Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Tag: pro-aging

When it comes to embodied life, there are no guarantees.

Hip replacement surgery came with warnings but no guarantees. Sadly, and to my dismay, I am one of the unfortunate ones who had complications.

My new hip feels great. It works great. I’m grateful not to wake multiple times during the night because of discomfort. I’m grateful to be walking without pain.

But, I’m hugely disappointed to have suffered nerve damage during surgery. I’ve run the gamut of emotions, from anger and “who’s fault is this” to despair when I let worry take me too far into the future living with a foot that won’t flex properly.

I woke from surgery with a mostly numb left foot and lateral calf, no flexion in my foot or movement in my toes and minimal capacity to extend/point my foot. By the time I left the hospital, some toe movement and extension had returned. The doctors said it would take time.

For a few weeks I had no flexion at all. Slowly, the numbing has eased with some flexion in my toes and ankle returning. And almost full extension has returned. For that, I am grateful and hopeful.

Nerves are slow healers. They regenerate at only 1 to 5 millimeters per day. And, apparently, they are also mysterious! None of the doctors, including the neurologist I consulted with last week, could provide a very clear or direct path forward. Multiple MRI’s and a nerve study test will supposedly get to the root of the problem so a treatment plan can be recommended.

This is not how I envisioned life 30 days after surgery. I knew I’d still be recovering mobility and strength, possibly still using ambulatory assistance. But I didn’t think it would be due to an issue with my foot.

No guarantees!

Last Saturday I led a group of 15 women in what we call “Self-Care from the Inside Out.” One participant, Yolanda, is also a breast cancer survivor with four years of life post-treatment. She laughs easily and sparkles with brightness and positive energy. We swapped stores about the limitations and complications of medical treatment. As cancer patients know all too well, at times you wonder if the consequences of treatments are really worth the hoped for outcome for survival–which, by the way, doesn’t come with a guarantee!

My friend Kerry went to Germany for naturopahtic treatment of bladder cancer a few years ago. She opted to forgo conventional “slash, burn, poison” methods (which would have included the complete removal of her bladder) and chose to pay out-of-pocket for a less drastic alternative. The treatment killed the cancer, she still has her bladder and she’s made significant lifestyle changes to enhance her body’s capacity to remain cancer free! As her husband Jeff writes in his blog about their journey, “Kerry continues to use food as medicine by aggressively pursuing a diet rich with fruits and vegetables, grains and a handful of animal or fish protein a day. Sugar is out save a glass of wine now and then. She will have to cut back on stress by trying to say no to anything pushing her beyond her limits. We know we are not out of the woods; cancer likes to come back.”

An orthopedic surgeon told another friend a few weeks ago that she needed hip replacement. She’s investigating stem cell therapy as an alternative. Of course, it won’t be covered by insurance. But a growing number of patients in the United States are wondering: Since there are no guarantees, perhaps a softer, gentler approach that works with the body rather than against it, might be a better path to explore before more extreme options are engaged!

No guarantees!

As I prepare to lead “A Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being” with Alive and Well Women this coming weekend, I’m drinking my own medicine. I’m working with the Alive and Well philosophy, principles and practices as I discern how to go forward with my foot that will not fully flex. Rather than just following conventional doctor’s recommendations based on facts about how bodies in general operate, I’m seeking clarity in what Eugene Peterson calls “the largeness” of God.

While I desperately want full flexion back and am trusting that will come, the real miracle isn’t physical healing. The real miracle is how I’m finding God in the midst of it. I’m seeing the bigger picture. Everyone suffers. No one gets out without scars, suffering and sadness.

One problem of the “miracle of medicine” is that it gives us the false hope that everything can be cured…and that we can live forever. I know no doctor ever says that. But isn’t that the burden they bear when things don’t go in the hoped for direction? Their job is to support healing. But they don’t get much training in how to cope when things go poorly or how to help people die.

Ultimately, it all comes down to Love. Love is what holds us, sustains us, guides us and helps us face suffering, disease and death with grace. Everything that comes to me is an opportunity to expand my capacity for Love–to give love, receive love and live in loving presence with myself and others. During this season here’s what that looks like:

– Letting Dave care for me, feed me, help me dress and shower, lovingly massage my foot and calf, do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning.

– Asking friends to come by to “Cissy-sit” in the first few weeks when I didn’t want to be home alone while Dave was at work.

– Letting my friends care for me, feed me, lovingly massage my foot and calf, run errands, drive me to appointments and spend afternoons watching movies with me.

