It used to be that the years would pile up, one on top of the other. “Where does the time go!” we cried, palms to cheeks. Now, it’s the decades piling. Decades are laying dusty atop one another like so many old files, stuffed and disorganized and in need of sorting.
Ten years ago, I fell apart. The story isn’t that tidy, of course — I didn’t wake one morning completely unraveled — but it’s close. The vagaries of a female body, in a world that eats girls, caught up to me and I fell down. Literally. And when I got up, it was hard to stay up. There was a lot of hot water, in other words.
A curious thing happened at the time of the falling apart, though. I started writing. In a ceaseless rush, the words spilled out of me. After a lifetime of yearning to uncork the creative, it happened unbidden, in my darkest hour. All those words on the page have somehow carried me into a new, surprising, and rewarding stage of my life. Creativity saved me.
I lately find myself intrigued (obsessed?) with the stories of creative women hitting their stride later in life. Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first of her Little House books at 65. Sojourner Truth worked for women’s suffrage and civil rights well into her seventies. Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78, when arthritis made embroidery too difficult. Rachel Ruysch, the brilliant Dutch still-life painter, proudly signed her age on her paintings and worked into her eighties. Toni Morrison still burns bright at 87, a leading literary voice and a force for feminism and racial equality. Beatrice Wood — the “Mama of Dada” — made art until the end of her astounding 105 years, publishing at the young age of 92 an autobiography titled, I Shock Myself.
Aging is an effective teacher, if we listen. It counsels patience and acceptance, it gives us perspective and experience. The decades can whittle away our concern for the opinions of others. They prune the unnecessary and allow us to blossom as we are, as we want to be. I care so much less now for protocol, for norms, for the rules of society. The cycles, the seasons, the wins, and the losses — it’s bouncing back and getting up that trains us for the marathon. The storms are easier to weather when we’ve seen so many.
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In Anna Louie Sussman’s article, “Why Old Women Have Replaced Young Men as the Art World’s Darlings,” the South African artist Sue Williamson observes, “Women in later life often push aside their anxieties about satisfying the market, and competing with their male colleagues for attention, and just make work which pleases themselves, first and foremost.”
Link to the rest at Medium