Gero-Punk Lexicon: Legacy

Legacy can transcend the bounds of time-place-space.

Legacy can be transmitted through a fig. Or a raspberry.

Legacy goes in all directions, is deeply, fundamentally relational, and encompasses much more than mere material resources.

By “all directions,” I mean that legacy is trans- and inter-generational and not exclusively about transmission of something important to younger generations from older generations. Legacy can be transmitted in the other direction, as well, and in all directions at once.

By “fundamentally relational,” I mean that the creation of legacy happens in the context of cultivated, on-going relationships (And between both the “living” and the “no-longer-living”; that is, a member of a legacy-creating relationship may no longer be alive but still very present and influential to others, such as the role my friend Fred plays in my life); it is an expression of deep, consequential connections between humans.

By “encompasses much more than mere material resources,” I am pushing back at the perennial idea that legacy should be primarily about the transmission from elders to “youngers” of material resources: money, property, possessions.

A larger-mind view of legacy is that it is about intentionally creating the conditions necessary for a vital present and future life for not only our family members and other closest-in people, but for all living creatures. As such, members of multiple generations traveling through the life course simultaneously join together to pass-around (rather than pass-down) resources. These resources certainly may be material in the traditional sense of legacy – money, property, possessions – but also ethical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional (for example, “ethical wills,” spiritual traditions, creative projects, family traditions and practices).

Legacy may entail carrying on the traditions and practices of another person who is no longer living (or perhaps whom we never met in person but only through stories told about them), as well as adopting – embodying and enacting – their quintessential characteristics or commitments: a particular habit-of-speech, a jaunty hat they always wore, or their singular role in a larger system. In this way, the special person continues to exist but in a different form, and we are forever changed – and changing — because of our relationship with them.

Lastly, a larger trans-personal view of legacy encompasses non-human creatures, the planet, and our universe, as well as future humans whom we’ll not know because we will no longer be living, but for whom we care nonetheless (and who may someday in the future learn and care about us, their ancestors, as well.).

 

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Gero-Punk Reverie: Golden Raspberries

Have you ever tasted a golden raspberry? Do golden raspberries grow where you live?

 

In Portland, Oregon, USA you can sometimes find them at this time of year though they aren’t as plentiful or popular as red raspberries. My daughter Isobel and I saw a few baskets of them at the downtown Portland Farmers Market last Saturday. As we walked past one of the booths selling berries we overhead a conversation in which a confused customer, an older gentleman, asked the seller about the golden raspberries as he’d never seen them before. When the berry farmer told him that the berries are a variety of raspberries that are golden in color, the older gentleman responded by saying that there’s no such thing as golden raspberries, to which the younger gentleman kindly and calmly replied that in fact they do exist and here they are. Perhaps the disbelieving customer had never until now lived in or visited a place where such raspberries grow. Or perhaps he’d never noticed golden raspberries before now. They can be easy to miss, actually.

I never knew about golden raspberries until my old neighbor Fred introduced them to me eleven summers ago when my daughter Isobel and I moved into the house across the street from his little house and huge garden. Some of you might remember Fred from other essays I’ve written. For those of you who are new to the Gero-Punk Project, you should know that by the time Fred died four years ago in his 80s we had become true friends. Our friendship formed and was cultivated in his garden, which was more like a mini urban farm. With each new summer, especially the summers during which he was beginning to physically decline, I was offered an ever greater role as his gardening partner. The two summers after his death I was honored to be entrusted with the primary responsibility for keeping the garden going.

Alas, in 2012 his adult children decided to keep the little house but sell the plot upon which the huge garden had dwelled for almost one-hundred years, having been started by Fred’s parents in the early part of the 20th century. Soon after the plot was sold to a property development company I watched from my front window as the lovely fig tree was dismembered, the asparagus and artichoke patches were bulldozed, and the back garden shed was knocked down and tossed into a heap. But before the well-established raspberry patch could be destroyed we managed to dig up and transplant in my yard some of the canes for both the red and the golden raspberries. I also swiped some broken bricks and pieces of flagstone and marble that Fred had used to border raised beds.

