One thing that we chatted about at Giving Voice, the gathering of women religious under 50, was the generation gap. Most of us, in our 20's, 30's or 40's, are living with people in their 60's, 70's, or 80's. There are so many awesome things about intergenerational living, honestly and truly. You get to have these amazing mentors who are also your Sisters and friends. One of our panelists commented that people spend lots of money and search for "Life Coaches" and mentors ... we happen to have an abudant supply right at home. I've also found that the older women I've lived with in community have an incredibly healthy attitude about life in the institutional Church. They've seen everything and they give me some proper perspective and remind me of the importance of a sense of humor.

There are of course also challenges to intergenerational living. As another panelist said, "Sometimes I just need to have a 'I'm 29 today' day. I spend so much time acting like I'm 70, sometimes I need to just be 29." Point taken.

Another challenge, pretty minor but very noticeable, is the difference in frames of reference. I might compare someone to Master Yoda and get a blank look. Or my elder housemates might start singing a popular tune from the 40's and are surprised that I don't know it. One of the wonderful things about Giving Voice gatherings is spending time with people my age who also are in the sub-culture of religious life. So, when one of my friends commented that we were talking so much about "God, God, God," in the morning session, and another friend said, "If God's name was Marcia, it would be like 'Marcia, Marcia, Marcia'", we all burst out laughing at the Brady Bunch reference. In my house, they would have asked me why I was calling God Marcia.

All this is just a preamble to a moment that I had in the car on my drive home this afternoon from work. I was listening to NPR's new "You Must Hear This" feature. Jesse Carmichael, the lead singer of Maroon 5 was talking about the album Purple Rain by Prince.

It's interesting when you discover somebody that was around before your time. I really got into the album Purple Rain after I saw the movie, and it was one of those times when I thought, 'How could nobody have told me about this earlier?'

It's interesting when you discover that somebody old enough to be the lead singer of a popular band is young enough to name one of your early cutlural references as "before his time." As for me, I received Purple Rain on VINYL for my birthday in sixth grade.

Wow, I thought ... I'm old. Being a younger member of an aging religious community, I rarely find myself thinking I'm old. Except of course when my nephew turns 21, like he did this past weekend. Or when a someone on the radio is too young to have heard of Purple Rain. In any case, the whole experience in the car today gave me something to think about the next time some of my Sisters are talking about something "before my time."


Eliza said...

I went back to college as a 'upper-30' year old... and had a similar situation in a way... I knew who Prince is and... honest to goodness... the Beatles... When I connected with people my age was really nice to talk to people who would laugh at my references. On the other hand, I don't pay attention to pop culture enough to get some of the references of the younger people in class. Or have bad enough grammar... :-)

Ave said...

I'm glad you have found others following your path that you can share with. I don't know what the restrictions of your order are, but you might also spend time with others of your age who are not nuns: join a walking or running group; sing in a choir; take classes in Spanish or Salsa. I'm sure your presence would bless whatever group you are a part of.

Christopher said...

My African neighbour, who came to Britain from Guinea only six years ago, was telling me the other day that the oddest thing about Britain is how different generations don't live together. In her own culture it's usual for entire families to live together - grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, children, cousins - all sharing the home. Older family members are seen as contributing wisdom, younger members as bringing new ideas. But in our Western culture this is practically unheard of - as the American folk singer Pete Seeger used to sing, we all live in our little boxes. Maybe nuns in all-age communities have much to teach the rest of us.

Susan Rose Francois, CSJP said...

Christopher - I think that intergenerational living is definitely one of the gifts religious life has to bring to our culture.

Ave - definitely true that it's important to keep peer relationships outside of religious life. This is something I'm working on. But it's also so great to spend time with people my age who also are in religious life.

Eliza - thanks for sharing your own experiences with pop culture references!