By Kerry Cue
In, At Seventy, her journal chronicling the year that began on her 70th birthday, American Poet May Sarton noted that aging offers an opportunity to become more fully ourselves and , more not less, individual. (How to Age, Anne Karpf, The School of Life, p9) Sarton wrote the quote (above) when she was 85 years old.
Yet this celebration of the Self that embodies a quiet acceptance – rather than Me-glorious-Me narcissim – is something rarely articulated in our culture. We are presented with images of age as a ‘hideous ruin’, what sociologist Mike Featherstone calls ‘a pornography of old age’. See The Portrait of the Mother by the Artist
So it is a delight to open a newspaper and discover an article titled: On turning 70 by Liz Byrski (SMH 3 AUG 2014), which celebrated aging. Byrski begins with “Seventy feels like a reward for patience and perseverance, and I am determined to make the most of what follows.” While other milestone birthdays in Byrski’s life – 21, 40, 50 – did not deliver a feeling of change, waking up on her 70th birthday was a liberating experience.
‘I’d arrived; something had shifted’ she wrote. A pair of high heels was symbolic of this shift. A symbol of ‘discomfort and restrictions of conformity’, she chucked them out. She became more herself. Byrski does not shy away from the physical challenges of old age. But insists ‘we are living proof for young people that ageing can be a time of pleasure, satisfaction, opportunity and yes, even new horizons.’
We, THE SIBYLS, declare Liz Byrski an Honorary Sibyl for her open spirit, contagious vitality and willingness to explore that philosophical question ‘what does it mean to grow old?’
Liz Byrski is a WA-based broadcaster and an author of both fiction and non-fiction books. She started writing novels in her late fifties based on interesting and active older female characters as, so often, the stereotype of older women in novels were limited to the nosey neighbour, interfering mother-in-law, frail and dependent burden, or lonely miserable spinster.
Her books include In the Company of Strangers and Last Chance Café.
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