I encountered two Facebook posts this morning that have compelled me to write. Which is unusual. Though I regularly glean a lot from my friends' humorous or thoughtful or sometimes incendiary post choices, I don't usually find myself compelled to chime in as a result.
So today is different.
The first piece was an inspirational quote displayed along with a beautiful sort of eastern, yogic-looking visual- the kind I tend to shy away from. Not because they're not deep or meaningful thoughts, but they feel contrived and manipulative in conjunction with said photos or paintings. Like the thought itself isn't fancy enough- you gotta catch the fickle eye with a lovely picture. Well- this thought was, to me, "fancy" enough. It was arresting and very simple. It superceded the visual. And it was posted by a FB acquaintance of mine who, as far as I can tell, NEVER shares these sorts of missives. Somehow, that gave me pause, lent it credence, and caused me to pay attention.
The gyst was this:
"Humans are created to be loved. Things are created to be used. Today we live in a toxic world where things are loved and humans are used."
I may have actually just accidentally quoted verbatim. It's a good one, right? It's a melancholy truism. It's supported roundly not by what we as a society say, but by what we do, how we invest our time and, most importantly, where we put our money.
So that was sad.
The other piece that caught my eye- and kept it- was an article shared by a dear friend about one of my most favorite iconic American actresses, Frances McDormand. Frances is apparently on the verge of releasing a TV mini-series she has starred in, based on an award-winning set of short stories about an aging math teacher living in Maine with her husband.
Here is the NY Times article should you also be a McDormand fan:
I find the whole thing, tip to toe, to be inspiring. And not just because here is a kick-ass artist who has made what I consider to be incredible artistic choices along the way, but her choices as a human being and a parent speak to her integrity too. She talks about having remained out of the limelight for the past decade or so to enable her and her husband Joel Coen to rear their son in a fairly anonymous fashion. She talks about being turned on by this particular narrative series because it is an accumulation of everyday sadnesses and failures, and not so much a piece that centers around something so extraordinary. I like that she chooses to shine the light on the mundane.
Lastly, (and I'm sure this was the hook of the article, which is why this theme was woven so deeply throughout) is that Frances has chosen not to change her visage or body in any way to make herself look younger, more attractive, or more pleasing to the screen. She is 57 and looks like she's 57. She chooses to wear her wrinkles and grey hairs as a badge of honor. As a gift that adulthood brings along with what she deems the "card catalogue" of experiences these pieces of our aging physical presence should have the capacity to visually relay.
She talks about how she and her husband have had many spirited (I love that word- such a euphemism for argumentative) conversations about this topic over the years. Because of course, at 57, many of her - and his- female friends have had lots of work done. And this bristles Frances.
And this bristles me! Yes-- me. Me- who has sort of slunk surreptitiously into my dermatologist's office a handful of times over the past three years to have small amounts of Botox injected into my forehead. (I hate that one big worry line running down the middle.) Me- who is already secretly planning on the tiny, ever-so-subtle chin and lower facial tuck when I get closer to my 50's. (Of course, being the ever-so-subtle option, is ever-so-subtlely more money, honey.) Me who gets my hair regularly dyed twice to three times a year. Me who has shelled out a pretty penny already over the course of two decades for various creams and facial procedures in an attempt to bring out the "best" me visually I can muster. Who wants wrinkles and acne scars? Who loves blotchy cheeks and coarse little grey hairs around their crown?
Oh sigh sigh sigh to it all. What a complex beast full of hypocrisies am I.
Speaking of, let me get back to the "this bristles me!" part. Yeah- so I draw my lines in the sand, and don't begrudge any woman her particulars on this subject. We all have lines. And many of us do a little or a lot of work on our faces, our bodies, our image in general to try to appear- I believe- continually vital. Because it's not so much that those of us who choose to change our appearance however way we deem fit want to continue to keep small harems of lovers on the side...frothing over our continued gorgeous non-aging selves. (Though for a few minutes there, that was a nice thought...)
No. I think, rather- and I hope I'm not alone in this- the 'work' some of us aging women have done is more about the attempt to remain POWERFUL. Not powerful like running countries or coups or launching thousands of ships, per se, but powerful enough to remain VISIBLE and therefore RELEVANT to the conversation. And it is THIS (dear Frances and all my readership) it is THIS which bristles ME.
It's not the ruined celebrities I can gawk at repeatedly on my TMZ news feed who have gone way too far down the road of surgery who are the problem. It's not the bored housewives looking for a little self-esteem boost at the crux of the issue. Or anyone and everyone in between. It's the Group-Think...the pathetic false message that we've ALL somehow co-created...which tells us over and over again that aging is no good. That youth is to be celebrated and obsessively clung to with every fiber. That there is no beauty in getting older and wiser. And of course, the biggie-- that death is so scary, we won't think about it, talk about it, process it in our larger cultural collective. In fact- perhaps if we stave it off visually, maybe death is not going to even happen to us at all!
It's this insanity which I think speaks to the first Facebook quote I discovered this morning. Where oh where have our values gone? No- Republican Party, I'm not talking about "Family Values." (Wtf does that mean anyway? It's like the word "Wholesome" in commercial speak. Empty.) I'm talking about what is valuable. What is valuable? People- who are made to be loved- should be valuable.
-- let's not forget animals, plants and all life forms in general, but that's for another post entirely--
People, who, along with all other life forms, are made to age along the way, and therefore at least have the opportunity to yes, actually get BETTER as they go...because they hopefully learn HOW to love and that nothing BUT LOVE really matters at all--- These people should be valuable. This is what we should be celebrating. These kind of people. These everyday- trying to get by- trying to simply live in this complex world while somehow maintaining a sane and loving point of view-- people.
Now, I have not yet seen Frances McDormand's new series. Nor have I read the books upon which they are based. But I have an inkling that somewhere in that television piece might exist some work of actual value - everyday art which shines a light on that true chunk of gold which should be valued. And seen. And thought of as vital and relevant to the conversation. I am excited to watch, and grateful for those like Frances, who occasionally have the microphone and who choose to use it elegantly for purposes of truth.
God bless all of us aging souls. (Whatever "God" means to you.) God bless artists and those in all walks of life attempting to stand up against that which is untrue- namely, Youth as mistaken for Timeless Beauty, Age as mistaken for Loss of Value, and Things as mistaken for Objects to Love instead of valuing Life and Love over all.