The poetic justice of growing old and letting go in “The Analyst”

“It’s always backwards in analysis, isn’t it?,” poet Molly Peacock asks in her new collection.

The Analyst by Molly Peacock is a book of poetry that explores the evolution of relationships as people grow older over time, and how these emotions can be captured and understood through the process of creative license. The anthology of poems is based on the author’s relationship with her therapist, Joan Workman Stein, who she met in New York when she was a young woman and stayed in contact with for several years. Stein suffers a stroke and Peacock, once the patient, becomes a caregiver in helping her therapist recover.

The book is separated into four parts, Part One: The Pottery Jar; Part Two: The Hours; Part Three: Ruby Roses, Kiss Goodbye; and Part Four: Whisper of Liberty. Each section follows the two friends through the initial shock of having a loved one experience a stroke, helping them recover, letting go of their lost capacities and accepting their new self. Peacock helps Stein to rediscover her lost love of art, and it ultimately becomes the tool that brings her back to life.

Peacock ultimately realizes that Stein helping her all of those years prepared her to return the favour when her therapist reaches old age and needs someone to be there. In the final poem, “Mandala in the Making”, she states, “Only when something’s over can its shape materialize,” thus showing that life is a series of evolutionary cycles repeating themselves throughout time. The Analyst uses a deeply creative means to show how people can never know quite what certain events their lives truly mean until they have passed.

The set of poems employs subtle references and the author’s own experiences to lead the reader down a path of understanding long-term relationships and how they change as people grow older. Oftentimes, poetry seeks to avoid the more disgusting facts of aging, and focuses instead on the beauty of youth and love. Peacock avoids this pattern and faces the gruesome realities that lie behind having a stroke and losing the capacity to be fully functional that is ultimately a result of aging. In “The Canning Jar”, it is almost hard to swallow the description of the dead rabbit in the St. Lawrence Market, but the reader is forced to contend with death and ultimately reconcile with it.

Overall, Peacock takes the mundane and turns it into art. Growing old is by no means special, but her changed relationship with her therapist puts her in a position to see how letting go of the old self is always a singularly unique and beautiful experience no matter how it happens or who it happens with. The journey of The Analyst becomes exceptional precisely because it turns the tragedy of a stroke into the miracle of rebirth when Stein embraces becoming an artist and let’s go of being a therapist.

This book of poems is a great read, especially for someone looking to reconcile with an aging loved one. Peacock engages with the trauma of watching her friend be affected by a stroke and the reader can feel her desperation and eventual acceptance. Take a chance on The Analyst and it will leave you wondering which relationships will change and evolve over time and how each person will meet their own limitations of mortality.

40 is the new 40

This article was previously published on January 4, 2012.

I’m on the cusp of my 40th birthday and I’m excited. Not that anybody believes me when I say it. In fact, every time I gleefully sing: “I’m turning 40, I’m turning 40! Hooray I’m going to be old!” at anyone within earshot lately (silly I know, but please note I never claimed not to be) and I gear up to start my happiness dance, someone always chimes in with…

“Well not to worry, you look so young. No one would ever guess you’re anywhere near to 40.”


“Old? Forty is the new 20/30? You’re sooo not old.”

Generally, I ignore such comments and just carry on singing. Moreover, the seemingly knee jerk response to console me every time I mention that I’m about to hit the BIG Four-O, only serves to make me want to declare it even more loudly to more people.

You see, I don’t ever want to get to a place where I’m mourning the fact that I’m getting older. I’ve always thought it best to accept what I can and cannot change in life. So, from time to time I may allow myself to bitch and moan about my weight, my finances, and/or the men I choose to date. But even though my knees have started to creak, the bouts of lower back pain I occasionally have to deal with now last a little longer, and certain parts of my body simply aren’t as perky as they used to be, I never complain about getting older.

I figured out a long time ago that I could choose to focus on the down or upside of the aging process, and being an optimist, I chose the upside. And just what is the upside of getting old? Well, I’d say evolving into someone who is more self-aware, being increasingly comfortable in my own skin, and learning to be true to myself in all circumstances (even stressful ones). In essence, with each passing year I am becoming a better and more grounded human being: a person my more nubile, 20-year old self would hardly recognize, much less claim to be.

That’s why, in spite of all the well-intentioned folk who attempt to ‘make me feel better’ about my pending birthday by telling me just how young  I look (according to them, because what does 40 look like anyway?) or am in spirit, I refuse to shy away from telling people my age, or celebrating the fact that with each passing year I learn more about myself and the world around me.

Yes, in just a few short days I’ll be turning 40. But I won’t be the 40-something striving to be 20 or 30 with a decade or two of experience. Nope, not me. Instead I plan to revel in the JOY of actually being 40 – nothing more, nothing less. My 40 is simply going to be the new 40 and as hard as it may be for some to believe, that’s a-ok with me.

