Monday, April 2, 2018

Finding Heart Dreams through the eyes of the Fool

Susa Silvermarie, Open Circle, April 1, 2018
One of the many things I love about being here in Ajijic, Mexico, is Open Circle, a free, weekly presentation designed to inform, inspire or entertain. Since I’ve been here, subjects have ranged from fairy stories to the state of Lake Chapala, from the possibility of a financial crisis to an opera performance.  The quality of the presentations are incredible for this small village and this week’s presentation … on April 1st continued the tradition of excellence with Susa Silvermarie’s, “Fool’s Way to Joyful Aging.” 

Susa is a poet, philosopher and performer and she enchanted us with her powerful words and encouragement to follow the Fool. One of her thoughts that struck me was … what if we are actually in the third trimester of a different form of pregnancy … standing on the brink, being born into a new world?

As we deal with the normal things that come our way during this stage of life … death of friends and family, illness, loss of identity and status … according to Silvermarie, we are invited to play with the Fool, an archetype in the Tarot deck often represented as someone standing on the edge of a high cliff while gazing upward into the Infinite. Perched on the threshold where one journey ends and another begins, the Fool seems unafraid, and indeed, somewhat “fool hardy.”

Silvermarie suggests that the Fool is an ideal archetype, not only for this third stage of life, but "for new beginnings, freedom, and an adventurous spirit,” a description of all of us who sat listening to her … we immigrants to this land, this new life.

Having invited men to stretch in order to feel included, she used feminine pronouns throughout the presentation and in many of her shared poems, including:
An Archetype for Immigrants

She comes to the new land
to begin a fresh life,

She comes for freedom.
She doesn’t name herself
ex-anything, not she.

The Fool doesn’t look back
or define herself by what
she used to be.

Forward she steps,
off the cliff of control—
into the unfamiliar,
into the mysterious,
into adventure!

And, as we step into this new part of an ancient journey, Silvermarie tells us that the Ojibwe term for a female elder is mindi-muyén … one who holds things together and asks how we might feel and how our culture and our lives might be different if we elders, male and female, were known as the ones who hold things together? Might we begin to think of this stage as one of power and importance?

With that ground work, Silvermarie began to weave a message that could change our way of thinking about aging, sharing her own poems and words from Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism:
For movements to have power, their members have to embrace the thing that is stigmatized, whether it’s being black, loving someone of the same gender—or growing old! That means moving from denying aging to accepting it, and finally, to embracing it.

Trying to pass for younger is like a gay person trying to pass for straight, or a person of color for white. These trying-to-pass behaviors are rooted in shame over something that in not shameful. And, these behaviors give a pass to the underlying discrimination that makes them necessary.

Joining forces against ageism is a big task. Open any women’s magazine and advertisements shout, “How can you expect to be desired if you ‘let yourself go?’” But none of that stigma is natural, none of it is fixed, and change is underway. One magazine has banned the term “anti-aging” from its pages; instead, defining aging as: “the long-awaited, utterly necessary celebration of growing into your own skin, wrinkles and all.”

Silvermarie invited us to stop, reflect and celebrate growing into our own skins.  Allure magazine, the one that has recently banned the term “anti-aging,” also asked readers to repeat, "Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life.” 

Silvermarie left me, and the Open Circle audience, feeling alive, inspired, and a little more powerful. 
Heart Dreams by Joyce Wycoff
As I looked around the audience and thought of the people I have met in my almost-one-year here, I am awed by what I’ve seen. Immigrants to this region by the lake have created powerful and generous projects to improve life here … such as water projects bringing clean water to villages, orphanages, community centers, school support and rebuilding projects, pet rescue and spaying programs, art programs for children. 
I see people starting to make art, play musical instruments, write books, learn Spanish, participate in little theater, and dozens of other things that make their lives full and happy. I see them following their own Heart Dreams.

A recent Good Housekeeping magazine article recognized several powerful women over 50 and my favorite was Marie Wilson, 77, who said, "What keeps people strong and healthy is the ability to make change — in their job, in their community or in their home.”  In their own lives.
Silvermarie’s presentation was an inspiration to follow the Fool, step off the precipice and celebrate growing into our full selves. Thanks, Susa!

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