"Fifty-four years of living has taught me that I can persist through the hard times—and also that hard times pass."
I love, love, love Cheryl Strayed. Almost 11 years ago I climbed in a hammock and started reading "Wild." My mom had died 4 days earlier. Little did I know her memoir was about her mom dying; I thought it was about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and her hiking experience (I had always wanted to hike the PCT trail, too). Turns out, we're both from northern Minnesota and my mom died in the exact same hospital where Cheryl's mom died. It was incredible synchronicity, and that book helped me heal in a very difficult time. I read straight through her book in two days, laying in that hammock, crying all the way through. I will always feel like we're soul sisters, though we've never met, of course. The book was so important for me, both in discovering the shared loss of our mothers and also in the desire to explore wild places. It's gratifying to learn she's such a cool person, in addition to being a wonderful writer. And yes, hard times do pass. Thanks for everything you write, Cheryl.
"I'd rather not spend my dotage wondering what the fuck to wear every day." Priceless!
"I know the reasons why some people don’t want to share their age, but those reasons are rooted in shame, in ageism, in the false stories that are put upon us based on how old we are. The only way to vanquish all that tosh is to tell the truth without apology. " AMEN, SISTER!!!
I am glad to be made aware of Sugar Calling. Look forward to putting that in my earballs on my daily walks.
I'm such a fangirl, this was wonderful to read. I too have always felt older than my chronological age, maybe due to having barely survived a rough childhood and young adulthood, fucking up from being fucked up, until getting on my feet in my late 20s. Every decade since has been better, and, as Cheryl says—I'd never go back! Now, halfway through my 60s, I also want to have more than a couple decades left but I'm grateful for my life now, calm and quiet, with room for play, far less stressful in terms of material realities and inner turmoil. The usually younger people I go out to play with (hiking, cycling) are surprised to learn my age, even though it certainly shows on my face and body (wracked-out knees, the usual litany of various "itis"es). Underlying that surprise, I think, is that people just don't expect older folks to be adventurous and active. I get a kick from busting through that unexamined assumption whenever I can by unapologetically proclaiming my age.
Lovely to read this, beloved Cheryl, but I have to disagree about it being “coy” not to give one’s age—or based in shame. For me, it’s neither: it’s simply that the number is not anyone’s measure. I feel the same way about being asked my IQ or weight. It’s irrelevant to who I am. I refuse such mis-measurement of us. xox
What a delight it was to do this questionnaire! And even more delightful to read all your lovely comments. Thank you, Sari, and thank you everyone for your kind words!
🙋♀️ "blasting cassette tapes of Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin on my Walkman"
That thing about the way life can gentle us... I think when I was young, wildly angry, grieving, and drunk on my own righteousness I would have resisted anyone who suggested that being gentled by life, becoming more aware and open to nuance and complexity, more willing to question my own assumptions had something to useful to offer me. I would have felt they were trying to take something essential away from me. Surely, they just resented my insight and wanted to silence me. It's taken me decades to tire of the sharp edges of myself and want to be able to embrace the world more tenderly in all of its mess and difficulty and poignant joy.
In some ways, for me anyway, it came from having children. All those years of their soft bodies constantly pressed up against me, the way they would relax into me in a moment, their breath steady and deep. What a thing, to be able to do that! I find myself yearning to be able to relax into the world like that. Holding it all at arm's length, to maintain some illusion of safety and control and critical analysis, increasingly just leaves me lonely. I find myself wanting to love the world more than "understand" it, but ironically I probably understand more now than I did before just by virtue, as Cheryl notes, of sticking with it for all of this time and letting the force of it erode my edges.
I love your newsletter and this is probably a petty complaint, but why do you insert boldface quotations that we are just about to read in the article? It reminds me of reading “ content” provided by some advertising person. It interrupts the flow of your writing and drives me crazy. Especially with a writer as wonderful as Cheryl Strayed.
“Tell the truth without apology.” 💞💞💞
I’m so glad Cheryl is not ashamed to reveal her age. That is one of the strangest things about getting older (I’m 66). I’ve had friends tell me I shouldn’t tell others my age. No shame!
I reread this just now. So many great lines written by a woman who feels good in her own skin. Thank you Cheryl for being a guide/teacher. You've inspired me to go beyond what I thought I could do and it's changed my life. I have a knowingness in my bones I can handle anything because I already have.
I love this interview on age. It's inspiring that Cheryl feels free to tell her age. Thank you for this wonderful article. Inspiring!
I admire Cheryl's work so much, and have been thinking about aging so much lately (I'm 44). I can't imagine my life ahead of me, what it's going to look like after my only child flies the coop. The last 4 yrs of my life have been devastating in a lot of ways and I can't even see a way forward sometimes. Cheryl's perspective on growing older is so refreshing (emphasis on 'growing")--something to aspire to.
Love this piece, so many unique answers. And I guess I never really stopped to think about what it must be like to have no parents at such a young age. It seems like it would be so scary and hard. I'm glad you became a writer.
just when you think you know it all about Cheryl Strayed, more comes. Love her. Thank you