Follow B.A. Dobson on Twitter at @BA_Dobson.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

How to maintain fabulous skin at any age

Some may say I’m too young to talk about aging, wrinkles, or sun damage, but I’ve always believed in being proactive when it comes to taking care of my skin. As the old adage goes, prevention is always better than cure.

I’m slowly creeping up on my 30s and I’ve started to notice the first signs of aging: bags under my eyes that don’t disappear with a good night’s rest and fine lines on my forehead. I’ve always had a nightly routine of moisturizing my face, neck, hands, and feet – the places I’ve been told that show the signs of aging first – but I realize that I’m going to have to be more diligent when it comes to protecting my skin. I’ve never opted for the expensive skin-care products, but instead stick with more traditional creams, ointments, and homemade remedies.

Fight sun exposure

I’m usually extra careful when it comes to being exposed to the sun for too long, and with summer fast approaching, it’s vital to be as vigilant as possible. As much as you need a dose of vitamin D, overexposing yourself to get an enviable golden tan causes the skin’s natural elastin to break down, causing wrinkles, sun spots, and even cancer.

Finding the right sunscreen is important. The key is not necessarily finding the highest SPF, but it’s important to look for a sunscreen that has multi-spectrum protection, including UVA and UVB. Once you’ve found it, use it and use it often, even in the winter when the UV ray index can still be high.
It’s easy to feel inundated with the number of options available to slow down the appearance of aging and revitalize your skin. Finding the right products or procedures for you is based on very individual criteria. However, there are certain things that are applicable to everyone at any age, such as regular facials, which can be performed at home if you don’t have time for a trip to the spa.

Diminish fine lines and wrinkles

If you’d like to pursue more aggressive options to curb the appearance of aging, then injections can be a great choice, instead of going the more invasive route. The most popular injectable is still Botox Cosmetic, which is a purified protein comprised of botulinum toxin type A; it relaxes contractions in certain facial muscles to diminish wrinkles and fine lines. However, many women dislike the severe effects of this product, which leaves some faces looking unnaturally smooth, taut, and, ultimately, expressionless.

For this reason, other injectables have become increasingly popular. One such product is Restylane, a natural filler that restores hyaluronic acid in the skin, which is similar to our body’s own naturally occurring hyaluronic acid. It can be used to decrease the look of wrinkles, create fuller lips, or rejuvenate the skin to keep your face looking refreshed, but not frozen. While they’re not permanent, injectable results can last for up to one year.

The power of makeup

Finally, when it comes to makeup, less will usually give you a more youthful appearance. As you age, start using oil-based cosmetics, as the powered options can settle rather than gliding over your face, which emphasizes lines and wrinkles rather than disguising them.

It’s inevitable that my skin will change as I grow older. However, by taking steps to prevent further damage, using specialized products that curb visible signs of aging, and choosing the right cosmetics for my skin, I know that these changes won’t stop me from looking fabulous.

Follow Tashika on Twitter at @tashikagomes.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @womenspost.

Being 50 isn’t for sissies

I am not able to provide a specific date, but there was a time when the guy in the car next to me at the red light was actually looking my way and hey, I was looking back. Not an openly encouraging come hither glance but more a sardonic, lips slightly parted smile, eyes hidden behind sunglasses. After all, I could have been looking beyond him or directly at him. Similar things happened at the grocery store. Lingering eye contact over the deli counter, a feigned interest in the Havarti slices. Now it’s all about shaved or sliced smoked chicken – and really, that’s what it’s all about.

When I pass a group of teenage girls now, I’m self-conscious. I feel the heaviness of their glare expertly delivered from beneath sooty eye lashes and iridescent lids – they despise me. I am older, and not just older than them. Old-er. It’s perceived to be a weakness. There’s something horribly primal about it, as though hyenas are driving a member from the pack when they are no longer vital. Perhaps I should feel smug, armed with the knowledge that one day their bejeweled navels will in fact be frowning or possibly hidden altogether but this kind of speculation holds no appeal for me. Instead I focus on my own decline, wondering what is on the back of my leg in the shower (it’s my bum, people!). Hating myself for it all the while, I also click on “Celebrity Secrets” online just in case.  Disappointingly, the “secret” is lots of water and a personal chef — well, that and $35,000 worth of cosmetic surgery.

I’m not sure why I even cite these strange examples here, but they provide subtle markers that I am changing and even more weirdly, that how society perceives me is changing. Someone in line asked me if I was shopping for my grandchildren and I literally could have dropped to my knees with the sting from that innocent remark. But it’s technically possible, I guess. A few years back – perhaps the same time as the deli-staff lost interest, who charts these things? — people also stopped being older than me. Very inconsiderate, but I’m getting over it.

The bottom line is that I am trying hard to accept all of these challenges with grace – and gratitude — for the life that I have. Youth may be wasted on the young, but I want to be sure not to waste anything.