On the subject of acting one’s age….
I just read an amazing article on a group of older women reclaiming the fashion world for themselves. Now, I won’t lie. I know not of fashion. I am a fashion illiterate. But I do know something about people, and I love love love that these women are defying ageism in a powerful and enthusiastic way.
You see, it occurred to me, just a few days ago, that I am 48 years old. Yes, that’s a “4” followed by an “8.” Two years shy of half a century.
I have to be honest with you here–I don’t feel forty-eight. I am not 100% certain I know what 48 is even supposed to feel like. But the fact that I’m staring down the barrel of fifty, along with pretty much everybody I grew up with, has given me pause.
I look at my life and think, well, a lot of it was pretty darned good. I’ve had some adventures, met some amazing people, and learned a lot. And I’m in no hurry to stop doing those things. As long as I don’t stare too closely at what my peers are doing and make the mistake of comparing myself to them (because, really, why?), I’m actually quite happy with how my life has progressed.
I’m very much looking forward to my 50s. I’m looking forward to seeing what adventures I’ll have, what sights I will see, and who I will become. I’m looking forward to seeing what new miracles all these brilliant minds will come up with next (seriously–who thought of e-books? Because I want to send them a tin of candy at the holidays). I’m looking forward to learning more, understanding more, and experiencing what life has to offer.
Yes, I do fall into the ageist trap once in a while. My coordinator at work (all of 29 years old) mentioned the other day that she’d never seen a rotary phone in her life. I explained to her that she needed to stop talking, please. But aside from the random pop culture disconnect, I actually love spending time with younger people. They live in such a different world than the one I grew up in, and they have a truly different perspective.
When I was younger, I sought out older friends. I still do, to be fair. But I’m discovering that age is not really what I’m looking at. Your soul doesn’t really notice the age of your body, or of those around you. Your soul simply sees itself and other souls it encounters. Whether you are fifteen or fifty-five, eighteen or eighty, your soul is ageless.
If the ladies of Advanced Style are changing the rules for fashion, on the other end of the age scale there’s Madison Kimrey,the teenage wunderkind whose blog is rocking feminism and activism with her take-no-prisoners attitude. (Her much-publicized call-out to anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schafly was an epic study in intellectual smacking-down.)
I don’t feel 48. Madison Kimrey doesn’t write like a teenager. And the Advanced Style ladies certainly don’t dress like little old ladies.
Age is just a number, folks. All that matters is who you are, how you live, and what you bring to the table.
Have a good night–sweet dreams.
Background Music: Cats Sleeping On Clouds by Maneki Neko
Today is the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I remember where I was when I heard the news, as pretty much every American above a certain age does. I remember watching The Towers fall. I remember the candle-lit vigils, the fear, and the oddly-quiet skies, free of air traffic for several days in early September.
I also remember one of the first things I thought, after I was pretty sure it wasn’t the beginning of World War III:
Oh, man, are the whack jobs ever going to capitalize on this!
I know. Cynical. But I was not wrong. Instead of coming together as a nation, our so-called leaders at the time managed to parlay the events of September 11, 2001, into a virtual rampage of jingoism, civil rights violations (which still continue today), war profiteering, and fascism. The Bush Administration, aided by Congress and a complicit corporate media, managed to squander the goodwill of the world, while trampling on the very Constitution they were sworn to defend.
If this were the only result of that horrible time, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I would simply be observing in silence, praying for a light to come back to our nation. But this nationalist backlash engendered yet a second backlash–the reinvigoration of American liberals.
For 30 years or so, the Democrats and other more progressive parties had tried in vain to fire up the large number of liberals in the United States. After the 60s and 70s, and the economic betrayal of the Reagan/Bush eras, many liberals were just weary.
But George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove did more to mobilize liberals in the United States than any Democrat could have hoped to do. Suddenly, speaking out was not just for granola-crunching, Birkenstock-wearing hippies. Librarians and nuns were the New Radicals. And it wasn’t just politics. The Christian Left stood up in a big way to reclaim their faith from the right-wing crackpots who were more interested in guns and gays than in God.
And while conservatives still have the bigger voice in America, liberals are still moving upwards and making their voices heard.
So what does this have to do with Opportunity Rising? It’s just a reminder that even the most horrific events can serve as a catalyst for progress, social change, and justice. It’s a reminder that even when things look the bleakest, there are people out there brave enough, strong enough, and smart enough to stand up for what is right.
So while we still fight daily against prejudice, bigotry, fear-mongering, and financial inequality, we can at least be assured that our numbers are growing. We will get there. We just have to keep fighting the good fight.
Love to you all–
Do you want to know what my favorite saying is? “Today I learned…” (with “This week I learned…” as a fair back up). To me, there really is nothing more thrilling than learning something new, being exposed to information or ideas I did not know about, and meeting people who share a different point of view with me.
In my pursuit of stuff to learn, I have sort of chucked away conventional common sense and glommed onto the words of William Butler Yeats: “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” That’s right. Despite all the training given to me in childhood, I talk to strangers. In grocery lines, in restaurants, at stop signs, the ladies’ room–pretty much anywhere conversation is possible. Strangers are infinite sources of knowledge–you can sometimes learn more from a stranger than you ever could from a friend. Strangers challenge your status quo and push you to move beyond your comfort zone.
