A New Approach to Cronedom

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“I’m the resident crone,” a lady of a certain age announced to me recently. She hastened to add that crone no longer means toothless old hag who haunts the forest. Instead, after a long and distinguished career, she now dispenses hard-won wisdom to her younger colleagues.

There’s a job description I’d like to see on LinkedIn. Resident Crone: Fount of discernment, intuition, perception. Spiritual midwife. Keen judge of character. References on request.

In ancient cultures, elders were honored for their life experience. They sat at council fires and comforted the dying and guided wayward youth. Today, not so much. Popular media seems to suggest that anyone over 40 is irrelevant, unless they happen to be presidential candidates. Otherwise, bring on the arthritis meds and scout out the assisted-living facilities.

Someone once told me this about growing old(er): You become yourself, only more so.

I have been pondering this in light of the new approach to cronedom, and wondering if it means I get to go back to the person I was before people started telling me who I was supposed to be. Since my unrevised self went undercover at about age 6, this could be quite a trip.

It’s not that I long to return to the seesaw and the jungle gym and Saturday morning cartoons. What I would like is to experience again the bubbly enthusiasm I felt for those pursuits, the little internal leap of joy triggered by the bell for school dismissal. I would like to feel the thrill of riding the Ferris wheel at the Fireman’s Carnival on a summer night, and the taste of a Good Humor Chocolate Cake ice cream bar. I would like to cross the Bourne Bridge to Cape Cod and flash back to childhood vacations when my only concern was whether we would, in fact, get to swim every day in the bay, the ocean, and Gull Pond.

And I would like to revisit the handful of things I began to discover then, and which my years on Earth have confirmed to be true.

The world is a dangerous, ambiguous, and unbearably beautiful place.

There are safe havens. Sometimes they appear as pure gifts. Sometimes you have to find them, which requires courage and persistence. Sometimes you have to create them, which requires imagination and unfailing generosity.

People will disappoint you. They will promise to be there and fail to show up, leaving you sitting on the curb when everyone else has gone home. They will profess love and fail to practice it. They will be asleep when you need them to be awake and silent when you need them to speak. 

People will astonish you. The least likely rescuer will pull you from the edge of the cliff. The former Mean Girl will invite you to her birthday party. The troublemaker will turn up one day transformed, admirable, clothed in light.

Families are rarely what they are supposed to be and never what they appear to be. But once in a while, the sharp edges smooth into a circle and you understand why a circle is the perfect shape.

A good poem can redeem a bad day. A poem you commit to memory is a hedge against sorrow and an investment in sanity.

A daily dose of silence fosters clarity in thought and deed.

Grace cannot be earned, bargained for or attained through force of will. It can only be accepted.

So there it is, my crone PowerPoint. I’m hoping it wins me a place at the council fire. I’ve put in some time in this dangerous, ambiguous, and unbearably beautiful world, tested the truths that formed me all those years ago. Late in the game and after many a false start, I have a pretty good idea of who I’m supposed to be.

Myself. Only more so.

Stephanie Piper

Stephanie Piper's At This Point examines the mystery, absurdity, and persistent beauty of daily life. She has been a newspaper reporter, editor, and award-winning columnist for more than 30 years. Her Midpoint column appeared monthly in Metro Pulse from 1997 until 2014.

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