June 03, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Unexpected Joys

This week's beauty is award winning author, activist and communications consultant Shari Graydon whose latest book, an anthology titled I Feel Great About My Hands-And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging, recently hit the bookstores. So recently that I haven't had time to read it yet. But if it is as good as Shari's introduction that follows, I know I will like it.

I bring you Shari Graydon:

"Going through an old box of VHS tapes in preparation for a move recently, I stopped to view a series of commentaries I wrote and performed on CBC TV in the mid 1990s. I remembered the experience as deeply fraught. Unlike crafting arguments for the newspaper or radio, where my unshaped eyebrows or unsuitable clothing in no way interfered with the persuasiveness of my prose, TV commentary demanded an unprecedented degree of appearance vigilance. Insightful analysis could be easily and irrevocably hijacked by wind-whipped hair, my nose in profile, or visible evidence of my face’s recent intimacy with a pillow.

But watching the commentaries 15 years later, what struck me more than anything was how surprisingly okay I looked—if only relative to today. What exactly was my problem, I wondered. And that’s when I made the leap into the realm of French novelist Colette.  It was she who famously observed, “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I had realized it sooner.”
At that moment I vowed to keep on realizing that how I look and feel this year is likely better than I will next. As a still healthy 53-year-old, my carpal tunnel syndrome, growing bunions and sensitive digestive system are minor annoyances, put in regular context by my mother’s encroaching blindness, hearing loss and degenerating back. The time to celebrate is, indeed, now.
More importantly, while I was editing the wonderful and diverse reflections that have become I Feel Great About My Hands- And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging, my eldest sister was taken by cancer. Only 55, she was starting to experience many of the kinds of benefits celebrated in the collection: the years of accumulated wisdom and the confidence it bestows; the clarity around priorities; the willingness to unequivocally own who you are and speak the truth as you see it. 
Sally’s death underlined for me the obvious (but easily forgotten) truth: the alternative to growing old is not remaining young (despite what the purveyors of Botox, Viagra and other wonder pharmaceuticals would have us believe); it’s dying before one’s time. I think of my sister often, knowing that she would have embraced all of the worst indignities of aging just to spend a few more years with the people she loved."
By Shari Graydon, adapted from the introduction to I Feel Great About My Hands- And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging. Photo by Helene Anne Fortin. Helen also contributed an essay to the anthology.

Thank you Shari for your contribution to Lines of Beauty.

Below is a recent interview with Shari discussing her book.