“I am an elder. And I am delighted to be an elder.” Alice Walker to Tami Simon
Acknowledging myself as an elder is like settling into a comfortable chair surrounded by my favorite books by my favorite authors and spiritual leaders with my laptop within reach and knowing that there is internet. I am at peace. Not much is demanded of me and still, when I am called upon, I have my resources.
In our culture there is constant pressure to maintain youth. Aging is tantamount to extinction and retirement is believed to be a passport to indulging oneself on the way to uselessness.
Is this too harsh?
Perhaps. But I have certainly had an angst-filled journey to my present comfort with aging. I have written about it a lot. You could search “aging” on my blog and come up with more than you ever wanted to read. I wrote about elders here, and about my acceptance of aging here. And there’s a lot more – some in a spirit of joy and some sharing anxiety and resentment.
This month I am in a small village in Mexico. Here I fully embrace my position as an elder. I am used to hearing myself addressed as “Doña” along with other older women in the pueblo. I am honored to be included with the local women in this way.
Yesterday I asked a young friend why a woman much younger than myself was called “Doña”. She explained that it just denotes respect. It doesn’t have so much to do with age as with the perception of the younger generation that a particular person has wisdom to offer. (Btw, there are men addressed as “Don”, also.)
When I think of my peers I realize that I move freely among groups of women who speak in the language of wisdom. In our groupings we don’t often speak of beauty secrets and we don’t share anti-aging tips other than perhaps to stay healthy and keep our minds active. Our conversation is a sharing of thoughts, ideas, emotions, problems and solutions. We confide our sorrows and revel in our joys. These women may not yet see themselves as elders, but I see them as such. Each in different ways is my spiritual guide.
So I am prepared. I am armed.
I have always believed that experience coupled with knowledge equals wisdom. By that definition, I have wisdom to offer. If I am willing and able to live my life as an example (good or bad, I suppose), and if I am willing to offer my wisdom when called upon, I can fill the role as an elder. If I am open to looking to my peers, my own elders and my ancestors to enhance my wisdom, then I increase my value in that role.
I accept that responsibility. I, too, am delighted to be an elder.