23 January 2012

Relationships And The Aging Process

In my "hiatus" post of 8/20/11, I briefly touched on aging citing a poem--There Is A Girl Inside by one of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton. This sense of a waning persona and not being noticed nor heard are addressed from time to time by poets and writers. When the subject of aging surfaces--baby boomers (my group) comes to mind and for the most part they have lived up to that verse by Dylan Thomas.
 "Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rage at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Ms. Clifton also makes that point quite clear as follows.                             
 She is a green tree in a forest of kindling. She is a green girl in a used poet. She has waited patiently as a nun for the second coming; when she can break through gray hairs into blossom. 

Many of us find that although there are varying physical and cognitive changes; the spirit and emotional aspects of our lives remain youthful and very much in the present. Memories especially the happy ones serve to reinforce the latter.

I find that the above images displayed out of context could mean so many things to the reader. A beaming senior couple snuggling. The very attractive older woman with a pleasant smile may be a career person with an active lifestyle and folks who love and care about her. A handsome gent thinking of something/someone in a prayerful mode or just giving thanks for a relatively contented life. These are the more positive scenarios and are realities for quite a few senior citizens, however, there is another side that I'd like to address as well. The adage--aging is not for the faint of heart; rings true for many of us. We come up with humorous self-denigrating witticisms about the process, yet, it can become disconcerting and for many a very lonely experience. 

I would say for the past year or so I've been thinking quite a bit about seniors and their varied relationships. In my practice, I've noticed a number of them presenting with relationship issues either as a single person or within a marriage or as a member of the divorced or widowed group. What has surprised me more is the loneliness expressed in all four of the above scenarios. The quality of a relationship is more to the point rather than just having someone in your life. It's been written that some of the loneliest people are the ones in long term marriages or relationships which should give the others pause when they express the need to just have someone or anyone in their life.

Those single occupied homes, apartments, assisted living arrangements and basements or attachments to their offspring's home may not be as unfortunate as one may think. Les Brown, a motivational speaker told his audience at one gathering that people stay in toxic or emotionally distant relationships due to their fear of dying alone. He advised that there is one person per box which elicited a nervous laughter from the audience. To take that a step further, death is the final curtain, however, it's the process of dying that folks find frightening and the need for TLC until the end. This is a driving dynamic with tentacles that trap the heart and the soul. We must try to understand it and find better solutions to neutralize it or make it of little or no consequence. 

There are numerous articles, senior citizen groups, religious organizations and professionals who assert that one can age gracefully and their options/solutions are encouraged. The downside of this approach is that those who are compromised by happenstance of varied proportions begin to sink more into depression/anxiety if those options seem unattainable. What they see and experience is someone who moves slower, forgets more often,becomes more obsessed with personal hygiene issues or lack thereof and interprets harmless or elusive glances as an assessment of their appearance and worth. The low end of the paranoia continuum...maybe...yet,the larger society does not celebrate the aging process at all. This alone has given rise to a number of women and a few men who walk around with these facial affects that are stunning and probably lend to the elusive glances or eye avoidance they dread.

However, those of us who are in late fall or early winter of our lives must recognize that we age differently and some are more "successful" at it than others. Most of my links are geared towards the latter. For those who become reclusive as a means of coping with some of the more unpleasant aspects of the aging process; take heart. It's not the end and it's not too late to try and engage more. You must use the memories of your vibrant and more "productive" years as stepping blocks to another level of existence.  The baby boomers have re-energized many senior citizen clubs or organizations.  The Gray Panthers and AARP are just a few of many who are on the case--offering a number of options as well as advocacy tracts.
Remember that the quality of future relationships is more important than just having someone share a space with you. The key is to begin the process. The vocalist extraordinaire, Randy Crawford got it right when she expressed in her mellifluous voice that it only takes "One Hello".  

International Day Of Older Persons
Four Ways To Feel Sexy At Any Age 
Relationships For Senior Citizens
Worried About Your Memory
Aging Secrets


Anonymous said...

Great post! What an interesting topic!
It's weird, I also feel like a younger woman inside. it's as if I haven't aged inside, I mean, of course in experience and maturity gained yes, but you know... I look in the mirror and I'm thinking that what I'm seeing is what I want to see, a younger woman, and not the reality. and I wonder if everyone is like that too? Or perhaps it's a defense mechanism to enable one to function better and not be worried about the vicissitudes of old age? and yes I think as we become older and less sprightly then we tend to begin to live in memories...

Carolyn Moon said...

Thanks Desertflower. No it isn't weird for a lot of us feel that way. I was told by a woman in her 80's when I expressed that--although I'm in my 60's, I still feel emotionally and mentally like I did in my 30's. She smiled and stated with a glint in her eyes that..it's because my spirit still resides in that space although the body has moved on. She advised me to keep it there and that I'll probably live longer because of it. I agree with you that although we are wiser with experience and life lessons; we still feel have that inner energy of our youth.

I saw one of your pictures and you still have no need for that defense mechanism. You aren't fooling yourself. Believe that! ^◡^

Take care and peace....

Anonymous said...

Sooo true my spirit and emotions still do reside in that era! And how wonderful it is! Those words bought a tear to my eye.

Do you think men are like that also? or just us resourceful and strong women?

Thanks for the compliment I'm in my 60's also!

Love and warm hugs!

Anna Renee said...

I'm going to be 51 in a couple weeks, but I have always looked at myself as "about to be older" which I dont think was good.

When I was 27, I thought, I'm almost 30! When I was 30, Lord, I'm almost 40! When I was 40, Oh Oh, I'm almost 50!
Now, I'm learning to stop thinking this way. I'm learning to view my life more positively and enjoy the time I'm in, and it's a blessing.

Im teaching myself to be a wise woman by sharing my wisdom with young women. I chase them down online and listen to their voices through their writings. Then I encourage them, point out their mistakes in thinking, uplift their good decisions.
I believe this will keep me young in spirit and relevant. We older women are supposed to guide the younger ones!
Thanks, Sister for this piece because I had never even thought about this.

Villager said...

A remarkable post. I'm archiving this one to come back again in the future ... and to also come back to visit the links that you shared at the end.

I'm on vacation to spend some time with my 75-year old mom in Los Angeles. I'm going to ask her to read this one as well.

peace, Villager

Carolyn Moon said...

@Desertflower..I've always been interested in how aging emotionally & spiritually affects men. What I have observed is as some of them age they become more sensitive to the feelings of others. Alice Walker addresses that in one of her writings. The bravado and machismo diminishes. They talk about their children and grandchildren in more loving terms. Not all of course, but I've noticed those attributes personally and in sessions. I appreciate your support.

@Anna Renee..thank you for your comments and as always I appreciate your wisdom regarding our role with the young folks and on a myriad of issues you address on your blog.

@Villager..How wonderful are you to travel and spend time with your mother. I hope she reads this post and you two can have a dialogue that will be memorable for both of you. It's amazing what we adult children learn from our parents when we engage them. (Those who are still blessed to have them) They are also given the opportunity to better understand us.

Peace and Blessings to all....

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