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Dr. Judith Rich Headshot

The Raisin Years

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From the top of my head to the tips of my toes, my body is slowly dehydrating. "Drying up" is what most people call it. I have entered what I affectionately call, "The Raisin Years."

Age is beginning to have its way with me. Body parts that once were thin are now thickening (think waistline) and I now know why many "women of a certain age" wear their hair extremely short. Now more salt than pepper in color, the few thin wisps that have managed to remain in the vicinity of my head are but a distant echo of days gone by when I sported a long, lush pony tail, a thick French roll, and even a 70's style Afro. Brook Shild eyebrows that once required weekly attendance are a thing of the past. I haven't plucked an errant eyebrow hair since 1984.

While normal hair growth has largely disappeared from the terrain one usually expects to find it; errant hairs have sprouted up in strange and unexpected places, like weeds making their way through cracks in a playground basketball court. I'm often shocked to discover one or more long, wild hairs stealthily growing out of my chin or the top of my forearms.

Disappearing hair is not the only victim of the aging process. Nails that once were smooth and strong now sport deep ridges and look, feel, and crumble like potato chips. I recently read that hand lifts are now the new frontier for cosmetic surgery.

It's tempting to contemplate the benefits of having renewed hands, but on second thought, I prefer to stick with the ones inherited from generations of ancestors who worked the land, peeled potatoes, darned socks, knitted caps and tended babies. I see my mother's earthy hands and gnarly fingers making an encore through the aging of my own. Perhaps I should take up knitting, just to see if I've inherited any of her talents in that department. Having grown up to the sound of knitting needles clicking through long winter nights, I've never felt called to take up the craft. But why else are my fingers beginning to twist and turn if not to be built-in hooks for yarn just waiting to be knitted and pearled into something functional, and perhaps even aesthetically pleasing?

George Bernard Shaw once said, "its a pity that youth is wasted on the young." It does seem unjust that we're not equipped to fully appreciate the gifts endowed by our youth until we've gained the perspective that only aging affords. As I gradually surrender to the inevitability of my body becoming more prune-like, I become aware of a deeper source of juice to sustain me going forward.

Now that I've reached my autumn years, I've begun to sense the presence of new gifts waiting to be harvested. I see that the use of sheer will power can still produce results, and I can draw upon it when needed. But more and more, I feel the call to cultivate a more graceful approach. Learning to surrender to the flow of the river instead of struggling to swim upstream seems to make more sense these days. Call it economy of effort, or call it learning to hear the voice of a deeper wisdom, I am developing an appreciation for what is possible when I allow life to unfold on its own terms.

Cultivating a posture of surrender is not for the feint of heart. It is by no means a passive stance, but rather, requires a heightened awareness of the impermanence of life, the ability to be present, to show up for each moment and consciously choose who and how I want to be in this fleeting now.

I'm learning to accept that at the core of this warrior woman I've been all my life, lies a tender, vulnerable heart that has waited patiently for its turn to lead me into the mystery of what lies ahead. Like a grape that lingers on the vine gently being transformed by the sun's drying rays, I trust that in these "Raisin Years," I too am being distilled into the sweetest, richest essence of who I am.

This, I believe then, is the work of our elder years; to deepen the chalice of our Being by transforming the pain of loss and disappointment into the sweet wine of Wisdom and to drink heartily from the cup of Gratitude. Harvesting the gifts of the "Raisin Years" can be the blessing of a lifetime.

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