Tag Archives: SheEO

Meeting the Moment 2021 #42

This week I was invited to talk about ageism and share with a global audience. It was a moment worth meeting. I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my internalised ageism, how it started and how I am finding a way to keep it in check.

For decades I was often the youngest person in the room, sometimes the only woman … and then one day I noticed, as if by osmosis, I had somehow morphed into being the oldest. Like many women my working life was interrupted by children and child rearing and then a few weeks before turning fifty I began what I thought was going to be a sprint caring for a dying husband, however became a marathon and at almost a decade it ended and I deemed it an ultra marathon. I stepped away from formal leadership, or as one colleague, in what I considered ungracious, announced to the world – oh yes, you faded away from view. While this set of circumstances were not particularly age related, by the time I felt I was back in some meaningful way to the workforce, I was eligible for a Seniors Card.

What had happened? Many people may not recognise what I felt had happened – I had made myself invisible. I didn’t want any attention drawn to myself, I was becoming smaller, I was reducing the space I was taking up in the world, almost apologising for being here, feeling like I was a nuisance asking for help and not quite knowing if I did ask for help whether it would be seen as an act of someone feeble or helpless. I felt like I was disappearing and a disappearance linked to changes associated with growing older, no children at home, being widowed.

Conspiracy theories, lies and fake news about ageing had seeped in. My social feeds had incontinence pad messages, retirement home real estate ads and sudoku puzzles to stave off memory loss. I was enabling my own evaporation. It was not good! While these feelings may not have been visible on the outside, I was certainly feeling it on the inside. I had already been subject to significant gas lighting over a long period of time, and perhaps those foundations provided fertile soil for internalised ageism to take root?

As I headed into my 60th birthday, I started to look around me and see how others were approaching this time of life. I fell in love with 2 ideas – one was Jane Fonda calling the period beyond 60 as Act 3 and the second was from Brazilian researcher, Alexandre Kalache – who talks about the gift of all these extra years for our generation and what we might do to cherish them and use them to transform the future. I had been fortunate enough to have had a day hanging out with Prof Kalache while he was in Adelaide on a Thinkers-in-Residence program and he was providing content to develop a series of short videos as part of a community statewide consultation on ageing I was involved in. Amnesia had set in, I hadn’t thought about his work and its own meaning in my life until I took those moments to reflect on arriving at a new decade.

I checked myself on what biases I was holding and where they were being reinforced around me.  I took stock. I stopped myself in my tracks and got back to the core of myself, which I think is ageless.

I am now actively moving into these years mindfully embracing eldership – as someone who brings a harvest of wisdom, someone who knows what it means to walk into fires and cyclically rise from flames like a phoenix, and someone who embraces her Celtic heritage of the crone – the third woman of the trinity, matching maiden and mother, now as crone venerated for her experience; where wit is another word for wisdom and hag is for holy. I want to recover these words and reclaim them for our times and for this time in my life. I want to meet these moments with wit, wisdom and holiness and deep gratitude for being able to keep contributing to the future, through my actions each day.

We are all midwifing the future and I am glad to have stepped back from the kerb of palliative care in the present. Those wonderful students and their friends and allies marching for climate justice on Friday inspire and encourage me. This is no time to be fading away.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Year of activism #47

Spring ends in a couple of days and we have already passed records for hottest day in November. The Climate Emergency bells are ringing and even with our planet being a beneficiary of some of the COVID restrictions, the data is in, and the ones listening to the scientists and to ancient wisdom and the ones most alarmed, feeling the urgency …. another COVID response correlation.

Wearing a mask is a sign of public health activism, in same way choosing food that is grown locally, unpackaged and has a fair price to farmers attached. Cue the soundtrack We are the World and somehow that anthem takes on renewed meaning – we are the ones saving our own lives. To all the singers and songwriters who help us grow movements for change one from my tradition and culture always stands out – Pete Seeger. He died in 2014 and in 2009 there was quite a campaign to get him nominated for the Nobel Prize, which I thought was quite a good idea at the time. He was the oldest person to ever sing at a US Presidential inauguration. Listening him sing (all the verses of Guthrie’s) This Land is Your Land remains an abiding memory of how we can live together, work together and put the land and the planet at the centre of our decision-making for ourselves and the future.

Privileging and understanding the centrality of land for climate response seems crucial to me. SDG #15 Life on Land seems to have it all, and there are so many opportunities to make a contribution: tree planting, soil rehabilitation, land rights, understanding land as mother, food security, benefits of nature, reforestation, regeneration. This is not a stewardship relationship with the land, it is an invitational relationship. We get called each and everyone of us, each and everyday to respond to this invitation. The invitation to bring our best selves, knowledge, skills, curiosity, wonder and awe to what the planet, in fact land and sea, has to offer us. We are being invited to halt, to heal, to discover, to mask, to declare, to celebrate, to mourn. These are times in which at every turn we can make and take a step towards turning the sirens of the climate emergency down a notch.

I am examining, with others as part of SheEO’s Racial Justice Working Group, the place of this SDG in relation to racial justice. The language of colonisation, white supremacy, patriarchy continues to get in the way and one of the first invitations I am trying to accept is around language. Moving from extractive to generative language is quite a discipline. I am looking for new words for stewardship, leaving descriptors like First and Third world, developing, under developed behind. Bringing in the mystical and mythological to frame and bring a big enough canvas to hold the depth of values and meaning that is not possible in the transactional nature of most conversations about land.

As our temperatures start to soar in my part of this pale blue dot and summer rolls across the skies and the sands beneath our feet glare and heat up making it hard to even have the grains between our toes, I know there are fire crews training, meteorologists modelling, animal rescue volunteers stocking up on bandages, farmers checking dams, policy makers reviewing plans. So to all those who have been ringing bells and calling emergency for decades and for all those prepping to be first responders in the summer ahead, and for all those who year in and year out have been reminding us it is is time to act, I give deep thanks to you for being relentless in your acceptance of the invitation and for being the vehicle to transmit the message to those of us who have been so slow to hear it being extended to us. This land was made for you and me.

Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash