My maternal Grandmother died at 80. This was pretty old in her day. My mother died just short of her 80th birthday, which pains me still. She was not old. She did not look or act old. But she felt old. She lost interest in what had always pleased and sustained her, and thought that she was too old to pursue other interests. Really, she just gave up. I shouldn’t say, “just.” She did have cancer. But she gave up caring.
The Great Depression had robbed her of the college education that she craved. Once she became a mother and then a divorced woman with two kids to raise and no child support, she was too busy to think about developing her own passions. And by the time my brother and I were off on our own, she had gotten out of the habit of aspiring to inner growth.
And that is how she died. She quit. She simply quit in her spirit. She was tired and she gave in. On her deathbed, she felt her regrets. How incredibly sad to hear a really smart, successful, independent, dynamic woman bemoan the fact that she had not done this, that or the other thing that she had wanted to do.
My mother was an amazing role model for me in a great many ways, both positive and negative. Her midlife reinvention for herself was an inspiration to me that contributed to the formation of the Queen archetype for mature women. She was an extraordinary Queen in her middle age. Exemplary.
But I think that she thought that she had to give up her crown in old age. She saw nothing appealing about being a Crone. She hated her aging body and considered it a traitor. Nothing seemed to peak her enthusiasm. She worried about being debilitated and dependent. She did not seek, recognize or value the gifts, the huge benefits, of enhanced self-awareness and esteem presented to us during the aging process.
This is one debilitating attitude that I do not wish to emulate. My resistance to identifying myself as a Crone, while still in my middle years is not born of a fear of aging — especially considering the alternative. I am not afraid of aging. I am afraid of not aging! As Woody Allen put it, “I don’t want to be immortal through my work. I want to be immortal through not dying.”
I have absolutely every intention of being a very, very old woman, hopefully, the oldest woman who ever lived! My goal is to reach 100 years of wise age — with the caveat that I want to know that I am 100! I absolutely want to be a Crone. Just not yet.
When I grow up to be a Crone, I want to be a Grandma Moses, a Louise Nevelson, a Georgia O’Keefe, a Martha Graham, a Mother Teresa, a Maria Sabina or a Delaney sister — a truly stellar elder whose visionary influence extends far into the future. A wise and wooly sage who is wholly engaged.
But for now and the foreseeable future, I glory in my Queendom. I do plan to move on someday, probably in my mid 70s, to the august domain of the Empress Crone. And you better believe that I will be taking my crown with me.
“I have found it to be true that the older I’ve become the better my life has become.”
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.