Now what grows in Fred’s garden is the sweet young family that lives in the huge house that was built upon the plot – dad, mom, twin boys, baby brother, and Lucy-the-dog.

Golden raspberries come on a bit later and stick around a bit longer than do the red raspberries. Sometimes I have trouble seeing the golden raspberries tucked behind the canes and leaves as they don’t announce themselves with as much fanfare as the red raspberries do. Anything you can do with a red raspberry you can do with a golden raspberry and a mix of the two together is a lovely and surprising site to behold! To my taste, a golden raspberry is more floral and sweet – though not too sweet — and less tart compared to a red raspberry.

Golden raspberries were Fred’s wife’s favorite fruit and he planted a few canes of them for her when they were first married in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I never met her as Fred had been a widower for decades by the time I moved in across the street as a single mother of a little daughter. Fred told me a lot about his wife and was sure she and I would have been friends had we met. Their relationship is a lovely story. His wife had been married once before and became divorced during a time when that was not common; when she and Fred met, she was a single mother to a young son. They created a new family, eventually adding two more children to the mix: a daughter and a son who are now just a few years older than I am. Fred and his wife and their various kids all lived in the little house across the street, the house in which Fred had grown up, and they all worked in the huge garden together, the garden that Fred’s parents had started so long ago.

I miss Fred at least once each and every day but I miss him more frequently and most intensely during the summer, especially when my little garden really starts growing. Everything reminds me of him and connects me to him through time and space, especially tomatoes and figs and artichokes and escarole. But raspberries, especially golden raspberries, remind me of Fred’s wife. When I eat a golden raspberry, especially if I’ve just plucked one from the cane and popped it into my mouth, I think of her, a woman I never met except through the stories of her Fred shared with me.

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Gero-Punk Praxis: Aging Grrrl Revolution!

Part two of a two-part essay

by Guest Gero-Punk

Glenna Morris

 

What on earth is that gray hair doing there?! The first time I asked myself that question was about a year and a half ago. I made sure to maintain my ritual hair coloring religiously up until about three months ago. Starting with the realization that I was never happy with the color results over the past few coloring sessions, I quit dying my hair. Along with refusing to count every calorie, get my acrylic nails put on every two weeks, or have my eyebrows smothered in hot wax and the hairs subsequently ripped from my flesh––I have begun the process of allowing my natural hair color to reclaim itself upon my head.

Here is the thing I am unsure of, though: Am I allowing my gray hairs to flourish, accepting not-so-perfectly shaped eyebrows, resigning myself to the size 12 increase in dress clothes, and constantly having to clip my flimsy, flaky, fingernails because I have ultimately given up on being the beautiful, youthful, girl I once was, or is it because I am genuinely ready to accept who I am becoming.

I question this because some days I look in the mirror and notice a new gray hair, critique the general lack-luster look of my locks, and that turns to a critical pinpointing of my reflection’s wrinkles (mixed with the constant confusion of why I still battle acne and rosacea), to an adamant avoidance of a full-length mirror. I then take a deep breath, accept my fate, wrap my hair upon the top of my head, cake on the cover-up, and refuse to think on it anymore for the remainder of the day. Which proves a relatively successful refusal, until I sit for too long and consequently have to pause for a few painful moments while my aging knees adjust to their now extended state. Allowing one voice within me to proclaim that my knees wouldn’t feel that way if I started taking walks everyday like I keep telling myself I will. The opposing voice answers with a realistic position that my knees are getting old; that weight and exercise was of no consequence to them when I was 18.

Which reminds me––I was “fat” when I was 18. And again when I was 22. At an inconceivable 257 pounds when I was 27. Down to 180 pounds when I turned 31. Up to 220 pounds as I near my 33rd birthday. Such has been the never-ending battle of my youth, and clearly a war I will continue waging as I move forward through time. Only I notice things now, like these achy knees, the pounds get more resistant to diet and exercise, and exercise is no longer the energetic fun endeavor it was just a few years back. Oh well, comes with getting older I guess. Doesn’t matter anyway, right? After all, who am I trying to impress?

