Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Grokking It

Once in awhile, sometimes from out of the blue, others after working through a problem, I have moments I used to call epiphanies. They come when I suddenly know something so deeply that it's a part of me. I think today a better term comes from the book 'Stranger in a Strange Land'-- I grok it. Although I am always a little uncertain when I use a science fiction term, since it is not a genre I am familiar with generally. I did read this book and liked this word. It is a verb and means a knowledge and understanding that goes to the core being and lets you not only see something but use it. In the book, it meant to drink and refers to taking into yourself an understanding that becomes part of who you are.

Epiphany is a good word too but grok is better for what I feel right now. One could have an epiphany, and it might not impact their daily life. It could be a momentary awakening that sank back into forgetfulness. A person could know something but not use it for themselves. The ah-ha moment could end being nothing. But if I grok it, it means it went deep within and became part of who I am.

When I was a young woman, I was sitting in Mass with a baby on my lap and a toddler beside me. I could feel the length of my hair against the wood of the pew when I moved. My body and spirit were strong. I had borne two children, was raising them and knew how to do that. I felt female power surge through me with who I was and what my role, at that time, was in life. I knew what it meant to be a woman in the purest essence of that word. I savored the moment. I also knew it was but a moment but one to live fully.

Although I have had such moments since then, the one now is the most like that earlier time. As I grokked what it meant to me to be an old woman, I saw it as the coming into the power of the old woman, the crone, the wise one. A woman who has raised her children, has lived a life, and could now look back on that or take what she has learned and look ahead. Does old have to be weak? Must it mean limitations? It means some of that but more.

Some of what I am thinking was added onto when I was waiting to pay for entrance to the renaissance faire. A woman walked down the line saying, if anyone had exact change, she could take their money. I had seen printed that seniors got in for a lesser rate but didn't see where they defined senior. Experience has shown me it can be anywhere from 50 to 65. I asked and she made a joke out of it. She asked what would I call senior?

"I don't know," I said. "I guess for a lower admittance fee, I'd make it 65, but it varies."

"If you are willing to call yourself a senior," she said laughing and nodding to the others standing there, "you may have the lower rate."

I laughed too. "What else could I call myself at almost 63?"

She took the lower rate. As I thought on it later, I knew she thought I'd be embarrassed to call myself a senior. Why should that have been? Has it been a thing to be ashamed of in our culture? Is being twenty all that is supposed to be good and from then on it's downhill?

What I have grokked is that being old is what I am and being old is not only okay but a rich time of life. It's not a time to give up on being vital, sexy, attractive, active, excited about life. It's not a time to quit learning new things, Not a time to say I always did it that way and cannot change. It is instead a time to be like that sunset from the other night. A sunset marks the beginning of the end of a day, but it can be with a lush fullness, a promise of richness and going out can be with a bang, not a whimper.

I am making choices today and in the next few years that will determine how I live as an old woman. I see these as part of grokking old age with a new paradigm. I don't want to accept someone else's definitions for what old means, nor do I want to deny being old. I instead want to make the most of the last cycle of life as I did with the time when I was a young woman full of the spirit of being young.

Yes, I could for awhile deny what I am, try to hide it, have surgery, inject poison into my face, dye my hair, refuse to admit my birth year, but why should I? Why should I not be proud I have done what I have and now am ready to live these final years, how many there may be, as a juicy old woman, full of vim and vigor. Not as strong as when young but sure not ready to give it up either-- not just yet!


Parapluie said...

Yippy! I like the word "Grok" too.

Mary Lou said...

I woke up this morning as in other mornings, and thought"why must I be so OLD when I think so Young" And then I said to myself, "Why do you THINK you are so old? rejoice in your age and enjoy thinking young. At least they have not put me in a home...!

Suzann said...

Rain - my heart to yours across the miles. This post is so close to my thoughts these days. You are amazing - growing older is an incredible journey on its own - here we are taking steps on that path of vital years as crones, as women with wisdom, experience and gratitude for life - thank you - beautiful picture, wonderful words.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Ever since I read Strangers in a Strange Land all those years ago, I have loved the word grok. The first grade teachers take the kids out to the lawns where we have big trees and the little ones grok the trees and then they draw what they can in their sketch pads.

You should send this piece on to Ronni Bennett; it's excellent. I watched John Stosel's 20-20 on Friday about people's prejudices and one of the surprising things were that the entire American population is biased against older people--including the older people they tested. I find myself putting myself down and then I always think of my late 12 step sponsor who always smiled and said, "Repeat after me, cancel, cancel."

Abraham Maslow has a term he calls peak experiences, which Ira Progoff uses as one of the sections in the National Intensive Journal. It is often what I call ah-hah moments. Your hair, your little ones, the pew, the church--that is definitely a peak experience.

Dick said...

I agree with what you have said but I differ a little with you on calling yourself old. Old is a matter of comparison. A grand father is old compared to his grand child. But is he old? Isn't he really just older?

I think old is a state of mind, one that I hope to never think of myself as being. Getting older is good, in fact the only real alternative isn't very good. But I hope to stay young in my actions, point of view and life as long as I live. As you said awhile ago about daydreams, we may have to somewhat modify our expectations as we get older and our bodies can no longer do what they used to be able to, but we shouldn't stop dreaming, nor thinking we are young.

