They fly forgotten as a dream

by Maren Rawlings

 sibylesque e e cummings quote

On my walk, if I come round the corner quietly I find the path through the park is occupied by a flock of galahs and tufted (native) pigeons. The galahs greet me raucously and fly into the pines but the pigeons stubbornly walk ahead of me in single file with short busy steps like matrons making for the bed linen department in Boxing Day sale. Finally the one at the back takes to the wing with a high, soft fluted cry and lands at the front of the formation as they turn off the path and then stop to look at me with a disapproving air.

filmstrip beehive hair do

My mind goes back to a teacher in secondary school with a grey high French roll just like a pigeon tuft. Her legs, under her ample “pouter” torso, were thin and bird like and she moved with the same strutting business. On her way from Assembly to classes she would sing with the honesty of a deeply religious woman. Her mind, however, was not tidy, so that we would come from reedy renditions of “Brightest and best of the suns of the morning, Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid…” to hear her intoning “Time like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away, They fly forgotten as a dream, Dies at the opening day”. Phew, thank goodness we were daughters, we laughed, ignoring her spinster state, a fault no doubt, of someone’s son.

filmstrip pigeon

My sister-in-law, a lorikeet, can not only sing, but she can play the piano at the same time (even standing up), so when she disappears to “practise” there is no possibility of recalling her from the realms of angels.

Music, it is said, originated probably with the imitation of bird calls. There is evidence that perception of the octave might be shared among species, but the number of distinct notes between that tonal recurrence is a matter of culture or taste. Music of itself is not judged to be positive or negative, although particular assortments of notes may not be pleasing (especially when my husband sings). It can be a subversive and highly satisfying mode of expression.

filmstrip beehive hair do

The first song I taught my granddaughter, “Cry baby bunting, Daddy’s gone a-hunting, Gone to catch a rabbit skin to put the baby bunting in”, was my childish response to having to procure and prepare meals for my ethically vegetarian son-in-law. I knew he had the higher moral ground!

Give the galahs and other birds a serve of their own

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Maren RawlingsMaren Rawlings is a fabulously diverse educator and music devotee. She has taught at city and country schools including a 22-year stint at MLC, Melbourne. She has lectured in psychology at RMIT University and Melbourne Uni, written Psychology textbooks and, in 2011, graduated PhD in “Humour at Work” at Swinburne University where she currently tutors.

Maren is President of the Star Chorale, a community choir and this year they sing Verdi’s Requiem with the Zelman Orchestra.

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Photo Source: 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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If you think you are old, guess what? You ARE aging fast.

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Gloria Steinem quote

We, The Sibyls, do not deny age its journey. Nevertheless, many studies have shown that the toxic stereotype of the stooped ‘little old lady’ not only limits your outlook on aging, it can actually reduce your life span. We have noted before that this stereotype is reinforced by Geriatric Self-Talk and assumptions of the medical profession. Now two recent publications support this view.

What if age is nothing but a mind set? by Bruce Greirson (New York Times, 22 OCT 2014) reports on a study conducted by Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, conducted in 1981. Eight men in their 70s stepped into a monastery retro-fitted for 1959. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan appeared on a black-and-white TV. After 5 days, the men significantly improved on many ‘age related’ tests.

Sibylesque Go Wild

Our aging brain pinkMeanwhile, in his book, Our Ageing Brain: How our mental capacities develop as we grow older (SCRIBE, 2014) André Aleman cites similar studies including the study that showed:

*those with a more positive view of aging lived 7.5 years longer.

*when older people are asked to read a list of negative words associated with aging (eg. Senile) their performance in memory tests reduces.

*men who become prematurely bald present with earlier onset of age related deceases.

*older people in rural China suffer less from memory problems that we do. Professor Langer, who also conducted this study, put this down to their lack of exposure to the negative stereotyping of age we experience in the West.

According to Aleman:

A positive attitude – often perfectly justified, since many older people are in good health – keeps you young.

Photo Source: NYC, 1966, Airbus, Medialapie09 Blog

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Getting On: Some thoughts on women and ageing

Sibylesque How old quote

Sibyls' Books Red Mural

REVIEW by Lorna Ebringer

Picture 3Getting on: Some thoughts of women and aging

Liz Byrski

Pub Momentum Books 2012

The baby boomers are ageing! Expect to hear a lot about this topic as we all struggle to come to terms with this fact. Some of us are so put out by the accumulation of ailments that one friend has limited discussion about our failing bodies to 10 minutes before we are required to move to other topics.

Liz Bryski’s book “Getting on, Some thoughts on Women and Ageing” was first published as an ebook in 2012 and is now available in paperback. (Pub Momentum Books) Part memoir and part a reflection, she discusses the problems that women face as they grow old. Despite the fact that older women are central to society, working, writing, volunteering, caring for disabled children and for their parents and living busy and productive lives she finds that society renders them invisible, we are not seen in the media, in advertising, in shopping centres. We are ignored. Whole industries have grown up to help women avoid being erased by trying to make us look younger than we are. If we believe the spin we can dye our hair, have a facelift, diet those extra kilo’s away, in short, have a make over. A lot of energy and money can be spent and, of course, it does not halt time.

Author: Liz Bryski

Author: Liz Byrski

When we are noticed, it is as a problem. The “problem of our ageing population” is mentioned all the time in the media. We are regarded as a financial burden by the wealthiest generation in history. This is truly astonishing given the contribution we have made to society in our working lives over the past 40 or 50 years and the contribution we are still making in providing the volunteer work force in our charities and community support groups, in the care we are giving to our parents and grandchildren and often to our adult disabled children.

Sibylesque Boogie Woogie Man

Liz Bryski raises and addresses all the negative issues that old age brings with it but she is undeterred. Remembering the feisty older women in her life when she was a child and how much she admired them she is determined to enjoy the journey and reading her book encourages us all to do the same. So what are the positives? Now that we are free from full time work and caring for young children we have time to “make the most of every moment and every day, love more and better, learn more and read more” We can enjoy our friendships more and allow them to enhance our lives. As a result our lives become packed with interest and adventure. We are healthier than ever thanks to good medical care and the consciousness that we have to address fitness issues to live well, she swims, we dance, our friends walk, ride bikes, go to the gym and Tai Chi, we meet other people doing these things and we are luckier than our parents in this respect.

I hope that we will see further thoughtful discussions like this that allow us to look forward with optimism and courage.

You will find Liz Byrski’s article Why it is good to be old here.

Sibyl Approved

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LORNA EBRINGER

LORNA EBRINGER

Lorna Ebringer’s passions include trekking  in remote areas of Georgia, China and Japan, opera appreciation and rock ‘n roll dancing. Her previous posts were Notable Women: Christine de Pizan and When god had a wife.

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Photo Source: Liz Bruyski’s website, Youcanbefunny blog………………………………….

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Why it is good to be old!

By Kerry Cue

Sibylesque old age quote 2

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

Sibylesque Senior Moment

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?’

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liz bryskicompanyofstrangersLiz 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.lastchance

Her books include In the Company of Strangers and Last Chance Café.

Photo Source: !950s Social Archives

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