A few years ago, on December 31st, I turned 50. Since I had had a difficult time at my decade birthday twenty years earlier, I expected the half-century marker to be a major event. In anticipation of a "big deal", I began thinking about it 12 months early. My idea was to contemplate my entry into cronedom over the full span of my 50th year in the hopes of learning something rather than collapsing into negativity about aging.
From January through June I listed my reactions to the upcoming 'big five-oh'. While I did not find the idea of growing older particularly disturbing I was amazed that so much time had passed. My early years had felt endless when, as a child, I longed for the apparent freedom and self-determination of adulthood. These were now gone as if in the wink of an eye. I remembered my twenties and the enthusiasm of expecting to impact a chosen profession. Such expectations are complete now and the dreams of youth are playing out in the minds of folks who were not even born when my excitement filled late night hours of young conversations. I remembered the first breathless months my life-partner and I were together. "I look forward to our twentieth anniversary," I said. "We will be established and will have gone through so much together that every word and action will be anticipated and understood by the other". Now that time is here and I do enjoy a sense of permanence but how could all that time have passed without my really noticing it?
As summer faded and the first signs of autumn nipped into the morning air, it dawned on me that there is no way anyone can reach fifty and not have learned something. By living through a little over 18,000 days I must have gathered some wisdom even if only by trial and error. Recalling myself at age 20 compared to the me of 50 plus, I realize I have developed an understanding that helps me avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. I have a perception of the world and the people (human and non-human) in it that is softer and more realistic than I did in my youth. I know a lot about love and how to give it to myself and others. I see beauty in my surroundings and I appreciate my abilities to create it for myself. I know the history of places and events giving a perspective to the present. I have learned how to talk with others in a way that encourages communication. I can be myself without being afraid of rejection or judgment. I accept the disapproval of others rather than live with disappointment in myself.
This is a part of the wisdom of crones. We each have our own unique package of it - an ownership that carries responsibilities. Our youth-centric society tends to think of the aging generations as those who must be cared for and given to. We, the elders, sometimes forget that we have more to give than to receive because we have a wisdom that is invaluable. We should be thinking about this actively so that we can know what we know. We should be talking about it with each other. My wisdom will expand when I place it alongside of yours. And we should be sharing it with younger folks - not in a dictatorial way suggesting a superior knowledge but in a gentle and accepting way that says "This is what I have learned, take it if it is useful to you."
As a younger crone I long to listen to what the older crones know. I want to understand what life is like for someone who is 60 and 70 and 80. I am disappointed when I ask my role models for insights and instead I get deprecating words of low self-esteem. I am even more disappointed when my questions are ignored. I don't expect my experience to be the same as that of others but I appreciate any previews - information about the guideposts along the way. Let's not be modest about our own truth. Let's share it with each other and let's train ourselves not to miss it when younger folks reach into our hearts to take from the bounty that comes with years.
Margaret H. Parkinson