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Empowering, Enlightening, and Entertaining
on April 21, 2013
When I saw Carol Orsborn's website, Fierce with Age, I thought I might have found a kindred spirit in the author. When I read this book, Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn, I knew for sure. Carol Orsborn is on to something that I, at age 59, am really hungry for. I want to know how to feel valuable, powerful and at peace in the second half of my life, while still fully functioning in a society that demeans, caricatures, and negates older people.
Carol, who is a good writer, describes a story arc that begins with everything falling apart. She is unwanted and then fired from her job in a world that worships youth. She tries to fight aging by staying in the ring with the younger people, but it gives her no real sense of security. She keeps coming up with ideas for holding back time, only to fail over and over again. Telling of her disappointments, Carol does a good job of layering the blows, one atop the other until we are reeling with her. When everything has been tried, every avenue exhausted, what the hell do we do next? Lie down and die? But we're old, not dead! How do we navigate this new country?
Nearly immobilized with discouragement, Carol struggles with the questions I've wrangled with: So now what, at this age? Who am I without the accouterments of my earlier life? My job, my youth, my expertise in a particular field? If I'm not running the race, do I even have value?
One night, in the middle of a furious electrical storm, she stands on her balcony, screaming and shaking her fist at God, daring Him to kill her now.
And He tells her to get over herself.
From this point, Carol begins to glimpse another, more powerful reality. A gigantic paradigm shift later, the unfurling of which she describes in the second half of the book, Carol is once again back on top, no longer burdened by but rather fierce with age. And we're fierce right along with her.
Carol is very skillful in using metaphor to describe her journey. Particularly satisfying is her change of heart regarding the story of Moses, wherein she finally understands that God was saying, "It's okay to get old. I love you just as you are. So should you."
The only problem I had with the book was the spiritual, God aspect. It's not like Carol misled me. God is in the title. Since I am not a believer, however, some points left me a bit frustrated until I got a brainstorm and began replacing the term "conscious growth" with God, and it worked fine! Here's an example:
Carol: To stop "doing" my personality and leave space for God requires...
Lynne: To stop "doing" my personality and leave space for conscious growth requires...
At some point on our nation's timeline, I believe people our age will stop trying to be young and start seeking and finding the intrinsic value of age. It takes courage, though, because so much of it is beyond our control. Carol makes the point that we have to develop the ability to be at peace with that, and with the strength of maturity, we ought to be able to.
The reward is freedom to become our true selves, unbound by the constraints of society as currently drawn. As Carol says, "The one thing that is up to you is whether you will make getting old a tragedy, or embark upon it as another of life's great adventures."