– Going slowly and living a more contemplative life than I normally do when I can move more quickly.

– Being more gentle with myself and patient with Dave than I usually am.

– Not finding someone to “blame” or bring a lawsuit against because things didn’t go as planned!

And that is just the beginning.

If you’re curious about this path that I’ve spent the last 25 years learning to live and the past 11 teaching others, please visit the Alive and Well Women website for more information. We still have a few spots open for the Immersion that begins on Friday, March 31st. Perhaps one of those spots has your name on it??

 

Health, wellness, death and disease are on my mind. The new year launched, along with the usual “New Year – New You” promotions for diets, fitness programs, products and services being sold in the name of health and wellness.

As I watch January unfold, along with social media posts of friends  expressing delight with the 5.2 pounds they lost in one week working out with a new trainer or the increased energy they feel on the detox they started after the holidays, I have mixed feelings. I want my friends to be well. I want them to be in alignment with their bodies, to feel good and have optimal energy. And, I’ve seen and heard too many heartbreaking stories of people who’ve lived on the diet, fitness and wellness roller coasters, bouncing from one program to another, gaining and losing weight over and over again, looking for the answer to whatever health challenge they experience.

As I prayed about how to respond, about how to support and about how I hoped that this time it might really stick, I heard the voice of God’s love reminding me to take an eternal perspective on all these things. And, to remember that while health and wellness is important, in the long run, disease and death can’t be outrun.

I faced cancer at 30, had major shoulder surgery at 50 and am likely to have my left hip replaced this year as I hit 55. I’ve exercised regularly since junior high school, eaten lots of vegetables my entire life and don’t smoke, drink or take drugs. Disease happens anyway!

As I prayed, I got a download from the Spirit. As I went back to read it again, I felt inspired to share it here. For me, this is the Voice of Love reminding me that, as Julian of Norwich proclaimed, it is in the midst of suffering that we most need to experience that, held in God’s love, all will indeed be well.

All you have is today. You could die today. Don’t fear death. Death is not the enemy. Don’t fear disease. Disease is not the enemy. Each day’s sufferings are enough for the day. Don’t add to your burden by projecting into the future or clinging to the past. Today, this day, this moment, is all you have. Show up. Be present. Do your best. Let go of results.

Don’t fear your body. The great lie of health and wellness is that we can overcome and conquer the weakness of the body, bypass aging and never have to grow old or die. The truth is, time isn’t something to be managed, pain isn’t just weakness leaving the body and the value of external remedies and practices is limited. Health…wellness…isn’t the absence of disease but our capacity to live in harmony with ourselves and all living beings amidst the physical, mental emotional and relational disruptions that are part of life. There’s nothing to conquer, overcome, manage or fix! Our work is to be present with what is, listen to our aliveness and let decisions arise from the depths of our Inner Beings where Wisdom dwells.

Twenty-two years ago I chose not to have reconstructive surgery following my mastectomy. My reasons were psychological (I wanted to process the loss of my breast before adding anything new to my body) and practical (I figured I’d wait until after I had children then get both breasts done to match). There was nothing noble or moral or revolutionary about it. I just wasn’t ready.

I spent the next decade healing from my own disordered relationship with my body as I walked with others in the same journey. None of that was in my plan when I started graduate school training in marital and family therapy. Developing my own media literacy skills and teaching clients to critique cultural messages and social conditioning about beauty have played a critical role in deciding not to have reconstructive surgery, and to my commitment not to have cosmetic surgery of any kind in the future. It also plays a part in why I’ve chosen not to color my hair — although that is still negotiable as at some future date I may decide to go blonde or add an orange streak to my hair!

Why is having two breasts so important? Does having only one breast make me any less a woman or less sexy or less myself? Would I feel “more myself” and have greater love if I had two breasts? NO! And what about my softening neck or wrinkling eyes? Am I less beautiful with a sagging neckline?

Cultural critique was on my mind yesterday morning as I reflected on my experience at a self-help conference. The beauty and wellness communities are full of self-love messages. Ironically cosmetic surgery to alter self-perceived unacceptable aspects of physical appearance is often also viewed as an acceptable avenue to greater love and self-acceptance. How does “love and accept yourself” work together with choosing cosmetic surgery?

The following Hymn of Divine Love by Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) arrived in my email this morning.  Through embodied spiritual practices like yoga, moving meditation and body prayers, I have experienced the transformation he describes. Everything that was hurt, everything that once seemed to me “dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged about my body,” has been transformed. The sagging places, the stretch marks, wrinkles and blemishes document the life I’ve lived. I am beloved in every part of my body,  just as I am.

