Category Archives: Ageism

People- and the way they touch our hearts and minds….

Meeting someone pivotal in your life is often not greeted by cymbals and drum rolls. Sometimes they just slip in unnoticed and non-assuming, yet they can subliminally change how we think and act in quiet and unobtrusive ways. People like this are like jewels. Colorful treasure in a sometimes grey, monochrome world that can make us sit up and take notice of the beauty and sparkle that is inherent in life.

I met a man twelve years ago who changed me, fundamentally and quietly without his knowing. We met weekly and exchanged thoughts, philosophies, visions and ideas. He was older than I was and had a broader life experience and education than I had at the time. He spoke to and listened to me, and encouraged me to believe in my aspirations, beliefs and hopes. He supported me as I took the first tentative steps to thinking beyond the person that I was at the time, and he shaded my dreams with pencils of colour and substance.

Looking back, I recognise that I was at a crossroads in my life. My children were in their late teens and were on their own paths of discovery. My job at the time was well paid but I hated it. My husband had his career and was working hard at it. I was approaching my 40’s and I truly didn’t know who I was or where I going to. My life was predictable and mostly enjoyable, but it was lacking something that I couldn’t articulate or name.

This man encouraged me to read the works of great philosophers and writers, and to think deeply about the things that produced joy and happiness for me. He believed in the power of silence and self-reflection and taught me not to feel afraid in the quiet of my mind. Through our weekly discussions we explored what the universe had to offer us as humans and what we could give back.

We debated and argued back and forth about what was meaningful and relevant in a world gone mad with consumerism and greed. We agreed that it was people and how they felt that mattered most when it came to actual living.

I looked forward to our meetings and I was rarely disappointed. We were in a work environment so not all the time was spent chatting, but I loved having time out with this wonderful man learning something new in almost every encounter. He made me think in a way that I had never done before.

Trying to help my husband and children understand the monumental shift that was occurring inside me was difficult, as I was learning to think, to do things differently, and to reflect on where I was on my life’s map. I was also menopausal at the time which may have contributed to their lack of engagement with me as they all thought I was going nuts anyway. My new “Airy Fairy” way of thinking and my constant quoting of this man’s viewpoints made them laugh and dismiss me a lot, although they were never deliberately unkind. They just didn’t get what I was getting.

They didn’t understand the effect that this man was having on my consciousness. Although they listened to me, they didn’t really hear me or understand my new way of thinking. I knew that he did and I simply loved him for it.

I eventually emerged from the menopause mentally intact (although my family may disagree on this issue) and began to slowly build a new individual way of being, hugely influenced by this gentle man.

My thoughts and practices are different now and have been since I knew him. His gentleness continues to affect me in how I view the world and his wisdom will never be forgotten.

I do not see him now and have not for many years. Our paths diverged and we are not in contact. He has absolutely no idea how he influenced and changed my life.

I remember him with fondness, thankfulness and a deep and abiding love. He provided me with a space that allowed me to express my feelings, my doubts, worries and dreams. He listened to me and never judged me. He encouraged me to be quiet in myself and to appreciate the silence that lies within us all. He taught me to accept people with all their frailties and vulnerabilities and to recognise that I have those feelings too.

He has been a kind of guru for me in how I live my life although he would hate to have that title. He believed in the sharing of life’s philosophies, education and knowledge, with the implicit acknowledgement that we have no ownership of them as they were never ours in the first place. I learnt from him that wisdom, kindness and understanding that is passed on is the greatest gift that we as humans can share.

Destiny can teach us about people and the unconsciousness power they have to individually shape our lives.

Date night for older people….

Tonight was “Date Night” with my hubby. We agreed some time ago to meet in the sitting room of our home every Wednesday night- share a sofa – have a glass of wine (for me) & a beer (for him) while viewing something on the TV that was agreed by both of us in advance. It could be a movie, a pre-recorded programme or a DVD. We have such opposite tastes in books, TV, movies and culture- that we had to find a place and time for common ground. “Date night” was born although this concept is largely a youthful one.

