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  • Writer's pictureFran Braga Meininger

Let the Old Woman In

I believe I have just entered another transitional stage; a time when I’m not particularly sure who and how I am. The reflection in the mirror is unfamiliar. The struggles have become more challenging than I anticipated, and at times, my attempts to define myself fail.


It’s been coming for a while now, little by little, in waves like a changing tide, lapping up higher on the shore. Some days scattering the sands of my clarity so wide I can’t gather them again.


I look back at times past, still vibrant in my memory, to my own image in those moments when I was so sure, so confident, so determined that occasionally it caused me damage, pain, lost friendships and regret.


But I’m also immensely proud of that woman who stood so straight against the wind, never fearless but always brave.


I hold her close still, assuring her, and myself, she has purpose and reason for being, even though the times are different and so am I. I don’t want her to slip away feeling betrayed by my lack of fortitude.


I owe her that. She was my warrior and my defender. Often she was all I had and all I was. She was my shield, my armor and she protected me well from the outside forces that now, for the most part, are no longer present or threatening. I choose differently these days - rather than fight, I accept or walk on, stepping around rather than through. I rarely call her into action as she waits in the wings.


My ways are changing, my body and my mind along with them, or perhaps my ways are changes because my body and mind are too. I don’t reach for the same response, the same strength any longer, often because I know it is no longer up to the call. Instead, I wait, my reaction tempered and reasoned by time, experience and a fire within that is no longer raging.


But recently, unexpected news brought her to the forefront. She was summoned by yet another diagnosis that reminds me I am aging, and I lashed out at it defiantly, refusing to accept it as my destiny. I raged about the injustice of it, how I had done everything right only to be wronged in the end. I swore to fight, to do battle and to conquer the situation by sheer will. And for a few days, I felt comforted by the roil of emotion that made me feel so alive.


But, I couldn’t hold it all for long. Eventually, it wore me down and I had to admit it was too heavy to carry any longer.


Instead, I became still, withdrew into my thoughts letting the chaos within present itself so I could identify what it represents and understand the message. When I finally had to admit what I already knew and have always known, but chose to deny. Every emotion, all the reactions were masking fear, a pure and innocent response to change, and the uncertainty of how to transition beyond this stage where I have apparently become stalled.


The woman I was, can’t bring me into what comes next. She lacks the experience and the wisdom required to meet these changes. Only an old woman understands growing old.


I need to stop holding the old woman off, as though she will cause me to age more rapidly. Her presence is not a surrender or my failure to stay young, vital and strong. None of that is true. It is a flawed narrative I’ve been reciting for too long and it needs to be silenced now, so I can hear the sage words the old woman offers, accepting her comfort and reassurance that we will go on together for some time.


With her, I can still be a vibrant and powerful woman, competent and capable, but different from who I was once. With her, I will find a new source of strength, become more sure footed as I travel this new path. She will teach me grace and patience. I will learn, little by little, guided by her steady hand when I become disoriented or frightened by the unknown. She will teach me how to be an old woman, the woman I desire to become.


All I need to do is let her in.





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