Posted in Backstory, Writing

Mining the wisdom of the ‘crone’

Senior woman contemplatingCrone.  What an awful word.  And yet I’ve been thinking about her this week, and how I might tap into my own inner crone to see if she has any wisdom that might inform both my writing and my day job these days.

Some definitions of the word suggest that it refers to an old woman who is ugly, thin, withered, cranky.  Wikipedia’s entry on the crone says she’s “…disagreeable, malicious, or sinister…”—a  folkloric character.  But it also suggests that crones are magical, and that they are the archetypical wise woman.

Some years ago I spent a lot of time reading and listening to Clarissa Pinkola Estes (who famously wrote Women Who Run with Wolves) and her stories about the archetypal crone, or as she sees her, the wise old woman.  She conceptualized the three stages of a woman’s life as maiden, mother, crone, implying that if we live long enough, we’ll all enter that final stage.  The crone.  But Dr. Estes doesn’t see it as so bad.  In fact, listening to her tell stories about crones often made me look forward to the day when some of the following might be a part of my life.

  • Not caring what anyone else thinks about what I do…
  • …but tempering that lack of care with the wisdom to know when not to hurt others…
  • …coupled with the accumulated years of decisions, choices, and knowledge that when mixed together and applied judiciously result in wisdom.

And so, I’m thinking about how much wisdom I might have accumulated at this point in my life.  Do I have enough wisdom to be able to stand back and let my younger colleagues make their own mistakes, to let them take the view that older is not better, to let them believe that their considerable erudition is a match for wisdom?  Do I have enough wisdom to apply it to my writing?  Can I mine those choices, that knowledge (of myself and others), those decisions?

The website Crones Counsel says this about the crone:  “Crone women fly directly into the face of ageism and sexism. They refuse to be put down. They do not walk meekly on the road to old age. They are keen to assert their presence if not their influence.”[1]

I guess the part of this that I have had the most difficulty with in recent years is asserting presence without asserting influence.  I’m not sure what happened this week, but I seem to have had an epiphany.  I seem to no longer feel the need to influence external factors.  Perhaps that will serve me well in my interior life where my writing lives before it gets out onto the page /computer screen.

Crones Counsel also says: “…a Crone is an older woman who has learned to walk in her own truth, in her own way, having gained her strength by acknowledging the power and wisdom of the totality of her experience. She is “a wise old woman.”[2]

I’m going to do as they suggest and celebrate the place I am in my life.  It’s time to let go of a few things so that I can embrace my own truth.

Posted in Backstory

My writing ‘girlfriends’: Now Nora’s gone

I am a woman who would rather poke her eyes out with a red-hot poker than spend an evening with a bunch of women.  The ubiquity of magazine articles extolling the virtues of our ‘girlfriends’ have never resonated with me.  My girlfriend preference is for the arms-length, mentor type.  And one of those women whose work has inspired (and I daresay influenced me) died last week.  I’m talking of course about Nora Ephron.

I don’t think that her influence on me was in my conscious mind until I read about her death and thought, “We’ve lost a good one.”  Then I started thinking.

In all of my writing (of the non-academic type), my protagonists (whether fictional or real) are strong women, feminist types, ahead of their times or just plain wise.  Although she may have been best known to the masses as a screenwriter, it wasn’t her movies that inspired me – it was her journalistic career and her books.

I first read Heartburn in 1983 or ’84, soon after it was published.  Relating a seriously funny take on the break-up of a perfect marriage, the book resonated with me partly because I had escaped a (less-than-perfect) marriage myself only a few years earlier, and I found her witticisms so spot-on that she captivated me for the long-term.  When I think about some of her most valuable pieces of advice over the years, I’m almost alarmed how much I agree with her.

When she said, “I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive,” I found myself nodding in agreement.

And then there was advice for living: “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”  Yes, I should have done that.

But of course, she also said, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

Amen.  And I don’t feel bad about my neck.  Yet.  Sigh.