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Thursday, August 14, 2008

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Spilling Over

burning bush

By way of a coda to my recent post on fear of aging, I happened to catch that American Express commercial with designer Diane Von Furstenberg last night, and thought to myself, now there is a vision of mature beauty. I went googling around to see what she might be like on the inside, and found this interview.

Scanning down the page, my eyes lit on this:
At 40, you can no longer just count on your beauty or on your seduction power…it is time to become a myth...meaning, stand for something...

A friend of mine who is writing a book on life stages says that aging is the shift to a state that transcends personal ego, in which you come to "belong to the ages."

To me, the above photo says the same thing. I'm drawn to self-portraiture for all the reasons I love writing memoir. It's an attempt at clarity, an opportunity to stand apart and see where I really am. When I made this photo earlier this summer, I couldn't put into words what was going on with me; I don't think I knew, and honestly, I'm not sure I can articulate it now. But this image captures it. I'll spare you the all the lazy, florid metaphors about flowering womanhood and blazing emotion. Suffice it to say my focus is shifting, the way I see myself is changing, and a 38-year-old body turns out to be an inadequate container for all that life keeps pouring into it.

I think it's a picture of my life beginning to spill over.

When I decided to run toward, instead of away, from my writing, I set out purposefully to find examples of writers (and other artists) who ran counter to the negative stereotypes of a life in the arts. Once I started looking, they were everywhere. We become what we believe.

So I'm building a new belief about what it means to age, training my eye to pass over the negative stereotypes and focus on the people who defy them, inside and out.

I've always loved collage for that kind of re-imagining: going through a stack of magazines with a pair of scissors or sometimes just tearing pages with my hands, literally deconstructing the visual creed of popular culture and reassembling it. It's a trick I learned from the Artist's Way, and it packs some mighty mojo.

If I had an afternoon and a stack of magazines, I'd collage myself a new map for growing older and prop it up on my dresser. I don't have that luxury at the moment or anywhere in the near future. I've got three boys to outfit for school on Monday, and some big writing deadlines looming. I shouldn't even be here in my "create post" window.

But I've been holding that little scrap of wisdom from Von Furstenberg since last night, and I had to glue it down somewhere. That photo and my friend's observation seem to go with it. Help me out with the rest. Bring your own quote, image, person, song or story that represents an alternate vision of growing older—growing more— and glue it down it the comments section. It doesn't have to make sense, it only needs to speak to you. Let's re-imagine this thing together.



Blogger Lindsay said...

"Write your own script, and don't be afraid to rewrite it later"

Said to self when my gut is telling me to do something that is against societal norms, but that I feel is appropriate for me. ie) currently contemplating moving from town in booming economy to city with crap economy but other things we desire.

Wicked post, as usual.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

"Woman must come of age by herself. This is the essence of 'coming of age' - to learn how to stand alone. She must learn not to depend on another, nor to feel she must prove her strength by competing with another." - Anne Morrow Lindburgh "Gift From the Sea"

I agree with you, "We become what we believe."

Thank you for explaining your self-portraiture. I've often wondered about it...


11:51 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

"Protect me from the things I want."

I'm finally learning that life as it just happens to unfold is often better than the life I try to force.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

After my mom died, a friend gave me a CD that turned into the soundtrack to my grief but also my recovery. When I'm feeling particularly sad or overwhelmed, I get in the car, roll up the windows, and drive around singing the lyrics to Anna Nalick's "Breathe" at the top my lungs:

"Cause you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable, and life's like an hourglass glued to the table, no one can find the rewind button girl, so just cradle your head in your hands, and breathe, just breathe."

Sometimes you've got to give yourself points just for swinging your legs over the side of the bed, diapering the babies, and breathing in and out, all day long.

12:51 PM  
Blogger elaine said...

I thought of all this during the elevator ride back to my office after lunch. (It was the milk run and we stopped at every floor.)

Well, I have 10 years "on" you, Kyran but that could mean either direction, depending on how we look at it.

No quotes about aging come to mind so I'll just share a couple of observations.

For me, some things get easier with age, such as acceptance of self, others, and countless things we cannot control in this world.

