Aging takes place against a backdrop of grief. It’s the little losses and then the larger losses
Today my guest is Stephanie Raffelock. Stephanie wrote a cute inspirational book called A Delightful Little Book on Aging. I read the book, and I absolutely loved it!
How Did the Book Come About?
The book sort of came about on accident for Stephanie. She was writing for a website and she got feedback from women all around the world. They had told her that they too were experiencing this kind of shift in their lives as they were entering into their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Stephanie began to see that there are two ways to navigate the waters of aging. One way is to embrace the years, the strength, courage, and nobility that come with growing older. The other way was to simply say aging sucks, I don’t like it and I’m going to fight it for as long as possible.
She collected and compiled many of the essays and articles she had written to put into this book. It’s not a how-to book, it’s not a self-help book. It is a book of personal essays, of personal experience of navigating the waters against a backdrop of grief, reclamation, vison, and laughter.
The Monkey Bar Incident
Stephanie’s husband had clients in town, and they lived near a lake at the time. They decided to walk around the lake and all around the lake they have little exercise or play areas. So, one area might have swings and then you walk a little bit further and there might be a Jungle Jim. Then there is a spot that has monkey bars.
Stephanie remembers the monkey bars from when she was little, and it was her favorite thing in the school playground swinging from bar to bar. She didn’t know what got into her that evening, but she put her hand on the ladder and climbed up the first bar. She swung to reach the other bar and then she fell! Embarrassed as her husband and his clients ran over to see if she was ok. Stephanie's husband asked what were you doing? She knew what she was doing; she was trying to be young. There was this moment of realization that her muscle tone and connective tissue were not the same as when she was younger, and it was not going to be the same.
That athletic prowess of one in their 30s, 40s and even 50s ceases to be. There are things that fall away from us. There are little losses. Aging takes place against a backdrop of grief. It’s the little losses and then the larger losses.
It puts us in a unique kind of situation to live in these times. A time of coronavirus where we are all living against a backdrop of grief. As an older person, Stephanie knows what it is to feel vulnerable. Now the whole playing field has been leveled, so society is feeling vulnerable. Stephanie knows how to navigate vulnerability. You embrace it. You realize you don’t have control over everything, and you also realize that grief is a bridge. It’s not like an end result, it’s not a place to get stuck. It’s a bridge to something new.
The idea of allowing one’s self to feel deeply and to cry is something that is not on the surface. That’s something you do in private. Or as Stephanie's mother used to say, “don’t air your dirty laundry”. I think it’s a real shame that we don’t have a container for grief in our culture where people can cry about what’s going on because in the tears is this great soul bath. It’s this great releasing of those things so that you don’t have to carry the weight of the burden of sorrow with you. The way to unburden your self is to let yourself cry and then you get to move on.
I asked Stephanie how to start the process of gratitude, and she knew exactly when she started. Stephanie had a friend in Arizona who was a woman from India. She had told her about her mother who never got out of bed without saying thank you before her feet even hit the floor. And something about that captured her. So Stephanie began to experiment with that. What was it like to say thank you first thing in the morning? What was it like to say thank you throughout the day? And there are a lot of ways to do that. One thing that she has just recently learned is to just sit for a few minutes, with her eyes closed, and breathe the words thank you. Inhale thank you and exhale thank you.
Thank you, don’t always have to be attached to something. If you can open the refrigerator and there is food in there for the day, you have a lot to be grateful for. That’s not true all over the world. If it’s raining outside and you have a roof over your head, you have a lot to be grateful for. It’s just a matter of noticing it and claiming it. Gratitude is a learned practice.
We do have a lot to the grateful for. A lot of us are going crazy because of what we call a lockdown. But what we are calling lockdown is nothing compared to other places in the world. There are places you need a pass just to leave your house. COVID-19 has also brought some blessings. We discuss how to find ways of being grateful during this time. It really does lift your mood.
How Did you find your purpose?
It seems a lot of us struggle to find purpose as we are aging.
For Stephanie, it was trial and error. There’s usually that thing in your life that keeps circling back around and was so good at ignoring it. Sometimes I think that if my purpose was right in front of me, I would probably trip over it. It’s that close to us all the time. It’s not really a big treasure hunt.
Stephanie Raffelock is a graduate of Naropa University’s program in Writing and Poetics, who has penned articles for numerous publications. A Delightful Little Book on Aging, her first book with She Writes Press, will be released in the spring of 2020. She is the host of Coffee Table Wisdom, a podcast that is a revolution in positive aging. A recent transplant to Austin, Texas, she enjoys life with her husband, Dean, and their Labrador retriever, Jeter (yes, named after the great Yankee shortstop).
Her website is https://stephanieraffelock.com/
A Delightful Little Book on Aging can be found on Indie Bound, Amazon, or Barnes and Nobel
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