A Fireside Chat on a Cold Winter Night
Tonight feels like winter in Ottawa. After above-normal temperatures since the beginning of December, I can feel and hear the wind. And I see the snow covering up my car. But I’m not complaining since it is already the 25th of January. Each day it stays lighter for a little longer and two good winter months have ended. On top of that, the really good news is that exam week is drawing to an end for my grandkids and the rest of us. haha
I actually enjoy studying with Rowan. It is all in French so not only do I get a refresher in his subjects but my poor french is actually serving a purpose and improving as the year goes on. Coincidentally, I read a new article on Ageing Exhuberantly by the author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson, who began writing books in her 80’s.
One of the three suggestions by the Swedish author is to spend lots of time with young people. Learning, asking questions, providing food, and laughter, and essentially not complaining. So, I am one of the lucky ones who gets to do that and I love it. Nevertheless, as much as I enjoy helping and Rowan enjoys learning we both are done. Happy that this is the last study night. Whew!
I want to tell you something else that really struck me in the review.
One of the misconceptions about older people, according to Regina Koepp, clinical psychologist and founder of the Center for Mental Health and Aging in Burlington, Vt., is that “they’re rigid and they’ll never change,” she said. “That’s not true. Older people are not more rigid than younger people. Those are personality traits, not age traits.” Yet even older adults have internalized this narrative, Dr. Koepp said, “because they’ve heard it their whole life.”
To age exuberantly, you must actively recognize your “internalized ageism” and fight against it, Dr. Koepp said. Saying “yes” as often as you can, she added, “is in effect saying ‘yes’ to life — being curious and exploratory, being part of the community.”
I was struck by that term: internalized ageism.
Because I believe it is true for many people and we are simply unaware. And further fascinated by Regina Koepp’s suggestion that we fight against it. I wonder how many other internalized isms we have and how they are impacting our lives. I recall my Mother saying throughout her long life that we should not use age as an excuse. “Don’t say “I am too old for that.”
I have heard internalized isms for so many things: I can’t draw; sing; or go up in a hot-air balloon at 92. I can’t go to a movie by myself. It is a compelling question to consider: who is being an ageist, me and/or the rest of the world? Of course, it’s never that simple. I haven’t suffered from ageism, but I am still considering the isms I do suffer from and what I might do about those. At any rate, I was intrigued and wanted to pass it on.
It brought to mind Dr. Jinroh Itam’s mantra for his cancer patients: “Even though I am ill I will not live like a sick person.” It’s an excellent reminder, to still live. To not put our lives on hold. It isn’t about denying cancer, illness, aging or any number of things. It is about not allowing any one of those particular things to dominate and take over our lives.
Some of you may remember a book from the 80’s on ageism written by a popular writer of those times. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title or the author. But I do remember a great story. The author was giving a presentation on Ageism and noticed a lovely woman in her 90’s wearing braces. He was so intrigued as to why, at her age, she would wear braces. He subsequently invited her to join him for lunch in order to learn the answer to his question.
It went something like this: Mrs Brown, I noticed you are wearing braces. I am wondering why you are doing so.
She reached over, patted him on his arm, and said, “Sonny, for the same reason you would wear braces.”
He commented that in his stunned silence, he realized that he had internalized a form of ageism that says, “it’s a waste of money for a 90-year-old to wear braces.” The fact that she was alive, wearing braces, and 90, and he found that peculiar, was a shock to him. And in a flash, he was enlightened, so to speak.
I loved that story when I read it in my 40’s, and as I think of it now, I realize how susceptible we all are by the culture and the conditioning we live in. Furthurmore, I am grateful for the reminder to be aware of my internalized isms and not let them control my actions. Sing while there’s voice left.
1:) A link to the final words of a wonderful man, Jim Button, who died last week. I was a big admirer, like many, of Jim and his family. His blog was also an inspiration.
2:) One of my most favourite photos is this one of my Japanese friends in training to hike the Canadian Rockies. They personify exuberant aging. And the banner photo is from Yellowknife, NWT thanks to Gottfried, who was there with Dr. Itami and old and new friends from Japan in the early 2000’s.
3:) “May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” – Mary Oliver I love this quote and thanks to James Clear for posting it.
4:) Thank you for reading my blog; I am honoured that you do so. And thanks for the many ways you reach out. I love all of your notes. May you have a good last week of January. Hope you get outdoors to play in the snow, should you live in that kind of climate. Warmest wishes, Trudy