I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Mary Anne Dorner’s reflection on aging with grace:
Dyeing to be young . . . Reflections on turning 70 . . .
I tell myself I am not like other women…I don’t spend endless hours prissing and preening myself in front of a mirror…nor do I spend countless hours at a gym working out on exercise machines, or doing jazzersize routines to pulsating music, or spinning for a time on a static bicycle.
No…I would rather spend my morning hours mindfully losing myself in contemplative prayer, and then writing my reflections in my spiritual journal, and topping off my sacred time by going for a quiet walk and engaging the natural world around me with contemplative photography.
I am not like other women. I do not jog down the walking path, or ensconce myself in hot yoga (which would be easy to do in my own back yard in the heat of the Florida summer).
My mornings are devoted to monastic silence, both at home caught up in prayer and Mystery and then outdoors for more awakening with Mother Nature.
Several times a week, if not too hot, I quietly close the door behind me on my way to visit my beloved water lilies. This makes it officially a social visit, not exercise.
As I leave the house I listen to the soft cooing of doves that nest outside my office window. I pause to say a silent prayer at each of the eight stepping stones that I have made over the years with each of my grandchildren.
Then there is often the squawking of an old crow waiting across the street for me to walk down Ancient Oaks Boulevard with her. Sometimes we chat away. Other times she hides up in the trees or circles overhead.
I pass the ponds just as dawn breaks. I see the beauty of the trees nestled around and reflected in the tranquil water. That is where I look for deer who are taking a quick sip of water before going back into their hiding in the woods as civilization approaches.
There are cars whizzing by on Ancient Oaks, but I am walking. I am not like those people in their cars, already chatting away on their cell phones or texting their friends while on their way to work or to drop the kids off at school or day care.
I am different. I stop to take in the beauty all around me. Good morning Sand Hill Cranes. Hello Bird of Paradise. How are you today? My precious water lilies…how was your night? What tales do you have to tell?
Once a month, I do make just one small concession to prissing and preening. I visit the beauty shop. That is where I meet my beautician. I put on a smock and then she begins to work her magic. She starts dabbing a little liquid gold to my graying roots. I sit there while the chemicals cover up my aging roots. All this has worked perfectly for years. But something has changed.
Last month, after a car accident, I went to have this magic performed and it set off a terrific headache and muscle spasms in my neck. Just the act of leaning my head back against the bowl of the sink must have “pinched a nerve” as they say. Won’t do that again, I thought.
But yesterday found me back at the magic shop for my monthly dose of liquid gold. No leaning back over the bowl for me! This time I leaned my head forward with a towel plastered to my eyes while my beautician rinsed my poor aching head. So far, so good. Then she started cutting and trimming my hair, and blowing it dry. With every pull of the brush I started to feel my head starting to spin again. “Stop” I said. No more prissing and preening. But it was too late. My head was already starting to throb and I knew that I would have a headache and muscle spasms as a result of my vanity.
I am like other women. I do want to look beautiful. And my one concession is dyeing to look young.
As I turn 70, it gives me pause to reflect on life and how I want to be viewed by the world. When I tell people that I am turning 70, I often hear them say: “You cannot be 70. You look too young.” That’s what hair color can do for you…give you back a few of the years, back to the time you really did have color in your hair.
I read somewhere that women look younger these days because they color their hair. Not as many old gray crones as there used to be. That may be the case, but I have to admit that dyeing to be young certainly triggered some powerful physical and emotional reflections in me this month, and I am still recovering from my recent dye jobs. I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I need to ease into this thing called old age. I’m already planning my return to the beauty shop, but next time just the dye job. I’ll do my own more gentle hair pulling as it dries, or maybe I’ll just let it dry naturally.
I’m an extroverted monastic theologian and church historian who loves to party and host Camp Grandma and Grandpa for my eight grandchildren when not off traveling the world with my husband of over 50 years. After raising a family as an active Roman Catholic, I switched gears and went to college and seminary and made it through the grueling process to be ordained an Episcopal Priest in 1991. I served churches in DE, PA and FL before retiring from parish ministry in 2006. Since then I have taught a few college classes, volunteered as a hospital chaplain, and lead retreats and worship services at various local congregations. I’m an avid reader and participate in two book clubs. In 2013, one of our book club choices was Ink and Honey by Sibyl Dana Reynolds. My reading of this original, mystical and historical novel about the thirteenth century Sisters of Belle Coeur, and subsequent participation at a retreat led by the author later that year, led me to embrace “The Way of Belle Coeur.” Also, since “retirement,” I have followed my passion for writing and have begun sharing personal stories and articles for publication. For support, I gathered together several women and we began a writing group which has affectionately come to be known as the “Scribbling Seniors.” In order to update my skills, I participated in an intensive interfaith spiritual writing conference, “Beyond Walls,” at Kenyon College in July 2015 which focused on spiritual writing for print and social media. This experience gave me the courage to start writing a blog: everydayblessingsplus.wordpress.com. Check it out!
There is so much to love in this post: reverence for nature, thoughtful reflections on the use of time, valuable book recommendations, and more. But as one of the “other women” in the world – or people in those cars – just personally (one 73 year old woman’s reaction), I had trouble getting past that early blanket assessment of all of us who don’t happen to be you. Thanks for the thoughtful reflections and book info, though.