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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Crown Of Willows

Written by  Dvora Waysman

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The Talmud tells us that: "Youth is a garland of roses; old age a crown of willows." (Sabbath 152a). It is hard to admit to growing older, and we always think of old age as 15 years older than we are. The truth is that once you have passed 60, society sees you as "a golden ager".

A well-known American advertisement for moisturizing cream declares: "I won't grow old gracefully. I intend to fight it every step of the way!"

Bernard Shaw proclaimed that youth was wonderful, but it was a great shame to waste it on youth.

I always imagined I would share that philosophy - that I'd dye my hair and look for clothes that were very youthful, but it hasn't happened. My hair is white and my clothes reflect my maturity. It's not that I don't have the energy to fight the approach of old age, I find I no longer have the desire.

I wouldn't be young again even if I had the choice. The youth cult so universally lauded brings on no nostalgia -- in fact, I don't remember that being young was so wonderful. I do remember that the pains were more intense than the joy, and the euphoric state that people talk about is more a trick of memory.

In my case, the 20's were difficult years of adjusting to marriage and childbirth; the 30's were involved in child rearing; the cliche "Life begins at forty" was meaningful for me and many of my friends -- one could allow a career to blossom. The 50's cemented success; and having crossed the threshold of the 60's, I find it brings wonderful compensations.

Maturity means mellowness.

The competitive rat race is behind you, and you are established in what you are doing.

Some of the early dreams may have faded along the way, but reality can be even more satisfying.

Bernard Shaw proclaimed that youth was wonderful, but it was a great shame to waste it on children. I think youth is wonderful mainly because the vast future lying ahead seems to promise that all things are possible. Gradually we learn that they are not and often the disappointments are heart breaking. But, by the time we reach middle age, we accept what we cannot change. I am very contented now that my four children are all married, with children of their own.

Somehow it is easier to be friends with married children, who give you pleasure without the painful responsibilities of their adolescent years, when you agonized over their every decision. There is a new camaraderie that wasn't possible then. They now share with you secrets that were withheld before for fear of your disapproval. It is a warm time in family relationships.

Life gets easier as you become more mature. I think the wisdom attributed to age is just an accumulation of all your experiences plus the lessons that you learned from them. A disappointment is just that, and not something that shatters you emotionally. You take it philosophically, as part of life, knowing there will be other compensations.

Perhaps you no longer soar in ecstasy, but neither do you sink in despair.

Appreciation doesn't wane -- in fact there is often increased awareness and sensitivity because there is more time to look at the dewdrop in the heart of a rose; to listen to a symphony; to taste a wine that has aged; to smell the perfume of jasmine on the night air; to touch old books bound in leather, their pages yellowing. You know now who your real friends are, friends who have weathered the test of time -- the crises you have come through together have bound you close.

I came across a beautiful poem, written by an American named Karl Wilson Baker more than a century ago. It gives comfort, for it offers a goal within the reach of us all:

"Let me grow lovely, growing old --
So many fine things do.
Laces and ivory and gold
And silks need not be new.
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold:
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?"

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 19:58
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Dvora Waysman

Dvora Waysman

Dvora Waysman was born in Melbourne, Australia. She has four children and many beautiful grandchildren. She lives in Jerusalem and is the author of more than ten books, including Esther, The Pomegranate Pendant (which has been made into a film), Seeds of the Pomegranate and In a Good Pasture. She was the recipient of the "For Jerusalem" citation for her fiction, poems and features about the city; and the Seff Award for Best Foreign Correspondent.

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