Today would have been my great grandmother’s 252nd birthday and her cake would be a fire hazard. She would have been 126 years old… and if that seems to make little sense there is a simple explanation. Like the Queen, she had two birthdays. Unlike the Queen, my great grandmother’s situation was due to a clerical error, her birth having been recorded as ‘the 30th, the last day of March.’
She didn’t quite make her century, thus missing out on the royal greetings. She had always resented my great grandfather’s death for that reason too… he had quite inconsiderately chosen to shuffle off this mortal coil shortly before their 60th wedding anniversary, thus denying her the privilege of a message from the monarch.
While the body appears to age, the inner being has a mind of its own and doesn’t necessarily age beyond whatever is its personal optimum. Great Grandma always said that even at 99 she still felt 18 inside. Somehow the ageing process seems shaped less by the passing of years and more by our own attitude so that we see people who are old by the time they hit thirty and youngsters of ninety still up for all kinds of mischief… like Great Aunt Annie-Beatrice who still wore heels and shocking pink as an octogenarian. Because she could.
If you had asked me thirty years or so ago I would have probably imagined myself by now being very much like my Great Aunt Gwen… a ramrod backed, well-upholstered Yorkshirewoman, wielding Methodist severity like a sergeant-major with a rolling pin. Yet instead I am developing a penchant for mischief and a desire to ‘misbehave’; to act, should I so choose, against the accepted convention that requires older generations to become more staid and less flamboyant. I think of Great Aunt Annie-Beatrice in her shocking pink coat. Or my own Grandma who, in her 60s, wanted to learn to water-ski, but was forbidden because she would ‘look ridiculous’.
I have noticed the body language changing… instead of holding myself primly upright it has become more expansive over the years. I hug more, open to that exchange of warmth and energy… more ready to let people in that I once was. My gestures are wider; there is a physical freedom that was missing when I was younger.
It is not that I lacked the desire to defy convention before… it is just that I would have simply wanted to do things and lacked the courage, fearing disapprobation. Now, I don’t really care a jot whether I am looked upon with disapproving eyes or whether those eyes choose to slide off my unruly presence, dismissing me from consciousness, glad that I am “Somebody Else’s Problem.”
“An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem…. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye……This is because it relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain”. Douglas Adams. “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.
The ageing process appears to bring an inner confidence and relaxing of the constraints that held us, tied to the apron strings of our own reflection in the eyes of the world. Our need for approval changes and perhaps we let go of the fears that have held us back and find approval, instead, in our own eyes. They say that age brings wisdom… I don’t think that is a coincidence somehow.
Nor do I think it coincidence that as we work with the levels of Being in the Silent Eye, I am growing into my own. There is something in what we do that feeds the soul in a curious manner and opens many doors within. Life has taken on vivid hues and while there is undoubtedly both a need and a time for silence and for dignity, the inner bubble of joy seldom subsides and little by little I am learning to let go and just surf the tide of life … and hope I can find the freedom to grow old disgracefully.