I don't what to droop, sag or wrinkle (who does?) but as long as I'm healthy and strong enough to do everything I want to do (including running, hiking & Pilates beyond my 7th decade) I'll try not to complain.

I love the title of this post. Yes, I want to retain my health but I want to spill over, too.

I just thought of a quote. Will send it as soon as I look up the exact wording.

PS (I turned 48 in May.)

4:05 PM  
Blogger elaine said...

Here is the promised quote:

"Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) playwright

This was on the birthday card I gave to my mom on her 70th birthday because it described her energy and optimism so well. A few years later, she's still burning brightly and spilling over. I hope to have inherited the necessary genes be doing this, just a little more than 20 years.

OK, reality has just hit me in the face. Kyran, you are so wise to suggest we re-imagine this together.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.--Douglas MacArthur

I always thought it was better to be interesting rather than beautiful and that my words made me attractive and powerful, not my smile or my legs.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Thank you for sharing that Von Furstenburg quote, it's lovely as were your thoughts on aging. My heroes are women who have lived with passion and purpose. It seems that you are certainly doing that through your writing.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

I have found that blogging has completely changed my attitudes on aging. It is on of the greatest joys that I have found here. In my own "real" life, I tend to live a segregated life, mostly interacting with those of the same age and societal standing. It is just how life tends to work out. Blogging dilutes that because you tend to interact with the "spirit" of the person, which doesn't follow the typical ways we form cliques, including the way we tend to associate with those of the same age. I remember two years ago, I got myself involved in some funny "bachelor blogger auction" for charity. I was won by a professor in New Jersey who is in her sixties. I was surprised by how little difference this mattered in our interaction. We fake flirted online a bit in an amusing way, setting up our date, and eventually went on our "date," with our spouses! This woman, Tamarika, is completely sexy and has a younger spirt than I do. And honestly, at the time, the only way I was able to appreciate this was because our initial interaction was online. If we would had met at a party, I would probably have reacted differently to her, being more aloof and "respectful" because of her age and position. Instead, I was able to get to know the saucy, funny woman who is ageless, so when I finally met her -- the white hair and the few wrinkles were meaningless. If things were a little different, I might have really dated her!

Now, when I meet someone older, even someone elderly walking with a stroller, I try not to see their age first, but their spirit.

And by the way, Kyran, no offense to your lovely words in this post, but I don't think you have to worry too much about your maturing beauty.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Jerri Ann said...

I don't know that I am creative enough to come up with my own quote, but I do have something lame to say. Well, it sounds lame anyway.

We watch a lot of reality shows. Survivor is our favorite but we've been watching Big Brother the last 2 seasons. The subject came up about being on the show.

I told several people that I certainly couldn't do it now but when I was in my early 20's, I would have been all over trying out for those shows. I know if I had been on some show like that in my early 20's though, I would have embarrassed myself. Now.....though...

Then, I heard the following words come out of my mouth and it totally floored me.

"I am so much smarter now than I was in my early 20's even though at the time, I was fairly certain that no one would ever convince me that my personality was terribly over-bearing."

I'm still a bit over-bearing but nothing like I was 20 years ago...and stupid.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

"You don't get to be old by bein' no fool.
A lot of young wise men are dead as a mofo*"

--Richard Pryor

* Richard Pryor, being Richard Pryor, didn't use the term 'mofo'. But seeing as how this is a family blog and all...

11:54 AM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

Carolyn See wrote a book about a happy artist, "The Handyman." I wonder what it says about our culture that we need artists to pay dearly for their art?

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that pic!

7:00 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I was at the salon a couple of weeks ago, getting my ever-increasing grays dyed, and flipping through the August Vogue, on aging.

I can't remember who the woman was, but there was a full page, color photo of a beautiful woman in her 80s, with long gray hair blowing behind her, and I thought, "Okay." Okay, as in, okay -- maybe I can do this. (I turn the big 4-0 in a few months.)

10:11 PM  
Blogger Shellie said...

Personally, I have always found Diane Keaton to be one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

"It's never too late to be who you might have been" George Eliot

I graduated with a PhD in clinical psychology at the age of 45. I'm 49now and I love my work and my life. What a ride, and academia was only a small part of the learning process. Now, I just want to continue learning and growing...and turning 50 doesn't phase me :)

10:09 PM  

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