I’ve been thinking a lot about growing old gracefully lately.
I’ve been spending quite a time the last few days with some truly warm, wise, wonderful and much-loved older “sisters” and mentors. Learning so much from them, coming away with much depth and insight, it always feels like taking advanced courses in the subject of life.
Yesterday, I felt like I was a character in a Jane Austen novel while having high tea with dear friend and mentor Dr. Edna Manlapaz at TWG. Who better to sip English tea with and learn about manners and being Zen than the authority in all things English?
Dr. Manlapaz had just finished reading psychiatrist, Jungian analyst and best-selling author Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s “Crones Don’t Whine,” now on my “books to read in 2013” list.
Crone-hood, defined by Shinoda-Bolen, is a phase in life where you become more authentic, more capable of making a difference in your family, and in the greater world. She writes, “Life gives you experience, and when you draw from it, that’s true wisdom. By the time a woman is in her crone years, she is in an amazing position to be an influence. To change things for the better, to bring what she knows into a situation, to be able to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ You don’t have to just go along with things, which is often a part of the middle years.”
Humor, the ability to laugh at oneself and with others (not at others), is a valuable trait one hopefully acquires upon attaining crone-hood. “There’s a humor in older women—we can laugh together about how absurd life sometimes is. In the middle of really bad transitions we can find some sister to laugh with. You can’t whine and laugh at the same time.”
The book, Dr. Manlapaz shared, was lent her by another beloved and, as Shinoda-Bolen describes it, “juicy crone,” mentor and friend Lorna Kalaw Tirol, from whom I have learned so much about life, kindness and writing.
We were all headed that evening to the book launch of an equally warm, wise and juicy crone, Chit Roces Santos, whose column also appears in this section. Tita Chit’s book “Personal Space,” a collection of her wise, fun and warm essays, was launched that evening at Powerbooks.
It was a thrill to finally meet the writer. I’ve been a fan of her writing since it first appeared in the Inquirer and Town and Country magazine. The essays tackle the different kinds of love—of mother, child, wife and lover—alternately hilarious and poignant.
Chit’s style, as described by Lorna in the Introduction, is a mix of Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck and Helen Gurley Brown. I was up until 1 a.m. reading through her book.
A few days earlier, Meiling, another dear friend who was marking her high school batch’s golden jubilee, lent me her class yearbook and a collection of essays which I’ve been reading with great interest.
“Cincuenta” and “Shy Wings in Flight,” a collection of personal essays edited by Paulynn Paredes Sicam, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz and M. Angela Castro Loeber, chronicle how each member of St. Scholastica’s College High School Class of 1963 has navigated the hills and valleys of their lives.
I’ve always been fascinated by women stories, especially of those who are older than I am and reading these two books I am fully engaged and in awe.
Taking better care of oneself in mind, body and spirit is a must when you hit the late 40s and if you’re a woman, you begin to transition into a different but more interesting and fearless phase. Many women dread it but I look forward to it. I look forward to growing old with grace. One of my favorite actresses, Susan Sarandon (who turned 65 last year), said, “You don’t want to look like you’re 20 when you’re 60. That’s why you have to work on what’s on the inside, because that is what’s going to make the difference.” So yes, I’ve taken the route to taking better care of myself because I want to live for many more years if God grants it, but I don’t obsess over it.
Supermodel Iman, now 57, said in an ABC interview that kindness is the key to aging gracefully. “I am kind to my skin. I remove my makeup as soon as I get home and I apply moisturizer,” she told O. “Kindness is a lovely quality to nurture as you get older. It makes you feel good about yourself.”
In another interview, Michelle Pfeiffer, 54, described the “mourning” that takes place as one approaches the age of 50. “Honestly, there’s certainly a mourning that takes place. I mourn the young girl, but I think that what replaces that is a kind of a liberation, sort of letting go of having to hold on to that,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “Everyone knows you’re 50. So you don’t have to worry about not trying to look 50. And then it becomes, ‘Hey, she looks good for her age.’”
Now that I’m at the tail end of my 40s, I look back and find that I am fully at peace with whatever it was that I had to struggle with. Looking forward to 50, I know, means taking even better care of myself inside and out for the journey that lies ahead.
It’s been an interesting life, and one that continues to evolve, warts and all. Perfection, after all, is a myth. My attitude has always been that so long as you learn from it, then all is not lost. In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted, and going through the fire is His way of refining us.
Sarandon, in an October 2012 More magazine interview, said that mistakes are essential for growth, for the deepening of one’s soul. “I’ve made some fabulous mistakes in my life, but I believe I’ve learned from them and I’ve been pretty brave about jumping in again… I’m more aware of my mortality, that’s for sure. I look around and see people my age dealing with really difficult challenges, and that’s frightening. But it’s also a good reminder that we should really use our lives. It’s not a long life that matters, but a deep one.”
What a blessing it has been to be wrapped in the friendship and sisterhood of Edna, Lorna and Meiling—women whose works I so admire and read as a younger woman. It is their gentle and wise nurturing that helped shape the storyteller that I have become on the threshold to 50. Their generosity enables me to do what Shinoda-Bolen espouses all women to say at some point in their lives—“To speak the truth is to be able to say, this is who I am.” In the safety net of their nurturing, and of my other much-loved, wise and juicy crones, my mother included, I am whole.
Follow the author on Twitter @cathybabao or through her blog www.storiesbykate.wordpress.com.