Sometimes I believe I am not trying to impress anyone.

Bell Hooks (2000) says: “As a middle-aged woman gaining more weight than ever before in my life, I want to work at shedding pounds without deploying sexist body self-hatred to do so…all females not matter their age are being socialized either consciously or unconsciously to have anxiety about their body, to see flesh as problematic” (p. 35).

I want to cite myself at this point in great length on a paper I wrote a few years ago based on Nomy Lamm’s (1995) It’s a Big Fat Revolution. I include this here for two reasons: 1) It is valuable to the topic of embodiment and the above issues I have been writing on with regard to my own body; 2) when reflecting on this writing, realizing that I still feel much the same way about my body, I notice my body image is shifting to include my age. There are many places within this paper where we could substitute the word “fat” with the word “age.”

This paper speaks to every aspect of my embodiment now, not just fat. It speaks from my internal feminist. It admits that I will contradict my own feminist thinking. It reminds me to stop self-hating and self-defeating thoughts be it about weight, age, gender, appearance, etc. It is worthy of being brought up again and again each time I reflect on my past learning with regard to women’s issues:

 15 July 2011

 It’s a Big Fat Revolution By Nomy Lamm

             For the first time in my life I can see that my body image is a result of fat oppression. This is very interesting because all my life I was convinced that my weight and my body image is just a product of not trying hard enough to be rid of it. Here’s the thing though––I haven’t always been fat! Yet, I have always thought I was, I am conditioned to pity people who are, and now that I am fat I wallow in self-loathing a good majority of the time. I can sit here and tell you that I really don’t try hard enough to loose weight, that if I did I could be thin and beautiful, that the way that I look and feel is entirely my fault. I could also sit here and tell you that I am curvy and luscious, that I have never lacked on emitting sexuality, and I have never had trouble getting a date, so––so what if I am fat? It all really depends on the day and how I feel in that moment. Like Nomy Lamm, I am a real person and I don’t always feel up to being the strong confident person, “sometimes it is hard enough for me to get out of bed in the morning (105).”

             The question is why do I battle these contradictions? I too have examples like Lamm that are memorable occurrences in my life that have hurt me and changed the way I see myself (106). When I was eighteen years old my grandmother asked me “what happened to my skinny little granddaughter?” My mother has been using Slim Fast for as long as I can remember, and she has fluctuated between a 4 and an 18-dress size throughout my life. My boss at my first job told me I was too fat to wear shorts at work. My husband tells me I am beautiful, yet he also tells me that his friends only think I am fat because they seek super model perfection (and of course I’m not perfect). He also insists that fat people are only fat because they are lazy (except for me of course). And we can’t forget how the media is a mind-blowing contributor to fat oppression. Interestingly all of these things have combined together to make me think I was fat even when I wasn’t!

             We are conditioned to believe fat is ugly (106). Lamm claims this is just a cultural standard that has many medical lies that support it (106). Wait–she said medical lies? That’s interesting because as I have grown older and wiser, have stopped caring about dating and measuring up to unattainable standards, I have still maintained this self-loathing image of my fat based on the fact that I need to loose weight at least for the sake of being healthy.

           Actually, I have a hard time believing that they are all medical lies. Six months ago I was literally loosing the use of my right knee. If I sat for extended periods of time and tried to get up and walk suddenly, my knee would seize up in pain and often times buckle under me completely. I was eighty pounds overweight and had to tell myself enough is enough. I began a simple weight-lifting/cardio exercise program four times a week, paid closer attention to what I was eating and when I was eating it, and I lost thirty-five pounds. My knee doesn’t hurt anymore. With this kind of proof, I must be justified in believing that fat is in fact problematic.

