“I would never want to be young again, ever. There’s nothing about it that’s appealing to me. Maybe my boobs. I think I wrote that my boobs might have been appealing, and my neck. But I love the sureness. When you gather all these experiences and are able to draw from them when you’re doing any kind of problem-solving or when you’re doing any kind of repairing things, you have a lot to draw from. You don’t at 25. You don’t even at 35. And I do write in the book, it’s like you start becoming a person at 40. Most women that I talk to — most men too — they agree. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, you finally fit into yourself.’ —Jann Arden
The book she is referring to is “If I Knew Then: Finding Wisdom in Failure and Power in Aging“. Published in 2020, If I Knew Then is a funny and heartfelt testament to aging. Jann Arden shares her thoughts with us in a relatable way, inviting us to commiserate and laugh with her.
Suddenly, it was as though I was staring at the most beautiful map of the world. I saw all the strength and service my arms and legs and shoulders and feet had given me for so many years, even though I had put this body through such bullshit and abuse and neglect and shame and loathing. “
Her words resonate with me as I recently celebrated another birthday. But you know, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t dwell on adding another year to my journey. It is what it is, right? I’m fairly healthy, I’m happy, active and busy. Why would I waste time worrying about getting older? There’s too much to do!
“Lots of us don’t know quite what to expect as we grow older. It’s shrouded in our fear and worry about what we see as the inevitable decline. When we do think about it, we imagine it’s all about closing up shop or slowing things down or wrapping up loose ends. We think about the wrinkles that slither onto our brows and hands and necks, and we want all that to stop. . . .What I think about now couldn’t be further from brooding on time running out. Instead, I’m focused on reimagining and reinvention, the act of becoming someone I always hoped I would be. I feel that I am a wise woman emerging through the trees with a renewed sense of the purpose of my own glorious life. Now that I’m a crone, I speak my mind and chase my passions relentlessly. I do not need to wait for permission from anyone to do as I please, and I throw my opinions around.”
I do have to confess: I love Jann Arden. I love her writing; I love her music. I’ve seen her in concert a few times, and I’ve listened to many interviews with her. She is down-to-earth, hilarious, real, and so talented. Canadians should be proud that she is one of us.
Besides being all those things, Jann Arden is a multi-platinum, award-winning singer, songwriter, actor, and author. She has released 14 albums with 19 top ten singles. She has eight JUNO Awards, including Female Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year; 10 SOCAN Awards; and four Western Canadian Music Awards. She is also a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. She has also written five books, the most recent being If I Knew Then.
If I Knew Then brings to light various aspects of ageing that we may have once feared. Times are different now, and getting older doesn’t mean life is winding down. It means you now have time to do things, explore, and to become the person you have always wanted to be. Of course, there may be a few obstacles to doing this, but with patience and a bit of imagination, we can blast through those obstacles like we are a new character in a Marvel movie. (Yes, I love Marvel movies. It took me three kids and about 20 years to discover their magic, but I can hardly wait for Thor: Love and Thunder to come out in July.
Back to the book. Right off the start, Jann sets the pace by introducing The Crone. Now I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, a crone was not something one aspired to be. A crone was seen as old, evil, ugly, and a bit of a witch. Reading what Jann has to say about crones has changed my mind.
“She sounds like somebody I’d like to invite over for a few pots of Earl Grey tea and a platter of carbohydrates…We Crones have piled up thousands of undertakings over the years, and they provide us with a majestic view: a view of our own life, a view that enables us to be fair and kind and supportive of ourselves and each other.”
If I Knew Then showcases the trials and tribulations of getting older. Jann reveals how she is learning from her mistakes and how she keeps the momentum going to live a wonderful life. We can all learn from this. I think it is all about opening yourself up to the process of ageing and being true to yourself. Sure, we may not run as fast as we did in our younger days. We may not remember every little detail or recover as quickly from a night out as we once did. Does it really matter? I remember what is important to me. I may struggle with the odd word, but it eventually comes. And as for going out? Nah. I’d rather stay home and watch TV, read a book, or visit with a friend, followed by a good sleep. Well, as good as you can get, and that is one thing about ageing that bothers me!
“For whatever reason, as we leave our teens and twenties, a stick starts ever so slowly to work its way up our arse. We abandon our instincts and start doing more and more things that we think we should be doing.” Jann writes. “Being the age I am, that so many women are, is just the best time of my life.”
In an honest way, Jann Arden looks at her life and admits that finally, in her fifties (I think she was 57 when she wrote this book, and it was published two years ago, so… you can do the math), she has become her own person. She shares her story with the reader and candidly talks about her relationship with her mother, father, and other family members. I know. I can relate. Now that I am in my sixties, I remember my parents at this age and wonder if they had the same feelings, expectations, and desires as I do. It is interesting to look back at their lives from a grown-up perspective and not that of a child.
“Every decade that goes by, I feel like a completely different person. I just do. I think about decisions that I make and the way I go about my day-to-day life, and it’s completely different from decade to decade — how I navigate problems and relationships and job opportunities,” says Jann.
So, if you have a birthday on the horizon, don’t fret. Celebrate! Go 3D mini-golfing—I did and had a blast. I could barely walk and thought the floor was slanted, but that was just me, not age! Don’t feel sad or get stressed out about the passage of time. Enjoy it. You are here, and time is a gift.
“The passage of time brings with it an unmistakable wonder,” says Jann. “Be kind to your body—it is carrying your soul. Do what YOU do and BE who YOU are.”