Your memory is a building site you wander around in work clothes constantly repairing, retrieving, and rebuilding.

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque  Billy collins quote

The poem ‘Forgetfulness’ by Billy Collins is one of my all time favourite poems. I first heard it in the car and had to stop the car to listen. I found it hilarious and gloriously lyrical and true to the human condition all at once. You will find the full poem – it’s very short – here.

As I had to lead a workshop on poetry at a recent conference, I started the workshop by reading this poem. The workshop participants, all in the forties and fifties, had one answer.

‘It’s about Alzheimer’s’ they said.

Only one other participant saw the poem as I saw it.

“I thought it was about me’ she said.

Sibylesque Joan Didion Memory quote

And this had me thinking about our perceptions of memory and aging. We protect ourselves from the ‘horrors’ of aging by seeing the OLD as THEM and, naturally, we are US. This keeps us safe. We aren’t like them. Our memories are fine. Maybe, the odd ‘senior’s moment’.

Memory is, has always been, something of a major building project. We collect bric-a-brac and build memories. Then we rebuild these memories, often shoddily, every time we think of them. We neglect some memories. How many of us over 60 can remember how to do a cartwheel, say, or sing Psalm 23, the Psalm you sang in the church you used to go to as a child. Hint: Sheep are involved. Now it is irrelevant to many Australians. Only 8% of us are regular churchgoers.

So memory is not something that is all there or all gone. It is a building site you wander around in work clothes constantly repairing, retrieving, and completely rebuilding when necessary. Some areas are difficult to access. There is a pathway, but where? Often you are peering into the dark. Some memories fade, decay because they never have the light of thought shone upon them. Other memories seem so new, so sparkling, so complete; you stand back and watch them in awe. Other memories are both hidden and dangerous. There should be warning lights, but there are none. Suddenly you are there and the pain is real.

I wrote three books about my childhood when I was in my thirties. Exercising my memory everyday for months, I could recall every cupboard in our kitchen and every object in those cupboards. I could hear my parents speak. How accurate were those memories? Who knows? But they were vivid. Brilliantly vibrant memories.

It is not just the old or demented who forget. We all remember. We all forget.

Or as Billy Collins wrote:

‘and even now as you memorise the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

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Turning 50? Should it be a Rite of Passage?

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Croning Quote 1Listening to some wonderful stories while attending a Celebrants’ Conference in Sydney the other week, I was flabbergasted to discover there was such a thing as a Croning Ceremony. I was delighted to meet Jacqueline Hope, a Celebrant from WA, who has conducted such a ceremony. See here and here.

Who would want to be called a crone? No one. Yet there are two conflicting meanings of this word: (Free Dictionary)

  1. An old woman considered to be ugly; a hag.
  2. A woman who is venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom.

Can we reclaim the word crone as a positive force? I doubt it, but many women today treat their 50th birthday as a rite of Passage. This is a New Age take on the pagan/Wicca belief that there are three stages of womanhood: Virgin, Mother, Crone. Of course, others might consider their 60th birthday as their entry into their wise years. Or, perhaps, your 70th birthday has special meaning for you.

The Fabulous Stage is represented by Beatrix Ost, Advanced Style, NY.

The Fabulous Stage is represented by Beatrix Ost, Advanced Style, NY.

The respected mythologist Jospeh Campbell referred to crones appearing to help the child of destiny in a time of danger and obscurity.

Others call this ritual a Wise Woman Ceremony, either way it is claiming the mature years as a positive stage. From Barbara Hannah Grufferman in The Huffingtonpost to The Women at Woodstock, who run weekends for women over 50, women are gathering together to celebrate the joy and wisdom of this their ‘FABULOUS’ stage.

Photo source: Unsourced.

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If we are wise, why don’t we celebrate?

By Jacqueline Hope
Sibylesque Jacqueline Hope Quote

Wise Woman Ceremony for Nicky

These are the words I read as celebrant at the ceremony.

The Reading:

“To each and every one of us here we hold special memories, of this remarkable person who has stepped ever so gently into our hearts and lives and left an indelible footprint, and we honour her for that.