My work is to pass this grace on so that the upcoming generations of young women and men will not live in fear and guilt or be ashamed of their bodies. That’s why I teach Christ-centered yoga, offer workshops on transforming your relationship with your body and other topics. In Christ we are free from shame, but too many Christians live their entire lives ashamed of some aspect of their physicality. I’m on a mission to change that!

Thanks be to God for Symeon’s wisdom that is a rich but neglected part of the Christian tradition.

Thanks be to God for the amazing grace of Christ that sets us free.

Thanks be to God for transformation worked in our lives to set us free.

And thanks be to God ahead of time for the freedom that will come through us to upcoming generations.

Hymn of Divine Love #15 by Symeon the New Theologian

We awaken in Christ’s body,
As Christ awakens our bodies
There I look down and my poor hand is Christ,
He enters my foot and is infinitely me.
I move my hand and wonderfully
My hand becomes Christ,
Becomes all of Him.
I move my foot and at once
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous to you?
—Then open your heart to Him.
And let yourself receive the one
Who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body
Where all our body all over,
Every most hidden part of it,
Is realized in joy as Him,
And He makes us utterly real.
And everything that is hurt, everything
That seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged
Is in Him transformed.
And in Him, recognized as whole, as lovely,
And radiant in His light,
We awaken as the beloved
In every last part of our body.

May each of us awaken to the radiance of God’s life living, moving and taking delight living through us today!

Amen.


On the tail of my recent post about breaking up with my hairstylist, I read in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly that how we look remains the number one shame trigger for women! She says that “after all of the consciousness-raising and critical awareness, we still feel the most shame about not being thin, young, and beautiful enough.”

Over the  years I’ve heard hundreds of  “I’m not enough” stories from female graduate students, clients and workshop participants. I have my own version of the story. And in spite of over 20 years of consciousness-raising and personal work on these issues, I too have my moments of feeling “not enough.”

Saturday afternoon I had a partial meltdown when I couldn’t get my hair to do what I wanted it to do. I’ve had some bad hair days since going short, but never felt as frustrated as I did Saturday.

What was behind my reactivity? For me it was a feeling of being less than picture perfect. Heading out to several parties with people I don’t already feel a sense of love and belonging with activated the “I’m not enough” messages that Brown’s research indicates we all have and we’re all afraid to talk about.

Where does the expectation that I need to look a certain way come from?

For me it comes from internalizing destructive images and messages about beauty. I live in a subculture highly indoctrinated in the importance of external appearances. Here in Southern California, if you have enough money (even if you aren’t young or thin) you can pay someone to dress you up, do your hair and makeup, and come out looking stylish and fashionable in a way that passes for beauty. It’s a world where beauty  is often only skin deep. You’re as beautiful as the clothes and accessories you can afford. And, if you can afford those, you can probably pay to get your hair colored regularly, blown out weekly, and have cosmetic surgery to “fix” whatever wrinkles, bulges or sags are detracting from your “beautiful self”.

There’s a whole world of Botox parties, style consultants, and other opportunities to purchase services and products to fix yourself up if you aren’t happy with what you see in the mirror.

Lord, have mercy.

An eating disorder colleague told a story that illustrates how our fixation with image is a byproduct of socialization. Back in the mid-1990’s she’d just returned to the United States after 9 months traveling around the world. Digital cameras had recently become available to the general public and were a novelty in many of the areas she visited. The children were especially intrigued with seeing pictures of themselves.

One day, a group of kids were crowded around her, laughing and delighting in seeing “themselves” for the first time. One boy looked surprised as he viewed the screen. He pointed at it and asked the other kids “Is that me?” The others laughed and pointed back, “That’s you!” It occurred to her that those kids had no idea what they looked like. They didn’t have mirrors and they didn’t have cameras.  Her conclusion: “They don’t have an image of their body. They are their body. They don’t have mirrors and photos that turn them into an object of their own observation. No disembodiment. No body image. Just themselves.” Self-image, at least as it relates to appearance, is largely a product of living in a world of mirrors and photographs.

The desire and instinct to adorn ourselves, beautify, and enhance seems to be instinctual. Using makeup, hairstyles, fashion and accessories and even cosmetic alterations of body parts to match cultural standards of beauty is nothing new. Women have been beautifying ourselves since time began and we see it in cultures across the globe–even those in remote areas where the standards aren’t set by big businesses.

