An Inspiring Conversation on Aging- Episode 228
May 25, 2020
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 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. 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 comes 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 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 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s 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.