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Women and Aging

As a woman who is starting her 7th decade, and who has health issues, I know intimately the many emotional and mental trap that can take one into dark and difficult psychological experiences. Given the American youth culture, aging is especially challenging, and there is little cultural benefit to being old. In some cultures there is respect and reverence for the wisdom of aging, but mostly aging is a "handicap" in America, and this is definitely true for women.

In American culture women's worth and well being comes from what we do and how we look. Americans have been called "human doings" rather than human beings. What does it even mean to be a "being"? This question is not generally addressed in our lives, and it's easy to avoid all questions of deeper meaning by staying busy. Being independent, accomplishing, and looking good are our meaning. But as we age , we don't look youthful (thus "not good"), independence is reduced, and we can accomplish less. Then we may be seen by others and by ourselves as less worthy and important. When this happens it is easy to have feelings of grief, powerlessness, loneliness, fear, anger, anxiety, and depression.

There are several new major issues that come up as we age, things few of us have experienced before, i.e. retirement, degeneration of our bodies, serious illness, illness/death of our loved ones, our own dying process and death. All of these can be faced with fear/worry/anguish or calm/dignity/acceptance. Although the latter qualities are challenging to attain, it is possible. This is not to say that we can ever experience these issues without a great deal of emotion. Expressed or not, any human being feels a lot in these situations. But the question is, to what degree do our painful emotions dominate our moods and perspective? Do we get lost in our feelings, so that the new unwanted "event" becomes emotionally consuming, or are we also able to maintain some positive view of life? There are several helpful "skills" we can develop or enhance that will reduce our suffering from these issues.

These include 1. the degree to which we know ourselves, (i.e. our emotional and mental patterns, otherwise known as selfawareness), 2. the ability to communicate well, our degree of open heartedness, 3. our capacity to be humble, (meaning not too rigidly identified as something specific that can be lost in old age, (i.e. attractive, smart, successful, the boss), 4. our philosophy about life (i.e. life sucks and then you die, or there is some meaning in it all), 5. managing our thoughts. So these pages are about my thoughts and experiences on some of these topics.

More to come...

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