One of the best friends I ever had, Renee, was met like this. I saw her in the hallway at college and she happened to be carrying a binder with an 8×10 photo of George Takei as Sulu on the back. Now, this was long before it was “great to be Takei,” when he was just an actor in a failed sci-fi show. But I saw that picture and my dealie-boppers twitched. I pointed and yelled, “Sulu!” at her. (Yes, I was in college….) A friendship was born out of two strangers bonding over a photograph. And while we shared a lot of interests, Renee was very different from me and challenged me to move beyond my own limitations.
So many of the wonderful, crazy, inspired experiences I’ve had in my life have stemmed from the fact that I don’t let not knowing someone get in the way of an intellectual or spiritual connection.
In this light, I want to point you toward a web-site called “I Talk To Strangers.” Robbie Stokes was working at the United States House of Representatives when he made a decision that would astound most people. Determined to not just change the world, but connect it, Stokes sold everything he owned and began a journey. He challenged himself to meet and talk to as many people as he could, and encourage them to do the same.
Imagine that for a moment. Dedicating your life to meeting people, and inspiring every person you meet to do the same. Can you fathom the ripple effect of such an act? Stokes could, and he’s bringing others into the wave. His site offers opportunities for volunteering and employment, as well as blogs and videos.
All because one guy wanted to meet people!
What could you do, if you were brave enough (and crazy enough, perhaps) to follow your passion? Where would you go, and who would you become?
What an amazing world we live in, and what amazing people for us to meet! I am going to volunteer, and I’m going to keep talking to strangers.
Sleep well, and dream of fascinating conversations, my friends.
Can you imagine how great our lives would be if we were all endowed with endless supplies of determination? Not confidence, not self-esteem, not genius or great ideas, but raw, stubborn, straight-forward determination?
As I look over my life, I realize that pretty much all of the disappointments and regrets I have stem from giving up. While every choice I’ve made has ultimately led me to the person I have become (who is, by the way, pretty darned awesome), there will always be a part of me that wonders what might have happened if I’d just stuck things out through the hard times.
But this goal I have now, this need to be part of the solution to the problems facing our world? This is one thing I can’t give up on. I can’t back out, even when things get hard.
None of us can.
I know it gets hard sometimes, dealing with the hate and the Stoopid and the waste we see every day. It gets hard fighting the good fight, when most people around you seem to be just coasting through on the status quo.
How easy it would be to just let go, ignore the problems of our world, and leave it to somebody else, right?
But I am not that person, and neither I suspect are you. You wouldn’t be reading this post if your Give-A-Damn was busted (as the song goes). You wouldn’t have made it this far without rolling your eyes and going back to your Candy Crush addiction.
So, we’re not those people. We can’t help but push towards a better world through whatever means we have at our disposal. It may seem uphill all the way, but we keep slogging forward.
And when the climb seems too steep and too long, just remember the only step that matters is the one you’re about to take.
Keep fighting the good fight, my friends.
P.S. If you know somebody who may need a bit of encouragement, please feel free to share this post with them. Chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga….
Anna Deveare Smith has been showing up a lot in my sphere these days. It started with a review I read of her book, Letters to A Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts for Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind.
It’s not often I get teary-eyed at work, but the excerps from the book had me sniffling at my desk several minutes after break ended.
Smith showed up again in my Facebook newsfeed, when my darling and insanely talented friend, Monique M. Jones, posted a link to another passage from the book.
At this point, I had an empty Kleenex box and a burning desire to own this book. Fast forward twelve hours, and my partner Fey had surprised me with the Kindle version.
A single passage in her introduction did it for me, because it pretty much voices what I’ve been feeling all my life:
I am addressing you if you are interested in change, in social change, and if you see yourself, potentially, as one of the guardians of the human spirit. In fact, I’m not just addressing you; I am calling you out–asking you to make yourself visible. We need you here!
In this world, it is no longer enough to just live day to day, guided by marketing, public opinion, and the status quo. We live in a crowded, noisy, disheartened world. Those of us called to change have to be awake. We have to be authentic. We cannot just phone in our lives, waiting for other people to fix things.
We are those people we’re waiting for, or at least we need to be those people. We have to be the ones who are asking the hard questions, telling the truth, finding the solutions.
Dear heavens, we are THE GROWN-UPS now!
I know you may not want to hear this. I don’t really relish admitting that I’m a member of that oft-maligned and rarely appreciated group. I cherish my immaturity and all the wacky complications involved with that trait.
But I also know that I am present here in this place, in this time, and I’m called to do something to make a change.
Anna Deveare Smith gets it, and she’s put it down on paper. I can’t read her book quickly–there is too much crammed in to every page for me to process in a hurry. I am sure I will come back to it over and over during the next few weeks.
In the meantime, I ask you–are you awake? Are you called? Do you want to make the world a better place?
Because the time for idle spirits is long, long past.
Peace to you–Deb
P.S. You know the drill–share if you care!