February 03, 2012

Aging Gracefully by Tapping In

This week's beauty is opera singer, massage therapist, poet, and home renovator Kathryn Feigal who is 63 years old.

"Most of my life I have had the unfortunate anxiety-producing combination of No Impulse Control and Caring Too Much What Other People Think. As you can imagine, this has created a perpetual cycle of regret. Now that Im three months shy of 64, Im somewhat dismayed to admit that I still struggle to preserve or maintain what's left of my imagined dignity. In confronting a society given over to a collective identification with frenzy, Im less inclined to adapt to the illusions that society promotes. Maybe we all have a degree of Tourette's Syndrome with its accompanying rapping, hip-hopping bumbledom of multitasking to fulfill spurious requirements for living.

One of my favorite movie moments was the department store scene in The Women where Annette Bening, when assaulted by a department store cosmetic hawker said, "This is my face. Deal with it." Like Annettes character, I think if I can avoid the temptations of the eternal youth marketers, the sellers of unnatural thinness and cosmetic surgery, I may be able to tap into who I really am.

Kathryn in flight
At this stage in life, this sentence keeps running through my head, “How do I want to live the rest of my life?” There’s an urgency that wasn’t there before. Joan Baez said, “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.”

In taking care of my mother the last years of her life, I witnessed her inability to confront her fear of dying. She truly raged against the dying of the light. I know that I want to die consciously. I want to be fully alive when I die. I want to have lived my dreams.

I feel more propelled to condensed action since 3 close friends have died in the last couple of months. One of them lived a big portion of her life trying to please other people – doing things she really didn’t want to be doing. I now get it at a level that I never have before that I need to live my own life.  To punctuate this vow, I took a running, jumping, flying leap off a mountain last summer. 

I’m viewing my own personal process of aging as a series of leaps into future possibilities that I’m igniting with gusto. I’m realistic about the fantasies I recognize as unattainable and I’m able to release them. Lately I’ve been going through my house throwing away items that don’t fit in with my goal of producing and performing my One Woman Show.  It’s symbolic of the balancing force behind the things I’ve given up by aging. I don't need to fill the spaces I've cleared in my house. Now I have room in my head and heart for laser-beam clarity into my future artistic expressions.

Here's wishing you the same,

Thank you m'dear.

You can enjoy Kathryn's poetry here as well as her neat site Redoing The Undone.


  1. Kass, so brilliantly featured here! I feel the "aliveness" and the purpose in your words. Perhaps what you are describing is the formation and execution of a "leap" list :) The part that resonates with me at the deepest level is this " I want to be fully alive when I die." Oh my awesomeness! Yes, you nailed it! Me too!

  2. I love that line too Vicky and hope to carry it with me forever.

    Thank you for your comment,

  3. To be fully alive when you die would be a wonderful thing. To be fully alive while you're living an even more wonderful thing. I'll have to start working on that "leap list." Thanks to both Louise and Kass for the reminder.

  4. My mother, at the age of 92, was still saying, "I want to wear out, not rust out!" A goal she attained.

  5. Yes, thank you. I enjoy your blog! :)

  6. I'm so proud of you Kathy! Thank you Louise for sharing her story... isn't she a wonder?

  7. kass, you inspired me the first time i "found" you and you continue to do so. i, too, have been throwing things out and also discovering and rediscovering things i hadn't realized were stored away. and when i say this, i don't mean all these things were tangible. some of these things were within me that i've now discarded (the thought that i was here to make others happy but not myself, for one example) and some of these things i've discovered were inside me all these years, but i am just now letting them come out and play and nourish me. posts like this and those of yours in the past encourage all of us to do another inventory and take that fully engaged with life leap.


  8. beautifully said and a wonderful reminder ~ thank you for these words.

  9. S. Etole, I love your mother's quote "I want to wear out, not rust out" and that she not only said it, but lived it. Someone I know has said repeatedly to me that they want to be all used up when they die.

    Sherry,I like your line about taking a fully engaged life leap. It makes me think about when our lives are said and done-when we are worn out and used up- how is it that we want to have lived them?

  10. Kass is one of the most inspiring women I've ever virtually met. It was lovely to read this, and find this blog because of it.

  11. I did an online survey yesterday and one of the questions was: At what age does old age begin? It’s an interesting question and one that in all seriousness I’ve never actually tried to answer before. When I wrote my first novel I was in my mid-thirties I made Jonathan fifty-three and used to describe him when I talked to people about the book as a old man. Now I’m only a few short months away from being fifty-three and I have to ask myself: Do I feel old? The answer, honestly, is: Yes. There is a proviso however: I feel prematurely old. I’ve always looked older than I am I. Even at thirteen I could pass for eighteen and it only got worse once I lost my hair (which started at fifteen and I was bald by nineteen). The answer I put to the question was sixty. Women used to be able to retire in the UK and begin receiving the state pension when they were sixty and yet my wife, who will be sixty-five this year, was still reluctant to give in to the fact that she is ‘old’.

  12. Good question Jim! Thank you. Did you do the online survey or did someone else? I would like to see it. My feeling is that it's a very individual thing for sure. My mom said that she didn't feel old until she was 88...other people would say 45. I think it's not just a physical state but also a mental, emotional, spiritual thing as well. I feel younger at age 50 then I did at 40. I look older of course, but I feel younger in the inside.

  13. I'm afraid it was a survey that was sent to me so it's not open to everyone nor do I have any way of seeing what the results were but I think I can guess them: the older a person gets the older their perception of what 'old' gets until they have no choice but to admit that they are in fact old. I do agree that it's as much of a mental state as it is a physical one which is why some people, when asked, say, "I'm so many years young," rather than old as if as long as you don't say it out loud it won't be true.

  14. This is awesome! There is so much wisdom. I'm trying...trying so hard to be wise. Seems I just keep getting stupider.

    1. Lovely words from Kass as ever. There is much merit to growing old with grace. To me, age is not only a chronological fact, it is a state of mind.