Monday, November 5, 2007

aging, social pressures

Monday, Nov. 5

Ronnie at Time Goes By had an interesting piece today about 'letting go.' It is concerns elders who seem to withdraw and concentrate on matters closer to home as they get older. Family and friends are the most noted areas of such concentration. Relationships that had taken a backseat to the general whirl of living suddenly become much more important. A couple of weeks ago she featured a piece inviting readers to write in with accounts of things they gave up doing as they got older. Elderwoman presented a similar theme when she talked about the difficulty she had with simply sitting still, with being instead of doing.

These are, I think, related themes. One reader took exception to Ronnie's request for lists of what her readers gave up doing. In an e-mail that reader equated the giving up with going slack, with a lowering of personal standards. Somehow, those who gave up wearing pantyhose, ties, shaving their legs, or getting their hair dyed no longer cared about their appearance. I think I noted this particular post in an earlier one of mine. But it bears some repeating. Especially because the reader was deaf to the theme many responders sounded: they gave up something that no longer mattered significantly to them in order to gain something that mattered a great deal. Often it was comfort: no longer wearing high heels meant wearing instead comfortable shoes. Giving up the monthly hair coloring meant gaining time that would otherwise have been spent at a beauty salon or treating the hair at home as well as saving the money that would have been spent. Many readers noted that they could better spend both on something else.

That is the important point. They gave up something no longer valued for something they came to value more. But as the e-mail Ronnie described shows all too clearly, too often others put meanings on what we have given up that can both intimidate us into questioning ourselves and which says a good deal more about the critics fears and insecurities than about us. Most fear getting old and cling desperately to the things of youth forgetting the passage in the Bible telling us to put aside childish things and that to all things there is a time and a season. If there is a time and a season appropriate to all things it follows that there is a time and season appropriate for letting those things go. It would be unfortunate if we let the fears and insecurities of others stop us from doing something we value or keep us doing what we no longer value.

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