C. J. Golden (see photo below) transformed her angst about growing older into a healing movement. The title of her book says it all: The Tao of the Defiant Woman: A Guide to Life Over 40: Accepting What We Must--and Rebelling Against the Rest. (Don't you love it?) Although the book is a must-read for women, I suspect its message will also resonate with men.
Recently, I asked C. J. to put into words how she went from dreading birthdays to celebrating them. Here's what she wrote:
It Beats the Alternative
The alternative to a long life is death. Given the choice of one over the other, which would you pick?
While I suspect the answer is obvious to most, it wasn’t to me. Certainly I could incant with the best of them: “Getting older sure beats the alternative.” But with each approaching birthday, I pondered the wisdom of what I was saying. Every year as my birthday loomed, I employed various avoidance methods. My husband was my accomplice. He’d begin collecting the mail weeks before my “big day” in order to intercept any birthday cards that were sent to me, and together we’d begin planning a vacation around the date.
I was not having fun.
My big breakthrough came the day my step-daughter announced she was pregnant. The very thought of having a grandchild became the icing on the cake of my distress. I was going to be a grandmother! How dare my daughter do this to me? I did the only thing I was capable of doing at the time – I stopped talking to her.
Salvation from my self-inflicted sorrow began during the sixtieth birthday celebration of my dear friend Kathy. She embraced her birthdays, I embalmed them. She celebrated her years, I castigated them. How I wanted to learn how to apply Kathy's attitude to my own life!
“How is it,” I asked her, “that you can actually celebrate your birthday?
“Why don’t you go out there and talk to other women about this?” Kathy replied. “Perhaps you’ll find the answers.”
And so I did.
I began my personal crusade by questioning friends and acquaintances and family members. They in turn referred me to others. Ultimately, I interviewed hundreds of women ages 17 to 91 with a variety of lifestyles and ethnic backgrounds.
Kathy’s caring suggestion began to take on a life of its own as I held seminars and workshops for groups of women to come together and talk about aging—to laugh, to complain, to tell their stories. I discovered that there is a real need for women to communicate and face the aging process together.
I realized I was not alone in my discomfort at facing my advancing age. There were others out there who were having a difficult time of it as well. I did, of course, also meet women who were able to accept the aging process gracefully. They, I realized, would be my role models.
Ultimately, I discovered that it wasn’t a fear of growing closer to death that had kept me from enjoying the passing years. It was a fear of growing further from youth. In great part my fear was due to a misconception in this country that fifty and sixty is old, and that “old” is something to be ashamed of.
That first grandchild is now a wonderful little girl of six. And as she has grown, so, too, have I.
There is an ancient Chinese philosophy known as Taoism. The word “Tao” translates to “the path” or “the way.” I’ve learned to incorporate its principles into my life by accepting that which is inevitable while remaining bold and vital.
I am a grandmother now to three amazing grandchildren - with another on the way. Still strong and healthy and enjoying every day to its fullest, I keep stretching my horizons by accomplishing new tasks, both physical and mental.
In June I shall be sixty-three. I can’t wait to celebrate. It sure beats the alternative!
To learn more about C. J., visit www.taogirl.com