by Joanie Butman
The end of January marked a milestone for me – my 55th birthday, Double Nickels. Sounds like a card game. Some of my peers are approaching the back side of fifty with horror. I, on the other hand, welcome it acknowledging the sheer miracle that I’ve survived this long – and not because of my dance with cancer. Some of the questionable choices I made in my teens and early 20’s were far more lethal than any disease unless, of course, you consider stupidity one. Truthfully, celebrating my 55th birthday is most surprising because I’m still waiting to grow up in so many ways.
Many women (and men) find encroaching middle age almost as daunting as the way I approach my scale at the end of the summer. Why am I so frightened? Because I know more or less what it will reveal: that I spent the past two months overindulging. I don’t need a scale to tell me what my clothes have been screaming loud and clear: “This little piggy went to Rockport!” The same holds true with crossing the double nickel threshold into middle age (that’s being kind because that would only be accurate if I lived to be 110 which is highly unlikely). Let’s face it, we all know how to count though some women conveniently lose this ability after a certain age. Acknowledging the event just reminds them of something they already know because their sagging, shifting bodies are daily reminders that you can run, but you can’t hide.
Even though middle age may not be mathematically correct, we are certainly sandwiched between our children and our aging parents – definitely a middle of sorts. But what’s the best part of an Oreo? The middle of course. Even though I might think so, that is a personal choice that everyone has to answer for themself. In reality, it’s the blending of all parts that gives the Oreo its unique flavor, and the same can be said about life.
It is interesting to observe how different people choose to approach aging. There are those who are in permanent denial of the aging process as if they alone have discovered how to suspend the passage of time. They are the ones that choose to hide or lie about their age. If I were going to fudge my age, I would take my cue from a friend who threw himself a 50th birthday party at 40 so everyone would tell him how great he looked for his age. Not a bad strategy.
Another friend’s attitude is more honest, and you’ve got to love her spunk, “I’ve reached the speed limit and I’m not slowing down!” which she hasn’t and is testimony to the claim that 70 is the new 50. I admire her attitude, but I am slowing down, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has its perks. When you no longer have the pressures, responsibilities and time commitments of a young family, it enables you to choose to concentrate on things you find most fulfilling – not a luxury readily available in the hustle and bustle of youth. There is now time to begin a new phase of life, to choose a new adventure – a second calling. Our second calling may not always be of our choosing or liking for that matter. It may be dictated by circumstances beyond our control, but the quality of our life will definitely be defined by how we choose to respond to that calling.
Personally, I find aging liberating. Among other things, age “frees us from the focus on appearances, so that we can become fullyourselves, inside and out.” Yes, I could join the ongoing battle society is waging to keep time and gravity at bay. But why? It’s futile anyway. I exercise and eat healthy, but I have a strict ‘no sharp’ policy to beauty enhancing techniques. That means no needles, knives, electric shock, or even pouring hot wax on my body – nothing that involves unnecessary pain. I choose a kinder, gentler approach to my body – massage, yoga, reflexology and meditation. It’s less about what I see when I look in the mirror and more about what I see when I look into my soul. I’m not totally without vanity though. I still wear Spanx which pushes the boundaries of my ‘no pain’ rule.
With age and experience it becomes easier to accept ourselves for what we are and what we have to give to the world without feeling the need to please everyone all the time AND look good while doing it. Therein lies the definition of a crone. I was introduced to the concept of a crone years ago and embraced it enthusiastically. Croning isn’t necessarily attached to any particular age though 50ish is the generally accepted range. Becoming a crone is more about attitude than numbers. It is definitely a choice to view your age as a privilege rather than a curse. Some might consider themselves “croned” by 50, or others may not feel worthy of the title until much later in life. Either way, you will know you’re nearing it when it becomes less about you and more about others. It is a time of wisdom, maturity and Depends.
Crones choose to recognize and respect our limitations and rather than concentrating on our faults, we choose to celebrate our strengths and how they can be used in service to others. A crone is a wise woman who accepts the gift of her experiences and the knowledge she has gained through them along with the recognition that it needs to be shared with others. Her life becomes an expression of that wisdom.
Contrary to the ‘withered old woman’ Webster defines, crones are anything but. Weathered a bit for sure but not in vain. And it’s no surprise we’re weathered. There were no spray tans or SPFs when we were young. Tanning entailed coating your body with baby oil, covering an album cover with aluminum foil to maximize the rays, and baking until done!
While the generally accepted definition of crone has a negative connotation in our society, I correlate it to its sibling ‘crony’ which holds the exact opposite association. A crony is a close friend, a comrade, a pal. That is as close to a perfect definition of crone as I can muster. Crones have finally made friends with themselves overlooking all our imperfections, being as generous with ourselves as we are to others.
Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve is the motto that adorns the entrance to my son’s school. It was this attitude that attracted me to the school initially. Not because it is beautifully etched in Latin on the stone facade, but because it is etched on the hearts and minds of the school’s faculty, administration, and student body. Likewise, crones choose to embrace that same belief. They have spent the first half of their lives absorbing: ideas, knowledge, experiences. Now it is their turn to give back, to use the insight, talents, and life skills they’ve accumulated to serve others.
There is even a bona fide magazine dedicated to crones. “Crone: Women Coming of Age explores the gifts and concerns of women who seek to fully embrace Earth’s cycles of life and death and transformation. We honor the wisdom of long experience and the compassion of an open heart. Our readers are women who identify with a new, yet very ancient way of growing older and who wish to help effect a cultural change that will return wise elders to their natural and honored place in society.”
Finally, the last thing I’ll remark about crones is they choose to take time to live in the moment. They aren’t racing through life at the speed of light as in their youth. They’ve downshifted to a lower gear – no less powerful, just a different pace and focus. Personally, that allows me to recognize God incidents or Godwinks as I have learned to call them.
What’s a God moment you may wonder? Everyone has them – many just don’t notice them. Being aware of them is not a unique ability, but crones choose to take time to appreciate and recognize the wonder of an ordinary day, to appreciate the miracles each day has to offer. Sometimes it’s the sight of an incredible sunset, children playing, the vastness of the ocean, holding a newborn in amazement at the tiny perfection of God’s creation, or simply recognizing the hand of God in all circumstances – good and bad. God is in the details, of that I have no doubt. And if you choose to take the time to notice those details, you can appreciate the care he puts into each and every one of His creations. Pearl Bailey, a crone before her time commented, “People see God every day. They just don’t recognize Him.”
After I shared this essay with a friend, she asked if there was a male version of a crone. To the best of my knowledge, the term is gender specific. When I thought about a male counterpart, visions of Albus Dumbledore kept popping into my head. My only comment is that croning is a state of mind. Male or female doesn’t really matter nor is its designation. We all have life lessons to impart.
Why not choose to share your pearls of wisdom?
To learn more about Godwinks, read Squire Rushnell's When God Winks series.