Friday, May 03, 2013

The Aging Writer

Yesterday I shared with a friend how much I was enjoying the emotional, mental and spiritual side of aging. Inner maturity brings with it a sense of contentment and peace that I never felt in my younger years. Perhaps it's just because I'm a Capricorn ~ they're slow bloomers.

Our face tells the story of our life

I have to be honest and say I can’t quite reconcile the image before me in the mirror ,though: wrinkles, looser skin, silver-frosted hair. They all betray the happiness I feel within.

I would love to express this much beauty in older age (and now!)

The incentive for writing my first novel, Mosaic, was very much bound up in my fear of turning forty. Looking back, I can see I embarked on it as a therapeutic exercise. The book opens with a radio station competition which asks the question “Does life begin at forty?”

With fifty just 4.5 years away, I feel quite thrilled with the ride. A lot of the fear I'd felt at forty stemmed from the panic that there was still so much I wanted to do in my life...and time seemed to be slipping away.

It’s interesting to me, as a writer, that some of the highest-grossing films at the Box Office are those where the lead character/s are of pensioner age. Is it that not only do the elderly have more time to go to the cinema, but that they recognise in their characters just how very much life is within? Could it be that as the body starts to decline the spirit grows livelier? I do believe so.
Someone to grow old with...and still holding hands!
Now that I’ve added ‘novelist’ to my CV, I can’t help but wonder if older characters will start to emerge in my writing. Will I write through the lens of a fuller life experience? I hope so. And actually, it feels rather exciting.

Two of my favourite movies are The Notebook (don’t watch it without tissues!), and The Bridges of Madison County (more tissues).

The Notebook is told through a journal kept by an elderly man which recounts the love story between him and his wife (welling up here just be remembering it!), and although it shows them as younger people ~ it is the older characters which really tell the story: the power of their love. The characters, as youngsters, thought they knew what love was. The characters, in the Winter of their life, truly know love.

The Bridges of Madison County isn’t about pensioner-age oldness, but more about the later middle years ~ that time when you feel that perhaps all opportunity has gone. That time when it feels like the life you’ve got is the only life you’re ever going to have. Perhaps that is why I cry like an abandoned baby when I read the book (or watch the film), because I want to scream out to the main character (played by the awesome Meryl Streep) “Make a different choice!” Whenever I’ve watched this film with my daughters, I say to them ‘please tell me you’d make a different choice?’

There’s a lady who comes into the local coffee shop where I go, and from the day I saw her my heart said ‘that’s what I want to be like when I’m older!’ She has long, healthy, silver hair down to her mid back, a skip in her step, and a huge smile on her face. I’ve never been comfortable with old age meaning (for me) a blue rinse with short permed hair, walking stick, sitting watch TV all day or playing bingo or bowls. I want to have a skip or three in my step, a sense of fun and mischief, laughter in my eyes, and an unstoppable zest for life. I still want to search for meaning through books, experiences, people. I want to live fully.

I have an uncle, in his eighties, in the USA. He’s my late father’s oldest brother. And you know what? Every day he swims for two hours in the Gulf of Mexico. When I heard this, I jumped up and down with joy ~ I have this in my DNA!!!

Although my mother’s body (she’s 74 in 23 days) has slowed down (compared to how she was at midlife), I can still hear passion and joy in her voice ~ she lives in Tasmania, so I only have her voice to go on. Every day she’s out walking, enjoying the nearby parks, making herself fresh juices, reading interesting books, taking baths by candlelight, having a monthly massage, eating Black Forest Cafe and the local German cafe. She is still the same woman who made my childhood so rich by modelling creativity and zest. I have this in my DNA!!!

As we grow older, we realise it’s not about going somewhere…it’s about being does it take so long to discover the secret of life?

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