“There’s a river of love that runs through all times
There’s a river of grief that floods through our lives
It starts when a heart is broken in two
By the thief of belief in anything that’s true
But there’s a river of love that runs through all time”
(T Bone Burnett)
I was at an event recently, celebrating and supporting recovery from addiction. It was a two day gathering, with meetings and food and entertainment. Laughter and tears. People came from around NZ and elsewhere – about 180 beings in all. Love was in the air.
One of the meeting topics was “Aging in Recovery” and I was asked to chair and share some of my ageing story. Which I did. Well sort of. Unexpectedly, a former partner was in the room. I was conscious of his presence and I modified. Old habits die hard. I can’t remember what I said. I can remember what I didn’t say.
What I didn’t say was I was born with the gift and the curse of beauty. I was much admired, as a small child, for the way I looked. People made a fuss. It was difficult being the centre of that kind of attention because I didn’t feel deserving of the praise and acknowledgement. I knew that I was deeply flawed – ugly on the inside. I learned to cope and act accordingly though, smiling prettily and not taking up too much space. After all, I was adopted, and if I didn’t look good, maybe I would be sent back to ‘the orphanage’. So I learned to get by on how I thought other people wanted to see me. I learned it was important for me to be whoever you wanted me to be. This explanation may seem simplistic and it is.
Youth and beauty became my currency as I passively manipulated my way through my world. I thought it was all I had to offer. As the years went by and I became more dependent on more expensive drugs, good looks and charm served me well. I used people as well as drugs. I sold an idea of the self I perceived was wanted at the time, and got my needs met that way. Except I didn’t. I was hollow and full of fear and shame on. Terrified you would find out I was a fraud. Initially, the drugs helped beautifully to quell the fears and dissonance. Then they stopped working. I was well and truly fucked. And not in a good way.
Getting by on good looks and charm is a precarious existence and can be easily threatened by the presence of another woman or women. The instant internal comparisons. The measuring of oneself against the other as well as observing the effect they are having on the men in the room. So stressful, and all the while, acting as if all is well. Nothing feels real. There was no room for connection.
I hear older women speaking of seeing their mother looking back at them from the mirror and the range of emotions this evokes. I didn’t know my mother so I don’t have that. I do see an old woman in the mirror though. The age of my reflection is in contrast to how I feel most of the time. There’s a freshness. The new beginnings and an openness for learning. The love and connection. Teachable, as never before.
Jack Kornfield gets it. ”When you look in the mirror you notice you’ve grown old. The skin is wrinkled or you’ve lost some hair. But the remarkable thing is, you don’t necessarily feel older. It is only the body that has aged. But the consciousness, the mindful witness that sees the body, knows that this is not all of who you are. The mind and heart, the spirit, exist outside of time. This is the great paradox. We are not the body. Yet the body is our treasure.”
After all these years of watching myself being watched and adjusting myself accordingly for the (mostly) male view, no one sees me in that way now. No one sees me. It’s fucking weird. And it brings with it a freedom that I haven’t previously experienced.
I am blessed to have many young women, including my two beautiful daughters, in my life today, and I can see and appreciate their beauty in a way I was never able to in the past. I enjoy and thrive in their company and all that shit about feeling threatened has gone. There is a little river of grief always present though. Part of me misses the excitement of the hustle…Duality.
To live at ease in the present moment means letting go of old beliefs and ideas that helped me survive. They served me well and no longer do so. It’s like saying goodbye to old friends. It IS saying goodbye to old friends! And that reminds me of another confronting aspect being old; the amount of funerals. Feeling the grief of burying people as they pass on. Jesus. Aging can be a bitch.
Being in recovery from addiction, with guidance and support along the path, gives me the
grace and gratitude to be okay with who I am today. It helps to quiet the mind and soothe the heart. Repairing and renewing, one day at a time, as the skin wrinkles and I practice aligning myself with, and turning in towards, life and love.
May we be well
May we be happy
May we live with ease