Point of view

Happy women of a certain age

May 8, 2014 

The beauty of growing old is that I am awakening to a fresh appreciation of the things I enjoy. For example, every day as I drive the familiar roads near my home, I notice that the sky changes moment by moment.

Clouds are always melting and drifting, forming and reforming. Like Monet painting his haystacks at different times of day to capture all the moment-by-moment aspects of their illumination, I could record with my camera the clouds of a single day, and every shot would be a veritable work of art.

When I was married and raising a family, when I was busy pursuing happiness, happiness in fact was pursuing me. If only I had slowed down long enough to think of how very fortunate I was. Back then, I was busily preparing for the future, and so I dismissed many of those days as ordinary and mundane. Now I would give anything to relive just one of the days when my children were growing up. I love to linger over my photo albums. Amy, at 3 years old, small enough to make herself a “reading place” in a big wicker laundry basket, cuddled up with her blanket and a book. Sara, at 6 years old, wearing her ballet outfit, warming herself beside the wood stove in the country farmhouse where we lived when she was small.

Aging has provided me with a new appreciation for staying in the moment and reveling in the richness of now.

Then, I had business to attend to every minute. Now I am beginning to acquire wisdom. I like this evolution.

This is some of what I have learned: When a woman arrives at a certain age, she can stop looking at herself as merely a vessel for the use of others. Her children are grown. Sometimes she finds herself alone, without the partner she had come to rely on. Everyone she spent her younger years nurturing has become self-sufficient.

She can stop measuring her worth by the amount of approval she gets from others. She can give where she finds pleasure in giving, and she can keep the rest for herself, guilt-free. There must be pauses in her interactions with other people when she can consult her own soul and dwell at the center of her own being.

To accomplish this, she can guard her privacy with zeal. She can rejoice in the work she produces without stopping to ask whether it is of value to anyone else. If it is of value to her, that’s all that matters. This is the whole secret of women’s happiness. We add value to the kaleidoscopic world just by being here.

Carol Wills lives in Durham.

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