She has many titles daughter, sister, auntie, cousin, friend colleague, neighbour. However she is also a wife, extraordinaire and awesome mother to the joy of her life her beloved sons ….

In these aspects of her persona she has often shone brightly and ever so occasionally there has been some lack lustre. But nothing a fag and a cup of coffee couldn’t sort out! Eh boys?”

Sibylesque  Wise Women Ceremony” It is in her persona of Midwife, she has dedicated the majority of her energy, expertise, joy, love, and wisdom. She has been practicing her ‘wise woman’ skills for more years than she cares to remember.

These hands have been privileged to welcome many, many souls into this world, with tears of joy, and relief!!”

~~~~~~~

The Ritual:

The circle of woman join hands and circle to the left and the right of Nicky as the drum is beaten they chanting or singing

“I am the maiden, the Mother, The Crone. (Which ever applies) and we honor and love you Nicky.

One by one the woman jump into the circle and spin around with Nicky until all are within the circle.

~~~~~~~

Picture 2

Jacqueline Hope is a very young gorgeous 64-year-old divorcee and forcibly retired midwife, who has worked in England, Dubai, Australia, and Peru. She is a marriage celebrant from WA and has a practice in intuitive counseling whose motto is H.O.P.E  – Hold on pain ends. She is the mother of two grown adult-children a son, who, it seems, are rarely are dazzled by their mother’s, brilliance.   (No prophet is recognized in their own land sigh!) She is saving the ‘pennies’ in the hope of swanning off for another adventure.

Dancing photo source: Unsourced.

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Celebrate Wisdom. It is earned, not given!

By Jacqueline Hope

Sibylesque Wise Woman quote

These are the words read out by Nicky as part of her

Wise Woman Ceremony.

AS A CIRCLE OF WOMEN,
LET US TAKE A MOMENT TO HONOR OUR ANCESTORS,
OUR GRANDMOTHERS & THEIR GRANDMOTHERS
~ THE UNTOLD GENERATIONS OF WOMEN WHO HAVE SAT IN CIRCLE,
SUPPORTING, COMFORTING, GUIDING, TEACHING, LEARNING.

ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE AIDED & GUIDED BY THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE.
IT IS TO THESE CIRCLES OF WOMEN THAT WE OWE OUR CRONE WISDOM,
THE WISDOM OF CYCLES,   THE WISDOM OF CARING,
THE WISDOM OF EMBRACING LIFE  ~  IN ALL ITS CHANGES & MESSY EXUBERANCE.

Sibylesque 3 muses

WHEN YOU AWAKEN, & ARE FILLED WITH THE DESIRE TO SEE THE HOLINESS IN EVERYDAY LIFE,
SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPENS:
ORDINARY LIFE BECOMES EXTRAORDINARY.
AND, THE LITTLE THINGS;   THE  CHALLENGES,    THE DAILY KNOWINGS,
THE VERY PROCESS OF LIFE ITSELF,
BEGINS TO NOURISH YOUR SOUL.

AS YOU MOVE THRU YOUR LIFE,   DARE TO BE FILLED WITH LOVE.
ALLOW LOVE’S GRACE & WISDOM TO FLOURISH IN YOUR HEART.

MAY YOUR LIFE  BE GRACED WITH A DEEP & QUIET RENEWAL.
MAY EACH DAY BRING YOU PEACE, CLARITY, GUIDANCE,  JOY.

MAY BEAUTY SURROUND YOU IN THE JOURNEY AHEAD.
MAY HAPPINESS BE YOUR COMPANION.

MAY YOU SEE YOUR PATH, GLORIOUS & GOLDEN ~
GOODNESS UNFOLDING BEFORE YOU.

MAY WE ALL GO INTO THE WORLD IN PEACE & IN JOY.

~~~~~~~

Each person is given a glass of alcohol and with one voice shout out

To THE WISE WOMAN NICKY WELCOME.