Tonight we watched the movie “The best exotic Marigold Hotel”. It’s a Hollywood take on the issue of old age and retirement and the attempts of a group of people to escape the predictability and depression of being retired and aged in the UK.

It was a yarn located in India, directed by the talented John Madden, and it featured exotic locations, humour, pathos and clichés to beat the band. We sat back in the comfort of our living room- on our shared sofa and watched this movie about the depiction of the unsexiness and uselessness of being old.

The movie featured character actors of a certain age and their performances were finely scripted. Despite the “feel good factor” and the “happily ever after” scenario depicted in this movie I was left feeling a bit dispirited and dejected about the whole Hollywood notion of aging and how it is handled. I didn’t like it. It was too full of clichés, Viagra and the Kama Sutra etc…

It did leave me thinking about my own life though, and about where it is going. I too have reached that particular age where I no longer feel youthful and full of vigour as I have done for most of my life.

The world is full of young energetic creative people, and I felt a part of that world for so long. Age creeps up on us when we are least expecting it and although I have lived a full and largely happy life, I am feeling the encroachment of older age and am acutely aware that suddenly I am outside a life that I was once at the centre of.

This is manifest in the surveys that I have been doing for years on line. Suddenly I am in the “over 50’s group”. I may still feel that I am younger in my head and heart with my habits and ideas, but according to the marketing people who make their living predicting trends, I am not even asked the same questions that younger people are asked. A pal of mine who does the same surveys is 10 years younger than I am and is offered many more surveys even though our demographics are very similar. Age is the only thing that separates us.

Many years ago when I was 16 years of age during the 1970’s I fancied a busker who played in the Dandelion Market in Dublin. Dusty was his name. He sang like Bob Dylan and had the longest legs poured into the tightest Levis. He was simply gorgeous. I hung around that market like a love struck teenager all through the summers of ’75 & ’76 listening to him, hoping that he would suddenly notice me and we would fall in love and make music forever…. (I know- It was teenage fantasy stuff- but I had a vivid imagination and a steadfast belief that I was irresistible!)

Anyway….. One Sunday afternoon my maternal grandmother who was in her 60’s at the time came for dinner to our house and afterwards we took the bus into the city for the afternoon. We were just rambling around the streets as shops didn’t open in those days so the city was quiet. I surreptitiously directed her towards the Dandelion Market but Dusty wasn’t there… We wandered around inside the market for an hour or two and eventually headed down Grafton Street to catch our bus home.

I clearly remember the moment I saw “him” walking up the street towards us… I must have made a sound like a gasp or a sigh, for suddenly my grandmother said “would you have a look at that lad- isn’t he something”.

I remember being horrified by that note of lust or admiration that I heard in her voice and I (unforgivingly) rounded on her and replied “What do you mean? How can you say that? You are an old lady”!

This was a pivotal moment in my life’s history and I have told this story hundreds of times. My wonderful gran, Sis Keogh grabbed me by the shoulders in the middle of Grafton Street as I shuddered with horror at her noticing MY Dusty….and she said to me….. “I may be an old lady on the outside- but inside this body I am still 18 years of age and I think he is GORGEOUS”.

We talked the whole way home on the bus and we had the most honest conversation about attraction and sex that I could NEVER have with her daughter- my mother. I didn’t realise at that youthful age that “inside” we don’t grow old, and I gained a valuable insight that day that I have never forgotten.

Watching that movie tonight left me feeling that despite the politically correct notion that people should not be discriminated against by age, stereotypical movies like this actually reinforce ageism and have disguised it as a “feel good movie”. I believe that it actually adds to generalizations about older people and I won’t be recommending it on.

Getting older brings many things up for me. Amongst them is an acceptance of where I’m at on life’s stage, confidence in what I believe in, and an acknowledgment that while I may not be full of life, vigour and sexiness- I am nonetheless a worthwhile person who the marketers are seriously underestimating if they think that I have no opinion.