But in our image driven subcultures where mirrors and digital images of ourselves are ubiquitous, that natural desire to beautify gets hijacked by internalized images of beauty offered us by the industries that profit off of our discontent and shame.  We compare the image in the mirror to the one in the magazine and fall short. Then, frustration, disappointment, anger and a host of other feelings surface  in self-protection. The helpful message those feelings want to convey:  stop comparing yourself to others; just be you! But because we’re socialized to feel ashamed about our appearance, we turn our anger against ourselves and add another layer to the “I’m not enough” story.

On Saturday after my meltdown, I decided to just do me. I went back into the bathroom, messed with my hair a bit more, and decided my hair was good enough. I don’t have anyone to impress. I’m just going to do me!

I love India Arie’s latest album which includes “Just Do You” – an inspiring song to help us increase our shame resiliency by making choices that align with our truth. In reviewing the video I saw that even India Arie succumbs to cultural pressure when it comes to making videos. Highly stylized, hipster types populate the piece.  While I have nothing against hipsters, in some way it’s just another expression of the pressure to have a style and align with a particular subculture’s standards for appearance. But that’s for another blog. Enjoy the video.

My midlife body isn’t what it used to be and I’m okay with that! The stiff joints that greet me when I stand up after being parked for too long in one position remind me to keep moving lest I get stuck in the all too common midlife rut of declining muscle mass and bone density.

My younger self didn’t have this exquisite built-in system to warn me of the dangers of extended sitting. In my thirties and forties I sometimes spent 8 hours or more a day just sitting. I’d get up every 50 minutes between therapy sessions with my clients—a wonderful imposed break unavailable to those stuck at a computer all day. Back then a vigorous 15-30 mile bike ride multiple times a week plus other rigorous exercise helped maintain the hardiness and vitality needed to sustain my work life.

At midlife I find daily, moderate, engaged, but not too strenuous exercise keeps the aches at bay and my muscles strong. When I try to do too much, too quickly, my body protests. Pushing too hard can leave me depleted and sore. Likewise, a few days of sitting too much coupled with lack of exercise also leaves my body voicing discontent.

This week I pulled myself out of bed for two 6 a.m. strength training sessions. My body has been less achy and my energy stronger both days. I’m going to yoga tonight to balance it out with some stretching and hope to get to a spinning class tomorrow.

As with all things related to health and well-being, staying strong through midlife requires you listen to your body and find the optimal combination of activities for your body. No one can do that for you. Your trainer, yoga teacher or fitness professional can make recommendations, but only you can discover what makes you feel your best.

Finally, it’s important to find activities you like. We will keep doing the things that we enjoy.  If exercise is not fun, you need to find something that is. If it’s only about the results—and the process is not enjoyable—then why do it?

If you’re interested in some fun, challenging but sensitive strength training and conditioning support, check out Fitness Revolution Pasadena. My trainer Joseph is a true gem. I’ve adopted him as my little brother (avoiding the truth that I’m old enough to be his mom). I’d love to share him with you.

Two articles from the NY Times, “No Quick or Easy Choices on Breast Reconstruction” and “The Outrageous Cost of a Gene Test” ,” expand on the themes I raised in my last blog.

As one of the plastic surgeons quoted in the first article states, reconstruction is major surgery with all the inherent risks and takes most people up to a year to fully recover.  Jolie’s seeming “easy and quick” three month recovery may leave people underestimating the risks and potential complications of mastectomy and reconstruction.

In addition to the loss of sensation and sexual arousal (even in many skin and nipple conserving mastectomies) many women have other complications including: infections and bleeding, anesthesia complications, scarring, discomfort, pain that never goes away, implants that rupture or need to be replaced…just to name a few.

When I made my choice I figured that implants were like tires–they’d need to be replaced at some point with another surgery. That didn’t sound like a very healthful option!

In fact, the American Cancer Society says that as many as half of all implants (saline and silicone) need to be replaced in 10 years. Going with that statistic, I’d potentially already have had two more surgeries if I’d chosen reconstruction. Definitely not the way I want to spend my free time!

The fabulous research assistant who sent me these links (and also happens to be my husband) said this article made him happy I’d not chosen reconstruction. Me too.

