Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Petard Upon Which I Am Hoisted

I wrote this post last year, September 10, 2007 to be exact, when I was feeling like the loneliest voice in the blogosphere talking about issues of aging. And in fact, there were no comments, nary a response to what I wrote. Rereading it now, and knowing that there's actually a dialogue going on, I'm going to republish it.

The original title was:
Today's Blog Is Brought to You By......What I Read In Bed At Night. It was a rather lackadasical title, truthful but not especially meaningful, or appealing. Some titles are like that for me, but others come out of some hidden place and insist on being, despite seeming nutty, wild gibberish. Then after a time, I'll suddenly see how absolutely perfect the gibberish was, how it so summed up things I felt but couldn't articulate. The one for this post today is that kind of a title, and after you read this post, see if you can tell me what that petard is.

Last night, and the night before actually, [I was reading in bed] Living in the Light of Death and The Northern California & Nevada TourBook. The second was a function of the first and, obviously, they have very different authors and completely different subjects. The former (the first, that is) is a book by Larry Rosenberg on breath awareness meditation or, as the subtitle says, "On the Art of Being Truly Alive." This is so what I'm needing to foster in my life: breathing, being alive, and a knack for taking the piss out of topics that I really do believe in. Ooops. Can I suck that last sentence back? Or at least the final clause--or is it really a phrase with an adverbial in it?

But I digress. The TourBook is the AAA's tome on where and what to visit in--hey!--Northern California and Nevada. If you belong to the AAA, you can go to one of their offices and slide your card in the appropriate slot, punch the appropriate buttons and--woila!--maps and tourbooks come falling out. Sort of like the candy machine at a Motel Six (not that I'd know what that's like, since I foreswore motels with numerals in their names about a decade ago).

I got the TourBook (I hope you're noting the unique capitalization) several weeks ago when I was looking for a likely spot for Molly and I to visit. I found one, but we didn't go; we knitted instead. That is, I knitted at Knitique, my LYS, and Molly veered between greeting the customers and sweeping the floor searching for and finding all manner of crumbs, a task which leaves the floor cleaner and a black low water mark on her chin or beard or muzzle or whatever you want to call that curly white hair that grows on her face.

But again! I digress. I had the TourBook in bed with me because there are three practice centers for Insight Meditation in California, and I wanted to see which was near me. Instead, I got caught up the first chapter of Rosenberg's book: "Aging Is Unavoidable." That's a contemplation, and Rosenberg says it's one people want to avoid. They accept it intellectually--oh, sure, big deal--but to actually take in the real fact of it, of the eventual disintegration of the body--? Nope, that's for someone else. Part of it is a question of self-image, he says, and that, that point is where I got nailed to the wall.

"Self-images are a problem. They are designed to help us feel adequate and secure but also often cause a great deal of suffering. We all have them, and most of us aren't aware we do. We spend enormous time and energy and even money creating and protecting them, trying to keep them intact while our daily experience is chipping away at them. Then when someone sees us in a different way, we are shattered. They mention a senior-citizen discount, and suddenly we see ourselves in Bermuda shorts and canvas shoes, wearing a funny little straw hat. That isn't the image we want to present at all. The pictures we have in our own head are way out of date."

I've been thinking on that. It's a gendered description, so I'm not caught by the Bermuda shorts and funny straw hat. Except--except, the image in my head of a senior citizen is my mother. Short little Libby, who loathed being called cute. Who wore Bermuda shorts and Keds in matching colors. And berets--she was famous for her berets (in fact she was buried in one). There is a whole world of negative images that I have attached to aging, not only clothing, but behaviors and attitudes and ways and means of being that come from watching my mother age. Things I vowed I would not do or feel or say. Except...except...well, you know what I'm going to say, don't you.

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