With every WOW Factor interview I do as a labor of love, I come away a richer person. “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!” Solomon enthuses in Proverbs (16:16). That’s how I feel about the wisdom I’ve been gleaning from the wise older women I’ve met and talked with since I began this blog after my sixty-ninth birthday last May.
One of my many takeaways is a book I literally took away (well, borrowed) from Madeleine Herrmann’s home after our interview earlier this month (see 10/6/14 post). The title jumped out at me as I scanned Madeleine’s personal library: Crones Don’t Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women (Conari Press). This inspiring little book, by Jungian analyst Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., author of Goddesses in Older Women and The Millionth Circle, among many other books, is not only a must-read for every woman in or approaching her “crone” years, but also the perfect birthday gift for sister “crones” and the ideal women’s book group selection.
First, a few words about the word “crone.” Bolen wisely devotes the first section of this book to clarifying its meaning. “I am proposing,” she says, “that it is time to reclaim and redefine ‘crone’ from the word pile of disparaging names to call older women, and to make becoming a ‘crone’ a crowning inner achievement of the third phase of life.” This third phase typically begins at around fifty (post-menopause), after having been through the first two archetypal life phases, “Maiden” and “Mother.” Bolen defines this third phase this way:
“To be a crone is about inner development, not outer appearance. A crone is a woman who has wisdom, compassion, humor, courage, and vitality. She has a sense of truly being herself, can express what she knows and feels, and take action when need be. … She has learned to trust herself to know what she knows.”
The book’s second section is devoted to listing and then fleshing out the thirteen salient qualities Bolen feels characterize a wise crone:
- Crones Don’t Whine
- Crones Are Juicy
- Crones Have Green Thumbs
- Crones Trust What They Know in Their Bones
- Crones Meditate in Their Fashion
- Crones Are Fierce About What Matters to Them
- Crones Choose the Path with Heart
- Crones Speak the Truth with Compassion
- Crones Listen to Their Bodies
- Crones Improvise
- Crones Don’t Grovel
- Crones Laugh Together
- Crones Savor the Good in Their Lives.
Reviewers have called Crones Don’t Whine “a joyful call to arms,” a “sweet and wise little primer,” a “juicy celebration.” I agree with all this and more. “Adopting Bolen’s approach,” writes another reviewer, “is bound to result in a happier person who graces the world by her presence and actions.”
Wise crones are the role models we aspire to be, the role models we may never have had. A few of my WOW Factor interviewees have admitted to me privately that their own mothers – from a different era, when older women were likely to feel merely withered and discarded – were, in fact, whiners. Reading and following Crones Don’t Whine will help to keep us from tumbling into that sad state.