Anonymous said...

As an old Sci-Fi fan, I vasten you loquishly, Rain.
Cop Car

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...you'll forgive me if, after 50 years I'm no longer sure of the spelling. Lokishly?

Alan G said...

First time I have ever heard the word “grok”. Did Captain Kirk ever say that?

I guess for the most part I don’t think about it – age that is. There is a lot of wisdom that goes with being older and I don’t think that is a particularly bad trade off. Most associate an approaching death with age. True as that is, best I can determine that is been part of a natural process for at least as long as I can remember. The only time I really relate to my age is when the fact is brought to my attention. My age doesn’t bother me but it sure does seem to affect a lot of other folks – to include their opinions and prejudices.

I also do not refer to myself as a senior, elder, or old man. Well….there is that one exception. No…make that two exceptions.

“Do you have a senior rate?”

“Do you have a senior discount?”

See….that is where that “wisdom” kicks in that I previously mentioned. That’s about it for the name calling where I am concerned.

Bottom line...

I am still a fiesty 18 year old who loves to laugh and stir the pot...locked apparently in the body of a 64 year old.

Rain said...

Well you guys can define old as you want to for yourselves *s* but for me I don't want to be young, remember what I was, been there, done that. I like now that I get to experience something different. To me being old isn't a bad word. It's a time of life and whether we try to deny it or not, life is divided up some by youth where we are developing, growing, becoming an adult, then adulthood is the years of working, raising families, experiencing certain things. Old age, comes along at the end of that and varies for different ones when it starts probably but why is it a bad word? Why is it not respected? I believe old age is a time we can make of what we will.

I think old is okay with me because I have known many old people in my life who were great examples. Now it's my turn to hopefully be one of those (I've also known a few who could only lament what once was or deny who they are-- don't want to be one of those either). I can't go backward anyway; so might as well go forward with power :)

Rain said...

what does loquishly or lokishly mean, cop car? Was it in Stranger in a Strange Land and I missed it?

As for grok, Alan, I don't think Kirk ever said it that I recall :) For anyone interested in reading the book Robert A Heinlein wrote it. (hope I spelled that right)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I think it is so interesting that you use the word "old" and quite a few times....and talk about your remaining years...Well...you could have another 30 years....! (I know quite a few people who are over 85 and in their 90's now, too...)
"old" is a state of mind as well as the body going south...if you know what I mean....
But I think if you are old at almost 63, I must be very old at 75!! And other than my body reminding me of the creaking of age....I don't feel old, at all! You know what I mean? I feel young in spirit and interest, etc...Don't you? Of course I wish my body were not betraying me....cause there is still so much to be interested in and create and enjoy!
BTW: "Grok" is a new word to me...and I like it!

Rain said...

That's interesting, old lady of the hills and yet you use old in your blog title. I see old as everything from when old age starts to the end and don't redefine it again. Anymore than I do young for anything from babies to somewhere in someone's twenties. Actually I call my kids young in their 30s but not sure they really are. They aren't yet middle-aged though even though my daughter does turn 40 this year. I think for me there are young, adult, and old... and I definitely do refer to myself as old and find it very comfortable to do so-- even when I know it sometimes makes others uncomfortable.

I remember when my dad was in his 50s and used to tell me that I had to change because he was too old to. I can and do change all the time and don't see old with the negative lens that some do. I like the word crone also which some see as some old witch. Again it's all in the meaning that the word has taken in your life.. and it's fine for anyone to define themselves as makes them comfortable. For me that is old-- and danged proud of being here :) I actually never thought I'd get past 30 and not sure why that was-- so getting to be old is gravy to me as well as something to feel proud of :)

Rain said...

even though as I reread that, I realize that if we live long enough, we all get to be old. It just means we took good enough care of our body to get here, got lucky genetically (although they say that's not why we get old) and didn't have the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for an accident. So maybe getting to be old isn't something to be proud of-- just grateful for

Parapluie said...

Before we had children we talked in addition to our expectations of what parenting would be like but also thought ahead with gloomy expectation that our beauty would not last. I am happy to observe there has been a change in our thinking of what maturing beauty can become - it can be like the sunset.

Natalie said...

Rain, very relevant post. I agree with all you said about age but also what Dick said. In my outlook in general, I still feel much the same as I did at nine years old, at fifteen, at thirty, etc.etc. If I read back in the journals I kept for most of my life, I can see that, though outer circumstances changed and my body has changed, my "inner child" has stayed much the same. The reason I don't answer the question "how old are you?" is because of other people's preconceptions about age. Certain numbers bring up certain standard images in most people's minds and I don't want to go along with those images. I prefer to stay in an undetermined age-zone - call it "No-Age". That looks like "nuage" which means cloud in French -good name for something which frequently changes shape. Next time I get the "how old?" question, I'll just say "cloud".

Anonymous said...

Put me on a spot, will you, Rain? As I recall, it was a robot speaking to its inventor who said, "I vasten you lokishly." (It also said, "You grate my sygrazzy!", which spelling I can't vouch.) As the robot ostensibly had more senses than we mere mortals, I think it is beyond us to truly know what the words mean. I roughly translated "vasten you lokishly" to mean that the robot understood its inventor well. As to a sygrazzy? Who knows?
Cop Car