My point about the audacious ethics of Myriad Genetics (the company that currently owns the patten on the BRCA tests) is fleshed out in “The Outrageous Cost of a Gene Test.” The author, a medical oncologist who consults in the area of genetics, points out that Myriad is estimating  a profit margin of 87% on a 25-gene cancer risk evaluation that will phase out the BRCA tests in 2015.

87% profit? At whose expense? Yours and mine.

When did it become acceptable for a company to patten and profit off of genes that they had nothing to do with creating?

I am glad that Angelina stepped up and brought the conversation about breast health to our attention. She made a courageous decision in line with her own values as I did mine.

My hope is that all of us will be informed consumers of services and not blindsided by media hoopla about quick and easy answers to life and death issues.

Angelina Jolie’s disclosure of her choice to remove both breasts spurred me to share my story about deciding not to test for the BRCA gene mutation that prompted Jolie’s decision.

I was thirty years old when diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. In 1992 the options for treating my ductal carcinoma in-situ were either a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy with the option for reconstruction.

I had no interest in radiation and amidst grieving the loss of my mom (who’d recently died) and my breast, I didn’t have energy to deal with the added physical and emotional stress of adding something new to my body. I choose a mastectomy without reconstruction. At the time I thought perhaps after I had kids I’d have both breasts done to match!

I never had kids, but never felt the need for reconstruction either. My left breast keeps me and my husband happy and my prosthesis works just fine for providing a matched set when needed.

At my semi-annual breast check a few years ago an associate of my dear doctor Armando Guiliano (whom I love and highly recommend to anyone seeking a great breast surgeon) suggested I consider genetic testing. She briefly explained what it involved and why it was recommended.  I asked what treatment would entail if I tested positive for the mutation. She very matter-of-factually stated “Prophylactic removal of both ovaries and the remaining breast.”

Shocked! I asked if there weren’t any less extreme options?

She said that the breast could continue to be monitored as we’d been doing but no comparable methods for the ovaries existed. She handed me some literature, said if I had any questions to let her know and left the room saying “I’ll be back in a few minutes with Dr. G.”

When they returned I greeted Dr. G. with a big hug and chatted a bit as he perform my exam. After a few minutes I mentioned the genetic testing recommendation. “Yes” he said, “we weren’t doing that when you were first diagnosed but it would be a good thing to consider now.”

“That’s all well and good,” I replied, “but if I test positive the treatment options aren’t very appealing. How would you like it if someone recommended prophylactic removal of your testicles?”

We all got a good laugh out of that, but it presses a point. As Dr. Susan Love points out  “We really don’t have good prevention for breast cancer. When you have to cut off normal body parts to prevent a disease, that’s really pretty barbaric when you think about it.”

You can be sure that if the likelihood and rate of survival of testicular cancer in men (1 in 250 men will be diagnosed with an 80-100% rate of survival depending on stage) were comparable to that of breast cancer for women (1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with a 15-93% rate of survival depending on stage) someone would have developed far better measures for monitoring and treating it than they’ve done for female cancers.

Barbaric!

I decided that even if I did test positive for the mutation, I wouldn’t remove my ovaries or my remaining breast. Since I don’t have children, like Jolie who lost her own mother to breast cancer at age 56 and said she did it so her children wouldn’t have to lose their mom they way she did, I don’t have that weighing on me. If I did, perhaps I might have made a different choice.

Beyond that, I don’t want to live in fear of death. As Joel Shuman and Brian Volck point out in Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine, when it comes to extreme measures of avoiding illness and prolonging life “few people seem interested in asking whether or to what extent such an aim is appropriate for creatures of a providential God.”

The additional issues of cost ($3000 which might be paid for in my case, but not necessarily) and the audacious ethics of  the only company who currently offers the testing (their patent on the BRCA genes is currently under consideration with the Supreme court) also factored into my decision.

The bottom-line question was: What difference will knowing make? Testing negative for the mutation wouldn’t make any difference to how I live each day. Testing positive might increase my vigilance about self-care and monitoring, but I already do everything I’m “suppose to” in terms of prevention.

I’ve always said that I reserve the right to change my mind about reconstruction. And I feel the same about testing for BRCA.

But for today, I am alive and well, being of service to many, and full of gratitude for the goodness of life that has come to me. If one day I decide two breasts are better than one or knowing my genetic status would give me a better life, I’ll go for it.

But until then, I’ll remain a one-breasted woman committed to living in the love of a providential God that has no room for fear of death, disease, aging, accidents, and whatever else might stand in the way of fully loving and enjoying my life, just as I am.