I am outspoken, passionate and articulate. I say what I want to say, but I always hope to be sensitive and aware of other people’s feelings and beliefs. Age does not hold me back. In fact it allows me the confidence of life’s experience to be more vocal and determined to have the voice that was largely silent when I was younger.

Growing older may not be all that and a bag o’ chips in the youth driven society that we currently live in, but I appreciate the freedom and confidence that I have now that was so lacking in my younger days. I always have my dear Gran and her wise words in my head as a reminder to me that getting old is only on the outside, and that inside I am still and always will be eighteen years of age.

Destiny can be in knowing where you are on life’s map and recoginising the things that are relevant and meaningful to you.

Living life facing death…

Mam, me and Bernie my mother in law. 2010

Mortality or death is something that surrounds us every day. We are faced by the brutality and sadness of it in every news bulletin and newspaper that we read, and although it is a part of our daily lives, it is usually about someone that we don’t know. Someone distant who we might think about fleetingly but are not connected to. We may feel momentarily sad for their circumstances and for the people who might mourn their loss, but really their deaths don’t touch us, as it is about someone else- someone unknown to us.

Facing death with someone you love is altogether different.

Ultimately we all know that we will die, but while we are young we manage to put that notion of death on the long finger. The Grim Reaper is not for us! Most of us imagine that we will grow old and die a peaceful death (if and ever we have a moment in our busy lives to even contemplate it).

The reality of living with mortality is heavy and dark, and I believe that we never really consider it until we are faced with losing someone we love or have actually lost.

Coming to terms with a life threatening terminal illness is an indicator of how powerless we really are as humans in the face of disease. We may have the will to live, but “fate “can decide otherwise.

I am currently facing uncharted territory with two special wonderful much loved women, my mother and my mother in law. My mother is 82 and has terminal breast cancer, and my mother in law who is 93, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s .

Watching these two wonderful women cope with their disease’s while hoping for a positive outcome humbles me as I realise that they do not want to die. They struggle every day to hang onto life despite their pain and suffering.

They are on their own particular course and I am on mine. They will ultimately die, and in time they will be gone. I will have to cope and get on with living although my heart and life will be bereft without them.

This is my tough future.

Loosing someone that you love unexpectedly is horrendous as you have no warning –like the sudden death of my darling younger sister Annie, but loosing people that you love dearly day by day, little by little is tougher still.

Having to be emotionally strong and to pretend that somehow death is within our control is exhausting, and providing reassurance knowing what the eventual outcome will be, is heart breaking at this moment in time.

Cliché’s about ‘living life in the moment so that you will not feel regret in the future’ are easily spoken or read. They are harder to live by when time is taken up by the day to day management of hospital appointments, shopping, meal making and other mundane repetitive household chores that have to be completed.

None of these things really matter in the grand scheme of things, and although it keeps a semblance of order in the minutes, in the hours, in the days, in the weeks that go by, it is all meaningless in the context of what lies ahead.

At the funeral, will people remember that the house was clean and that the dusting was done? Will it be noted that the carpets were vacuumed and that the kitchen towels were matched?

I don’t care about this and I am sure that the people who will come to mourn with me in the future do not care either. In the time that is left I want to tell these lovely women to forget about the house work and all of the stupid household tasks that are rendered useless and meaningless in the face of death.

I want them to embrace sunshine as the day dawns, and to smell the sweetness of summer flowers. I want them to rejoice in the simplicity of living and to enjoy if they can, the wonder of a star filled night. I want them to enjoy ice cream dribbling down their fingers as they try to catch the last bit, and to do all the things that are possible in the time that they have left. These are the things that I think are important, but I realise that what I want may not be a part of their thinking as they struggle towards an unknown future.

Living with their uncertainty has changed my own perspective on life, and the clichés about living in the moment have never held more resonance than they do now.

Living life and facing death is not just my destiny, it is universal to us all.