~~~~~~~

Picture 2

Jacqueline Hope is a very young gorgeous 64-year-old divorcee and forcibly retired midwife, who has worked in England, Dubai, Australia, and Peru. She is a marriage celebrant from WA and has a practice in intuitive counseling whose motto is H.O.P.E  – Hold on pain ends. She is the mother of two grown adult-children a son, who, it seems, are rarely are dazzled by their mother’s, brilliance.   (No prophet is recognized in their own land sigh!) She is saving the ‘pennies’ in the hope of swanning off for another adventure.

Photo source: Unsourced.

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OMG! I forgot to stay young …

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Clarissa pinkola Estes

Although we now know about the hormonal aspects of menopause … and let me tell you, that concept was explained to me as a ‘pause between men’ … have we really explored the behavioural aspects?

It might just be my age and being bashed up by life, but am I alone in my thoughts and reactions? I’m finding more and more, my response to ‘chick flick tear jerker movies’ is less tears and more jerk. I don’t want to see the male mid-life crisis being rewarded by the reconciliation with the long-suffering wife on screen, or in real life. I don’t want to see the middle-age men in Hollywood more easily getting roles – possibly as the love interest of someone 25 years his junior – when women have to fight for authentic stories, as they age. I don’t want to see women on screen, or in life, having to work to stay looking young so they are valued.

SIBYLESQUE comic

We are discriminated against on so many fronts on the screen and in real life. Then, we further disadvantage ourselves by wilfully aging. Meanwhile, we face inequality of pay at every age. That’s the real life script. We burnt the bra. There are no more undergarments left to burn.

So what will it take … for equality now?

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!…….

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Photo source: Vintage Gal

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The One-Size-Fits-All Life

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque One size fits all quoteOne Size Fits All! 

In this world of litigation … how useful is that term? Can I assume that I am included in ‘all’? So … what if the ‘one size fits all’ garment doesn’t fit me? Can I go to the sales person and say …’hello. I’m ‘all’ and this doesn’t fit?’ I haven’t had this experience yet but as I’m ageing I’m thinking it might happen soon’… In fact, I know it will. Would it not be better to say ..’might fit all’.

Sibylesque Mannequin Joke 1

As a consumer and shopper of garments … I don’t want to be misled. Don’t tell me this will fit everyone, without saying ‘yes..,it might fit you but it will look awful’. It’s hard enough to live with my changing shape, but don’t mislead me. If you say ‘one size fits all’, shouldn’t there be some social accountability?

Ditto life. As we age, should ‘One Size Fit All?’ More significantly, are we then pressured into fitting the bland and limiting one size mold?

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!…….

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Photo source: Little Robin Photography (links unsourced)

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If you learn how to die, you’ll learn how to live

Sibylesque Being Mortal quote

BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

By Atul Gawande 

Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2014.

Review by Kerry Cue

Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

The reason this book is so meaningful, so compelling and why it ranks as a rare must-read is because, in telling the story of how to die a good death, it slowly addresses an equally important question namely ‘how  are we to live a good and meaningful life?’

Sibylesque The three fates

Atul Gawande, surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, dreams of new ways of caring for the frail and old. He questions the bureaucratic nature of aged care institutions where the elderly are kept ‘safe’, but hardly ‘alive’. And he rails against the invasive, painful and ultimately futile medical procedures inflicted on the dying. Yet this book is no dry academic tome. Gawande tells the storxy of dying and death of his father, also a surgeon, from first discovering the tumor in the spinal column, through the family’s struggling with medical options – operate? His father might become a quadriplegic. Don’t operate, he may become a quadriplegic! – to his father’s final days.

There is one strong and clear message from this thoughtful exploration of the end stage. Patients could have good days even when dying. But to achieve this goal they must be asked, or think about, at least, ‘what are your greatest fears?’ and ‘what are your current goals?’ Simple questions but from the answers patients discover how they are to live in their final days and, eventually, die.

