This Process of Aging Part II : On Wisdom, Age and Sexuality
It's a good thing I didn't have any idea 'This Process of Aging' would strike such a chord. I would have been tempted to say everything I say here in this post, in that post, and it would have gotten so long that none of you would have had the time to read it. Worse, none of us would have heard all the glorious stories and experiences each of you shared. So, here is the next installment of my experience with this thing we call 'aging' which, as so many of you intrepid explorers have courageously learned, is as much a mind game as it is a fact of life. Were we to allow the culture to tell us how to proceed we'd all be slinking off into the desert by the time we're 58, our pockets full of Viagra and HRT, tails between our legs, imagining ourselves veritably washed up. In the interest of creating an entirely different 'end' to this story...
In my profession I spend a lot of time in the wild (and tragically neutered) landscape of human sexuality. And since I have the extraordinary opportunity to witness human sexuality in its reality - as I work with couples while they are in the intimate dance of their love making - I am privy to a few anecdotal truths this culture does not want us to imagine might be possible. Our true sexual prime is only available to us in our mid-life and beyond. Our sex can get better as we age. Of course, it doesn’t have to. If we had disembodied unfulfilling sex in our twenties and thirties it’s likely we will take this sadness into our forties and fifties and are more likely to give up on it by the time we get to our sixties, assuming this treacherous concept we call “retirement” should apply to our bodies as well as our minds. But if we are engaged with our eroticism, imagining this to be one of our most important pathways of connection with The World, if we are alive in our bodies, if we are aware that how we do sex is how we do life, then it only gets better. And here, in this realm, we have so much to learn from our elder women, whose bodies shift in more seismic ways that the San Andreas fault line. And because we are living so much longer post-menopause, we have many more years to explore and harvest the fecund terrain of generative energy that isn’t being used up by the miraculous but dogged sisters of biological determinism; our uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. At some point - different for each of us - these hard working ladies take a much deserved vacation leaving all that creative, generative energy to find its new focus. It doesn’t just go away, despite what our culture - and sometimes our doctors - tell us. The First Law of Thermodynamics applies not only to the universe but to old people as well. Our elder women will not simply go away because, my friends, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, merely transformed. Perhaps it has less thrust and grunt associated with it, but let's not idealize a form. It’s right there awaiting its next outlet.
Here in this place our love making can easily become the most sublime expression of wisdom and presence. When I’m witnessing wise, embodied 70 and 80 year old's in their love making I come away saying, "Now THAT’s how it’s done.” It's not 'cute' or 'sweet'. It's profound. I feel like a neophyte at the Gates of Awe with so much still ahead of me. And I have to believe the entire universe is breathing a sigh of relief after all the self-help books out there shreeking “BIGGER, BETTER, HOTTER, FASTER!!!” But we have to allow that it will be different (more breath and touch). It will be deeper (possibly to the heart of the universe). It will be slower (sometimes, sometimes not). It will be more careful (lots of lubricant, emotional and physical). But this isn't merely a list of attributes for good elder-sex. It's medicine for all of us regardless of age. It's just that elders find themselves wise enough to discover these secrets, often out of necessity when what we were taught no longer works. Often we have to start from scratch and re-map our entire bodies. Sometimes we have to reintroduce ourselves to our lovers, as if we have died and been reborn. Because we have. I am at just such a gate again, with The Earthquake Man, as my body shifts and I can feel that what worked for me before is no longer quite right. We cannot fear our own knowing. And our partners must be inviting and oh-so curious.
Certainly, there is a lot to fear here, but it's not what we're told. There is no need to fear the loss of our youth. That's a red herring. Getting older is a reckoning. Did we live the life that was ours to live? Did we show up here in our own land? We cannot fake these answers. The life cycle is as wise as it is immutable. We humans are endowed with the paradoxical capacities to make meaning (to which we become attached) and to have consciousness (and therefore fear of loss) and so we get caught up in meaningless eddies that take us away from what is really happening, right now. We have such a glorious amount to learn here. I have to think that the learning we do within the intimate folds of our human experience, in the tender pursuit of our pleasure and presence, is the very place to start. The good news is that we have absolutely nothing to lose. As The Earthquake Man just reminded me in a cross-Atlantic attempt at intimacy over the phone, “Babe, being human has a 100% mortality rate.” What else is there to say?
Well....Plenty......(Like the gorgeous terrain of our elder stallions who, in finding they can no longer engage in the culturally engrained behavior of 'get in, get off and get out' - the behavior they were told was how real men do it - find themselves diving deep into connection and sensation, without anywhere to get to. Thank god for erections that tell the truth. Now THAT'S sexy.) But that's for another time.