          Not to mention all of the energy, high self-esteem, and validation from everyone that I look amazing. Everyone is so proud of all of the weight I have lost, and so am I, is that wrong? Lamm asks “when will we stop grasping for reasons to hate fat people and start realizing that fat is a totally normal and natural thing that cannot and should not be gotten rid of (107)?” I don’t want to hate or pity fat people (including myself), but I don’t know how to stop seeing fat as problematic and something that indeed should be gotten rid of. I don’t want to judge myself or anyone else, but I look at extremely skinny girls and think, “she needs to eat a cheeseburger,” and I look at fat girls (and myself) and think, “how did she let herself go like that?” How much of this thinking is really just a cultural standard of what we are conditioned to believe is beautiful or healthy, rather than an actual health issue or a personal preference of what is beautiful?

          In the end though, this is a form of hate oppression, whether we oppress one another or ourselves. Lamm states “it doesn’t seem fair to me that I have to always be fighting to be happy (105).” Regardless, of whether I can grasp some of Lamm’s claims or not, this is one I wholeheartedly feel. Body image is a struggle for me, fighting to be happy is a constant battle for me because of how I see myself––that is a good indicator that fat oppression is very real. It’s not necessarily a problem that I want to be thinner; it’s also a great accomplishment that I no longer dread knee surgery (for now). What is a problem is that I have been conditioned to believe I am worthless based on how fat I am, and that I know I will never feel/believe I am truly beautiful and thin, no matter how thin I may become. I understand when Lamm says “I want this out of me. This is not a part of me, and theoretically I can separate it all out and throw away the shit, but it’s never really gone (105).”

          While reading Lamm’s words last night I thought I agreed with everything she was saying. However, this morning I awoke ready to work out, renew my diet plans, approvingly but critically evaluated the changes to my stomach and backside, and then sat down trying to write this with a feminist attitude intact. How can I do that when I spent the morning filled with fat-hate and oppressing myself? Years of perpetuating my inner and outer messages about whom I expect myself to be in order to fit the social norm is going to be hard to get rid of.

          Is there hope for change? Is there a solution for keeping future generations from buying into this sort of propaganda and oppression? Lamm suggests that rather than reassuring fat people that they are not fat, we need to demystify fat and deal with fat politics as a whole (107). Lamm believes that “all forms of oppression work together, and so they have to be fought together (107).” So, it seems she is suggesting that we need to accept fat, and not in the simplistic way of just ignoring physical attributes, or saying that we are all beautiful on the inside (107). Rather, “true revolution comes not when we learn to ignore our fat and pretend we’re no different, but when we learn to use it to our advantage, when we learn to deconstruct all the myths that propagate fat-hate (107).”

          At this point, personally, I can buy into trying to let go of most of the myths about fat-hate. Myths brought on by the media that romanticize and idealize thinness, in comparison to the fat person on TV that is depicted as a food-obsessed slob (106, 108). It may take me some time to let go of the health perspective of fat-hate. I will likely continue to work on loosing weight for the sake of my knee (and yes my self-esteem as well), and that’s okay. And I may be looked upon as a contradiction within myself and within feminism for that. But I will continue my quest for knowledge to become a revolutionary feminist. I will make a strong effort to stop judging others and myself.

           I will start my morning not with critiquing myself, but by joining the “fat grrrl revolution” with Lamm by looking in the mirror and saying “my body is fucking beautiful (106).” And then I will go workout!  

 

References

Hooks, B. (2000). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

 Lamm, N. (1995). It’s a big fat revolution. In Barbara Findlen (Ed.), Listen up: Voices from the next feminist revolution. Seattle, Washington: Seal Press.

 Ray, R.E. (2004). Toward the croning of feminist gerontology. Journal of Aging Studies 18, 109-121. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2003.09.008.

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Glenna is a recent 2014 graduate from Marylhurst University with a BA in Psychology. Born in Fairbanks, AK, she has resided throughout Oregon, Washington, and California over the last twenty-eight years, the last eleven of those years in Estacada, OR, where she currently lives. She has two young sons, three horses, two dogs, and a cat. She is looking forward to attending graduate school for an MBA in the fall and aspires to found a youth recreation and counseling center for the rural children in her community someday. When she isn’t busy with school work, you can find her on a nearby lake with a fishing pole in her hand, enjoying the simple pleasures of time outdoors with good friends and family.

 

 

 

 

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