being born on Good Friday as if it meant I was good and would be rewarded with a comfortable life. Now of course I recognize a universal, less auspicious significance to this day. Good Friday is when Jesus of Nazareth is said to have been beaten, tortured, and hung on a cross to die for speaking out against the ills of rigid religious orthodoxy and the injustices of misogyny and Roman imperialism. As a child I never considered the possibility that, if taken as an omen about my spiritual journey, being birthed on Good Friday did not signify a pain-free life. In fact, it didn’t, but I’m not sorry.
Of course, I don’t claim any factually objective connection between this historical event and my birth date. Conventional thinking would see this as the height of hubris, self-importance, and magical thinking. But as someone who’s spent the last quarter century learning the symbolic language of dreams and experiencing an unending series of synchronicities between my inner and outer worlds, I find it profoundly meaningful anyway. I don’t expect anyone to understand unless they’ve been on their own inner exploration long enough to have experienced such things. But those who have know that the life of the mind is about much more than history, objectivity, linear logic and intellectual reasoning. There’s a grand and glorious MYSTERY out there, and we can be part of it.
Yes, I’m turning 70 on April 23 this year, today, in fact, if you’re reading this on April 23rd, 2013. And I’ve never felt better. To honor this, here’s my personal list of the best things about turning 70. I know my experience isn’t true of everyone my age, and this knowledge pains me. Aging is not a piece of cake and I have a pretty good idea of the unpleasantness I can expect in times to come. But I assure you that at this moment I feel excellent and am filled with hope.
10. I can see the great blue heron swallow a snake and hear the red-tailed hawk calling his mate. Life is teeming with the drama of the birth/death/rebirth cycle, and I’m still part of it.
9. I’m still learning and growing and I foresee no end to this adventure.
8. I still have my mental and physical health and usually have the sense to enjoy it.
7. I feel more comfortable every day about being transparently me.
6. I’ve survived an agonizing ego death and am enjoying its miraculous aftermath.
5. I wake up every morning to work I’m passionate about, and I can keep doing this as long as my mind and fingers hold out.
4. My life has purpose and meaning because I’m touching people in ways that are making a difference in their lives.
3. Because of the internet and other technology which has eliminated the barriers of time and space, I can be present to the lives of my loved ones and communicate my love whenever I want.
2. I’m proud of my progeny and filled with hope for their futures.
1. I’m surrounded by people who love me and whom I love.
Wishing you all this and much more when you turn 70.
Photo Credit: Tom Verzo/Vireo for Audubon Society
You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.
The Perils and Pleasures of High School Reunions November 25, 2011
Our high school reunion last month began with a school tour. We pulled into the same parking lot I used mmffffeennttey (excuse me, my hand slipped) years ago when, as a senior, I finally got to drive my mother’s ffflllimmerrrtty-fraammph (Oops! There it goes again!) Chevy to school. I was unprepared for the rush of memories: of friends who rode with me, a boy who occasionally thumbed a ride home, the Home-Ec room where I learned to make the dresses, blouses and skirts I wore to school from then on…. Okay, that dates me! Girls didn’t wear pants to school in those days.
We walked past a new building that occupies part of the once-expansive front lawn and there was the elegant old red-brick facade with its gracefully arched doors and mullioned windows, some of which were stained glass. I marveled that as a teen-ager I had never appreciated its beauty.
Then we noticed the group standing around the flagpole. Who were all those old people? Were they really our classmates? At first our greetings were awkward because everyone was pretending we weren’t trying to read each others’ name tags, but eventually we gave up and just introduced ourselves. Once we got over the initial shock, familiar features began to emerge from the masses of wrinkles and gray hair. This was both reassuring and bemusing. Okay, it was great they were still alive and all, but really? Did we look this old to them? At 10:00 a.m. sharp a young man approached our group. I assumed he was a senior assigned to be our guide. I saw more than one incredulous look when he introduced himself as the principal! You get the idea. High school reunions are not for the faint of heart. But we all survived to enjoy the tour.
One highlight was stepping into the auditorium and being assailed with a wave of deja vu. There in front of me was a recurring image from my dreams! The same thing happened in the corridor outside the cafeteria. I hadn’t remembered what either place looked like, yet they inspired all the auditoriums and cafeterias that have shown up in my dreams since high school. How many of our issues originate in adolescent experiences we’ve completely forgotten? Quite a few, I suspect.
We had a great time. It was especially fun reconnecting with my old girlfriends. Since Linda’s husband went to school in Mississippi he didn’t come, so Sylvia and Rita decided not to bring theirs either. Sylvia said that at the previous night’s football game her husband (who was in a different class) acted like the reunion was all about him so she wouldn’t let him attend the rest of it. Rita said her husband (also in a different class) “tends to talk a lot” and she didn’t want him stealing her thunder so she told him he couldn’t come either! I love it. We’ve come a long way from the days when bolstering the male ego was part of every teen-aged girl’s job description.
The weather was predicted to be cold that weekend so in the midst of packing Fred came out of the closet with his old football letter jacket! Delighted to find he could still snap the waistband, he wore it to the outdoor buffet the first night. In my eyes he was the hit of the party. He says I was. I think that’s sweet. I’ve decided old love is better than young love. How lucky are we to still be together after all these years? Forget it. I’m not telling you how many!
If you want to feel better about your age, I highly recommend turning off the TV shows in which everyone looks 18 and going to your high school reunion. Blessedly, no one there will be younger than you! (Unless the principal leads the tour.) By the way, now that I’ve reconnected with all these lovely people with whom I share so many warm memories, I’ve decided we’ve aged every bit as well as our beloved old school.