Gawande has managed to take the fear away from our modern, Western view of dying, which, in many aspects involves, an impersonal, sterile, ICU bed intubated with a tube down the throat and a total loss of control. Dying need not be like this. Gawande shows how the human spirit can flourish and life can be fully lived to the very end.

curlicue

Photo source: Unsourced book review blog, Tapestry held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Why We Cannot Imagine Ourselves in Old Age

by Kerry Cue

Jenni Diski quote

One thing that Diski (Restricted link: The Screaming Gynaecologist, London Review of Books, 4 Dec 2014) had not anticipated was sudden death. As we age we fear debilitation. We also fear having to – even if willingly – look after a severely debilitated partner. Diski is in her late sixties and has a tumour in her lung. After bouts of chemo the results are uncertain. The tumour was no bigger … nor had it shrunk in size. She had to adjust to living with not only a tumour, but uncertainty. Death hovered a little over 12 months away. Maybe extra time was bought with chemo.

Nothing is written in stone sibylesque

Suddenly, she was confronted with juggling fact and speculation, certainty and uncertainty. How does anyone do this? Diski offers no solution. But her situation is extreme. Her certainty is clear. She has a terminal cancer. Her uncertainty is extreme for she found herself tumbling back to the lacerating uncertainties of her youth. At 12 she’d been placed in one foster home after another following her mother’s catatonic breakdown. She never knew the rules of each new household. Is it OK, for instance, to go to the toilet during the night? She learned to make herself ‘invisible and inaudible’. When Diski was 15 years of age author Doris Lessing became her guardian. This brought it’s own complications.

We can all learn from Diski’s thoughtful piece. We cannot anticipate the troubles of old age. In Diski’s own words:

‘I will continue to live with uncertainty and my inability to do anything about it, the condition I’ve been trying to wriggle away from all my life.’

And so say all of us.

Photo: unsourced

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These are the best years of your life. What? Middle school? That’s it!

The Sibyls

Radical Age quote

We Sibyls are concerned with the impact negative attitudes to aging have on our health. Toxic stereotypes of ‘the little old lady’ are prevalent in the medical world, At my age doctor John Glen was an astronaut, in the media, If you think you are old guess what? You are aging fast and in our own conversations, Why you should avoid geriatric talk.

Anarchists knitting Club 1

Sometimes, however, we don’t realise just how ingrained these attitudes are in the culture. In this fascinating lecture Sheila Roher, founder of Radical Age Lab, University of Columbia, asks the audience ‘how many of you were told when you were a child or a teenager that these are the best years of your life?’. ‘That’s a terrifiying statement!’ exclaims Roher. ‘Like I peaked at nine … middle school is it?’

Watch the video for some profound philosophical thinking on aging.

You will find more discussion on this topic at Radical Age Movement Blog.

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How to avoid despair in a negative world

By Kerry Cue 

Sibylesque quote F. Scott Fitzgerald

The author of the quote above remains unnamed to give you a moment to reflect on the significance of these words. It strikes me that too many people I know – so it could be my choice of friends – have become cynical and negative as they have aged. Aging is a war where new battles are fought and won daily or, hopefully, where graceful surrender is negotiated. A bitter and twisted demeanor, no matter how tempting, is a debilitating mindset.

So how do we remain positive, not only in a negative world, but at an age when struggle is the only option? Perhaps, the author of the quote is setting down an alternative view, one that also embraces wisdom. Life, after all, dumps on each of us a bucket full of slippery and barbed contradictions: joy and sorrow, blessings and tragedies, pain and relief, certainty and confusion.

Sibylesque Anyone for tennis

So this is how we counter despair. We juggle it with the possibility of doing good, of making some small contribution.

Who wrote the above quote? F. Scott Fitzgerald. The quote comes from an article titled The Crack-Up published in April, 1936, in which he is brutally honest about his breakdown. He was tired of life. Any reader today would realise he was suffering from depression. He was 39 years old at the time of publication. Fitzgerald died in December 1940 from a heart attack when he was 44.

Other posts on this issue of aging with a postive mindset include At My Age, Doctor, John Glen was an Astronaut and Why you should avoid geriatric talk.

 Photo Source: 1930s tennis women tumblr

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