I bet I caught your attention, talking about the “C” word, didn’t I? There are many words that make me shudder these days, many words that give me the willies, many of which start with a “C”. But today’s word is “crone.” That word has been abused and twisted so much through the ages that all that comes to mind is a bent-over ancient woman dressed in long, flowing black gear, leaning on her cane, cackling with laughter.
What is the definition of “crone” anyway? My handy dandy desktop dictionary defines crone as “an ugly, evil-looking old woman.” Wonderful. I find it interesting that the older I get, the more personal this dispute with linguistics gets. Why do so many of us hesitate to use that word to define who we are? Is this who we are?
The world has changed so much through the decades. In the 1800s the word “old” defined those around the age of 40 or 50. Sixty was ancient, 70 unheard of. Yet a hundred years later those in their 60s are as vibrant — if not more so — than their 40-year-old counterparts. What is the inspiration that changes the perimeters of what passes for matron/mother to that of elder/crone?
I found that once I passed the 40-year-old mark, a whole new world opened up to me. Memories of when I first got married, of babies and trips to the park and painting Snoopy on my kid’s bedroom wall. Now the babies are married or in college, my wild dating life circles around a quick bite at China House with my husband of 30 years, and my job has swirled from downtown exclusivity to small town camaraderie.
Yet so many times I feel that I am that same person — that if only given a chance, I could stay up until dawn, work the PR circuit, jog a couple of miles, keep up with toddlers, dance on tables, and laugh and be crazy as if I were 20. But then I bend over, my muscles aching, and look at the clock, wondering if 8:30 is too early to go to bed, feeling a whole lot older than the 20-year-old I want to be. Is this what being a crone is all about?
This constant glancing (or, in some, focusing) on things in the past tends to slow us down in moving forward. I believe all human beings use the past as a means to the future. Obviously time and experience move only one way. Forward. But does this constant glancing backwards confuse us more than save us? Do we spend too much time doing the spin-a-roonie that all we get for our efforts is a stiff neck?
I have too much mind chatter to begin with, and when I dip into situations and experiences long gone I do nothing but mix past judgments with present ones, mistake past insecurities for present ones, and begin to catch faint wisps of where I could have turned left instead of right, paths I could have taken, and friendships I could have saved.
Being a crone does nothing more than extend one’s sight backwards. In a perfect world we would use this hindsight to blaze our path towards a successful future. In some cases this is true. If I hadn’t taken a chance on starting a bed and breakfast in Wisconsin I would have never found my home in the county, my son would never have met his wife, nor would my other son be a star on the high school baseball team. I would have made different friends and owned different cats.
But so what?
We think we would be different “now” if we had made different choices “then.” And what I am realizing as I float, stumble and stomp into my crone years, I’m no different than I was 20 or 30 years ago. I know that I still have a choice of turning right or left, but now I understand that the choice is not as dramatic as it once was. I will always be moving forward ― time won’t have it any other way. And I will still choose the direction that brings me the most pleasure. It might not always be the wisest choice, the most prudent choice — but it would be the same choice I would have made 20 years ago.
We all tend to choose a world that best suits our needs, our souls. We manage to leave the most painful memories behind, covered in that dark grey mist that manages to cover without destroying, and we tend to paint our present and future in the rosy tones that possibility brings. We use the experiences of our lives to teach ourselves and to teach others.
If that is what being a crone is all about, I’ve probably been one longer than I care to admit. And if the benefit of age is understanding a little more about the universe outside and inside, we will all be lucky to be a crone sometime. I just wish popular culture would find a different word. Crone sounds like something creepy and crackly. I need to do is find a new word for women such as myself — something catchy and vibrant and airy fairy.
Maybe — maybe the world just got the word mixed up. It should be Crown — not crone. For that’s what we deserve after having lived this long to talk about it.