by Cathy Arden on December 27, 2015

Elegant dancing naked woman with perfect body. Isolated image.

Many people I know, including myself, take stock of the past year as the new one beckons.  I don’t make a point of doing this, but the process seems to occur without my even being aware of it. For example, I always seem to ask myself, “Where was I last year this time?”   Last year at this time I was in New York for the holidays, in Antarctica weather conditions, suffering from the flu, wrapping myself up in layer after layer of clothing to honor the multitude of theater tickets I had purchased, praying in my seat at every show that I would stay upright, not cough, not sneeze, and not have to suddenly exit the theater with my fever spiking.

My cousin, Rena, died suddenly and tragically many years ago, just before her 50th birthday. She was 10 years my senior and as she approached her 50th birthday, she told me, “No one reveals this little secret. The core of you never grows old. I’m turning 50 but I am still, in my mind, a young woman. In some basic way, we never really grow old.”

I didn’t completely understand what Rena meant then, but I understand now all these years later, as I am well past the 50th mark.   No matter how much wisdom I gain, how much success and gratification in my work, how many stops and starts, how much sadness and grief, how much pride watching my young dependent children emerge as successful independent adults, I discover that I am still young as I am growing old.

I didn’t know this until recently. For 11 years I had been taking care of my mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. She died this past January and as I look back on those years of care taking and sorrow, I am amazed that I continued on in my life and in my work even during that trying decade, as I also continued to launch my children into adulthood.  But the young woman I had once been I believe was asleep until recently. I didn’t really know the full extent of that sleep and my awakening until the night before Christmas Eve.

I had presents to wrap for my family. With full knowledge that I am the world’s most inept gift wrapper, that I have no practical artistic nor crafty ability whatsoever, I dove in with great hope, yet no delusion. The scissors and scotch tape were easy to locate. But the wrapping paper and ribbons I clumsily dug out from the back of a closet stuffed with old clothes and mementos from past lives and loved ones who have passed on. What do you throw away, what do you keep in dark spaces and what do you take out of hiding?

On this night, the night before Christmas Eve, I alternately sat and stood between my bed and my bedroom fireplace, balsam candles burning, fire blazing, Bose headphones attached to my laptop and stretched across my head, listening to my Spotify playlist of Oldies but Goodies, singing with scissors and scotch tape in hand, folding wrapping paper clumsily around gifts, and finally throwing off my comfy chenille robe and jumping up to dance naked around my room. You won’t find this detail in any Christmas storybook. But I am telling you right here, right now (as my Spin instructor at the gym repeats umpteen times during Spin classes), that even when you’ve lived hard, lived deeply, lived passionately, lived sorrowfully, lived in that dark space where real life seems to vie for your attention amongst all the mementos and ghosts from your past lives, joy and youthful hope and energy actually emerge as the winners who take all.

Do you believe in magic, in a young girl’s heart?
How the music can free her, whenever it starts
And it’s magic, if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie
I’ll tell you about the magic and it’ll free your soul
But it’s like tryin’ to tell a stranger ’bout rock and roll
                                             (The Lovin’ Spoonful)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy Bogart December 27, 2015 at 7:35 AM

True true true, but I’d heard this about aging all my life from my mother (who, by the way, danced naked all the time). I could post a photo I of her dancing naked at 90, but think it best to spare you, your readers, and my mothers reputation. When I reached 30 (one of the first big milestones of aging) I felt 17, when I turned 40 I was still 17, and now at 68 I am still 17 inside. My father in law once said ‘everyone has a specific inner age they identify with and never leave behind’. I believe we are formed in our teens…the music we listened to during those years is ‘our’ music, so perhaps listening to your favorite ‘Oldies but Goodies’ triggered ‘your’ inner teen, woke her up and set her free :0) xo


Cathy Arden December 27, 2015 at 8:19 AM

Ah, you see, my mother told me a lot but not this! And it’s only recently that I’ve experienced joy listening to those Oldies but Goodies without experiencing sadness and loss. Now my perspective allows me to honor and feel grateful for not only the joyous part of my past, but the turmoil as well. Grateful I experienced it all! Thanks for your response, Tracy!


Tracy Bogart December 27, 2015 at 3:01 PM

Love love love your book, your blog, and can’t wait for the next artistic creation :0)


Cathy Arden December 27, 2015 at 7:29 PM

Thank you, Tracy!!!! xox


Iris December 28, 2015 at 7:01 AM

What I love most about your writing is the universality of it. Happy New Year.


Cathy Arden December 28, 2015 at 5:33 PM

Thank you, Iris! Happy New Year to you as well!


Amy Louise Pommier January 1, 2016 at 11:37 AM

Just getting around to reading this on New Year’s Day…and what a hopeful message with which to start the new year! Thank you!


Cathy Arden January 1, 2016 at 1:55 PM

Thanks for reading and commenting, Amy. Happy New Year!


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