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  • Writer's pictureMarjorie Robertson

A Constellation of Selves at Mardi Gras

Updated: Feb 21

Dum spectas, fugit hora: carpe diem.

(motto on a sundial, Wolsingham County, England)

Whilst thou art looking, the hour is flying: seize the day.

When I was growing up in the upper Midwest, people said to me, you were born in mid-February in the dead of winter. I replied, yes, but in New Orleans it’s Mardi Gras. Whatever people say defines me----gender, appearance, nationality, age, opinions----I say I am and am not those things. Like you, I am a constellation of selves.

Once you're in your 50s, you’re no longer young but not old, either, as if some form of you died and you’re in an in-between time.

When my mom and stepdad were my age, they had active lives----they worked hard, made repairs, went places, sunned, dealt with setbacks, and generally made it through. They never warned me, never told me what to expect of this age, so I caution you now----your yearning and desire will never end.

Aging is like perfume----the essence of the finest parts of us growing and burning off the dross. We let go of parts that don't serve us anymore except as fertilizer, silently supporting the ground we stand on.

We are not parts and categories. We are not just mind-body. We are one extraordinary, tactile, and complex organism, reaching for wellness with every breath. Stubborn and flowing, yes and no, sometimes you can eat this or do that, sometimes you can’t, don’t-know-why organism. Everything works together and is in conversation with the rest, at times with a clear cause and effect and other times not.

More than when I was younger, I yearn for the sensual experience of life----for hugging people, tasting flavors, feeling the caress of wind on my arm out the car window, and sweating with movement. Now, I carry something to touch in my pocket----a buckeye, a smooth stone, a crunchy piece of paper----put on a record and dance or meet up with a friend downtown. I also yearn for community.

After an injury, my body expressed itself without words, moaning and whimpering. Sometimes my scarred body, like a lover without words, said, touch me like this. At other times it was an ache, a throbbing wound, the cut of a knife, the tickle of a feather. When I didn’t want to live in the home of my soul anymore, it changed, and compassion replaced pain. When the body transformed, the mind and spirit followed.

With age, more than anything, I see where there is light, there must be darkness. If we cut ourselves off from experiencing and acknowledging pain, we cut ourselves off from feeling joy, too. When we accept the existence of both, we wake up, as Pema Chödrön says. We realize why we’re alive, that this is what it’s about, this dance between light and dark----and the times in the shadows when you cannot see the edges of your life.

This is the meaning of Mardi Gras to me----living now, embracing and feeling life now with its many light and dark times. Whatever your age, whatever the conflict today, raise your arms and reach to the sky as if you've been filled with the spirit. Say: hey, hey, here, over here! Throw me those beads, hit me with those shining colors! Let’s do it now while we still can.

Happy Mardi Gras!

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