I am 63 years old and a grandmother of four.
Notice the images that arise in your mind? They are probably the images that invariably appear in children’s books – plump, white-haired women, an apron securely tied around their wide waists, a bun on top of their head and, of course, granny glasses. They are often baking cookies.
This image, although we are culturally attached to it, is no longer applicable. The downside is, who is baking the cookies? Not me. I pick up my grandson Henry from school with a big package of teriyakii Nori that we munch on during the ride to my daughter’s house; we play baseball on the street and make up hip-hop songs on the rooftop.
I’ve recently become aware of my own internalized ageism. Perhaps it’s a fear that I’ll be disregarded, undervalued, stereotyped as above. I notice, however, that this feeling never occurs when I am actually present with someone and, in fact, I have great enthusiasm about sharing my 63 year old grandmother status. What is the difference? It is my fear that, without my being with you for us to feel our aliveness, passion and vitality, the big cardboard image of “grandma” will take over and close the door.
I somehow need to prove that I am not that stereotype in order to be valued. Then I ask myself, valued by whom? Myself? You? And valued for what? Certainly our stereotype grandma was and is highly valued by the children she makes the cookies for; valued for the memories of sweet warm smells after school; valued for the sense of comfort and home that lives within the hearts and memories of anyone so fortunate to have had her presence in their lives.
There is something else though. Perhaps it is my grandson Jake’s request: “LaLa, will you please live until you are 107?” I told him I would do my best. He is my reminder to drink my green smoothie, do my P90X, meditate and remember every day all that I have to be grateful for. This is my value – to participate fully in life, both mine and theirs, in the way that is most authentic for me and for as long as I can.
I believe that I am more the norm than not, at least here on the west coast. Most of my friends exercise, eat a very healthy diet and many of them have a spiritual practice – the precise definition of a living mind, body, spirit love fest. And the love fest is a celebration with life and joy and the willingness to take risks and finding at least one thing to be passionate about and loving unabashedly. Oh, and having a good belly laugh frequently! Love and joy to you!