A former participant in my coaching and mentoring programs told me today that learning to listen to her body–to sense her body, to be aware of bodily reactions to emotions and thoughts–was one of the most valuable lessons of her time with me. “I’d never realized how disembodied I was.”

We live in a culture of disembodied ways of being. We pop painkillers to soothe tension headaches rather than alter our too busy lifestyles. We take vitamins instead of  preparing and eating real foods.  And we slather our bodies and faces with products containing known carcinogens because that is what we’ve been taught to do. It’s normal, so no one questions it.

Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” documents a social experiment showing the distorted images many people have of their physical attractiveness. Dove has capitalized on their “real beauty” message–using it to sell many carcinogenic containing products under the auspices of promoting better self-esteem.

On the surface, the message Dove sends is: “You are more beautiful than you think.” But underlying it is the same old disembodied, objectified view of beauty that keeps women obsessing about appearances rather than claiming our unique beauty and getting on with being the dynamic forces for good that we were created to be. Dove presents beauty as an external reality, disconnected from the “real woman” beneath the surface who has an interior experience and her own beautiful story that is about far more than the size of her nose or her wrinkles.

LA Times writer Meghan Daum nails this in her editorial “Real beauty, really Dove?” She points out that all the women in the project conform to cultural stereotypes of attractiveness. As she puts it, “None of the video participants was forced to thumb through the thesaurus looking for a nice way of saying ‘has three heads’.” What if one of the sketch models did have a large nose or a double chin? Would the participant describing her to the artist have said so? Probably not.

As my shero India Aria says “I am not my hair. I am not my skin. I am the soul that lives within.”

Hair comes and goes. Skin changes with the seasons. I’ve heard it said that our noses and ears continue to grow throughout our lives. If my bulbous nosed Irish relatives are any indicator of what I have to look forward to, I’ll be sporting a significantly larger schnoz in my eighties!

So, with all due respect to their intention to support “real beauty”, Dove is still missing the essential piece: soul work. Beauty is an inside job.

The story of beauty that begins in our souls guides us to deeply inhabit our bodies and love our flesh, to value each hair on our head whatever the color, and celebrate each wrinkle as documentation of another year of life. When beauty is an expression of the soul that lives within, the externals fall into proper perspective.

A few weeks ago I posted “Women over 50 are invisible” on my Facebook page. In it the author claims that ageism and sexism leave women over 50 “virtually powerless” in American society. I got “likes” from a number of women over 50 as well as some insightful comments. My favorite comment came from my dear “old” friend Julie who wrote:

“For the love of God, just live your life and stop worrying about how other people see you! How do YOU see YOU. Why in the world would you let others define your value. Only God defines our value . And he says ‘worthy, beautiful, valuable.”

Attitude–the inner orientation we bring to aging–makes all the difference as to whether we’re invisible or radiant sources of light in a world that needs what we’ve got to offer, even if it doesn’t consciously know that yet!

Jody, Kathy and Cissy - Choosing Gratitude

Look at Maya Angelou who turned 85 this month, Margaret Thatcher who died at 88 last week, or my dear friend Jody who celebrated her 70th  birthday last weekend–taking in the Janis Joplin production at the Pasadena Playhouse. Each of these women exude power, beauty, creativity and intelligence in radically different ways because they’ve chosen their own view of reality rather than accept the “powerless” perspective offered by society.

Today author Scott Berkun speaks to this issue in his beautiful piece “On Getting Old.” He writes: “America has a youth obsessed culture, but I find I’m slowly taking arms against it. The longer I’m alive the further I’ll be on creakier end of the bell curve of age, and I better get used to it. I’ve learned to be comfortable as the oldest person at the table now. I can learn as much from younger people as they can from someone older.”

We need each other. And we need each another to be exactly the age we are, not waste our time trying to alter our physical appearance to fit societal standards because we fear becoming invisible.

Jody and Maya are two of my sheroes. They inspire me to choose my own path, celebrate myself, be grateful to be alive, and freely give out of my abundance to others. I learn from them. Jody has told me that she’s learned a lot from me too.

When we follow our souls, rather than live from limited ego-driven cultural views of reality, we discover age is more about attitude than chronology. Jody may be 19 years older than me chronologically, but we’re peers when it comes to soul life.

The poet Kahil Gibran said that our level of satisfaction in life is determined not so much by what life brings to us as by the attitude we bring to life. May we surround ourselves with peers who focus on gratitude and possibility–that we might be sources of healing, creativity and love to all of our soul mates, whatever their age!