A Woman of a Certain Age

credit: Joanna Morefield, portrait of the author

The day I refer to myself that way is preceded by a fair amount of drama. Not just that day, but for months on end prior to that day.

My particular place in time and space means little, but I guess it is background for the curious.

At age 54, I am a grocery cashier at a food co-op. The co-op is a place where, instead of the standard query about how you are, I might instead inquire as to the meaning of the ankh you have tattooed on your neck. And you would reply with a story about the birth of your fourth child at home, which precipitated an existential crisis.

I have heard splendid comments about how ‘real’ conversation is at this wonderful place. The point is, we exchange information on a less superficial level — at least, I think we do. It’s certainly more interesting and personal than the standard fare at a Store X.

When I’m not cashiering, I’m on the floor, facing product, tidying shelves, and helping folks find items. I learn about their health issues (cancer, fibromyalgia, allergies), and their emotional pain (divorce, death, rape). Some people shop here every day because we are their sole social outlet, and we listen.

Someone who listens is unusual.

They get to know me too. They ask, and I talk while they listen. Because they know my husband is sick, they ask after him. They are shocked to hear that I have been gone for six weeks (“I thought I had not seen you for awhile.”) because I finally took Family and Medical Leave and cared for my husband during his last month of life. And it feels fresh again, so I cry, and we hug.

I share that I am paralyzed by the choices that I have, the decisions that must be made, how little I feel I know about life.

And THAT is when I call myself a ‘woman of a certain age.’

To say that feels natural and right, though I did not know the words were on my lips. I feel pride and power, regardless of what someone else might think that phrase means. I have health, energy, and wisdom; I am in my prime.

What it signifies in my mind is this: I belong to me, head and heart, body and soul. Decisions are made based on my criteria, with no-one else to consider. It is time to test my precious theories of life.

I am past the age where I can be pregnant or give birth. That allows me to help other women find their inner wisdom, the knowledge planted in our very core about life, and birth. I am a doula, the Greek word for ‘servant.’ After a lifetime of service, it nonetheless gives me pleasure to choose service as a way of adding value to the world.

I am past the age of believing I must be sexy; or that sexy means a certain body-type or behavior. I am free to be me. I can reasonably expect to be valued for my brains, or even my brawn. My kindness, generosity, practicality, and sense of humor are more esteemed these days. I have always loved these things about myself.

I am past the age of believing I will be happy if I get certain things, or accomplish certain goals. I know that things don’t make people happy; if I’m not happy without things, I won’t be happy with things.

Happiness is an inside job. R. W. Emerson

I am past the age of believing that life is fair. Or that security or certainty have intrinsic meaning. Or even that careful planning pays off. While I tend to be a careful woman, I am aware that anything could happen. If I want something, I can go after it; for if I don’t try, I will never know.

I have wisdom created through pain, knowledge born of experience, confidence owned by surviving life’s lessons, and acceptance of what is.

I own a portion of sorrow for the things that are past that I cannot recall; I name it nostalgia. I still feel guilt for the ways I treated with others, but I forgive myself, and remember I always did my best. I am still afraid at times, but I gently comfort the child inside the woman, promise to stay with her, and step out anyway.

I proudly call myself a crone, or even a witch, that woman who has earthy knowledge with which to help others.

I am not old. Yet I am undeniably, unapologetically, and irrevocably

a ‘woman of a certain age.’

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