I really just want to riff on some thoughts. It’s been a long while since I posted–months and months–almost a year. Hardly anything in 2014. Perhaps the internal process has sucked me into a vortex and I simply didn’t have the desire to share the signposts I was passing as I fell through the Rabbit Hole. And good thing, too. Those signposts are just that–signs on posts–signifying nothing but colors along the way. I have now landed (somewhat) in Wonderland so I have a moment to look up before I start meeting the strange characters I am bound to meet. These days the characters I meet are aspects of myself and we are engaging in interesting dialogue.
There is a lot of talk about ageism these days. But I am saying, so what? It is nothing new really. Our culture is really terrified of death and letting go of the little ego and all its attachments and that’s where it stems from. People who are young and still in the “game” so to speak don’t want the presence of elders to muck up their delusion and illusions, that’s all. Yes, Madonna looked terrible at the grammy’s and her dancing was atrocious. And while I am a playful woman at 66, tinging my hair with purple and wearing colorful outrageous clothing, for me it is a play–I am a character in my own play and everything around me is the scenery–it is not a bid to get accepted by the cultural social zeitgeist–it is just my art form. As a writer, actor and musician I am not a visual artist, so I express my visual sense and love of color in the clothes and makeup I choose to wear. It’s for myself, really, and if others like it or not, I really am not concerned.
I understand my age and stage of life and I am receptive to life as it is, not as I would like it to be. However, that said, we creative elders would love the opportunity to collaborate with young people in the creative process, however we are not being invited to do this, and that is what Annie Lennox is really talking about when she says:
“There’s this youth culture that is really, really powerful and really, really strong, but what it does is it really discards people once they reach a certain age. I actually think that people are so powerful and interesting – women, especially – when they reach my age. We’ve got so much to say, but popular culture is so reductive that we just talk about whether we’ve got wrinkles, or whether we’ve put on weight or lost weight, or whether we’ve changed our hair style. I just find that so shallow.”–Annie Lennox,
I think she and I would love to see a cross generation collaboration based on creativity and excitement about life–one that disregards age, race, religion or creed. However, I have 6 years on Ms. Lennox so I’ve had 6 years in my 60’s to come to terms with how others in my culture perceive me and how I perceive myself. There is certainly a huge disconnect.
I love being around young people–the very very little ones I coach once a week at the after school programs where I am a volunteer. One is on the South side:( http://www.betterboys.org/) The Better Boys Foundation–a wonderful place where kids can go to be creative, safe and challenged all at the same time, where my out-of-the-box diversity is totally accepted along with everyone else’s, and the other is 826 Chicago, Dave Eggars outfit, where young 20-somethings and 30-somethings and I connect while we teach/reach/excite kids of all ages. 826 is a program for young people in the Chicago schools emphasizing reading and creative writing. All these opportunities have opened me up in ways I need to be opened up.
Most of all I am learning, at this late stage of life, to accept myself as I am, to accept others as they are, and to utilize play as a connecting point.
However Annie Lennox is a pop artist and singer and what she is mourning is exactly what I mourned when I landed here in Chi-land way back in 2008 at age 59. I was in fantasy land. I envisioned myself jumping in feet first into the art-music-theatre-film-writing community and getting all excited with collaborating on new projects and great new ideas. I had SO MUCH TO OFFER! I thought. I had just finished my MFA at age 58! I was filled with the puffed up hubris of the knight returned! I had gone out hunting for 12 years and coming back with the Holy Grail–writing, a canon of work, music, performance and the great experience of having survived the trenches of Grad School and Sundance and living in the mountains of the west! OH MY OH MY–I was the Wizard of Oz who would lead the artistic youth of Chicago on an exciting journey through Wonderland–and excuse me for mixing Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz references in one sentence!
The youthful and soon-to-be middle aged artists of Chicago quickly put me in my place. And with a vengeance.
I was thrown back onto my own resources.
It has taken me 7 years of internal work to understand, to release, to comprehend, to embrace and to accept. Things are different. We don’t have integrated ages working together in the commercial art world right now. Elders are to be seen and not heard–and sometimes we’d rather we didn’t see them either. Only 24% of the Chicagoans don’t own a car and rely solely on public transport–buses and trains–to travel. I am one of this minority. Who do I see on the buses? The poor, the infirm, the sick, and the old. Trains carry young professionals to and from downtown, but it is on the buses that one sees what is really happening at the ground level in our city–there are many, many elders who are disabled and poor and many who are mobile and poor and many young people with children who are working and poor.
That reality has changed my outlook. I am no longer obsessed with the art community accepting me as an equal artist. I am concerned with being an advocate for the disenfranchised of our culture and that group is growing larger every single day.
I am concerned with saying YES to my experience moment to moment, no matter what that experience is.
And I will do it with purple hair!