To be a crone, aka wise-woman, is not about outer appearances, it’s about inner development. It is a woman who has wisdom, compassion, humor, courage, and vitality. You may have met such a woman. Perhaps you look back at your mother and now recognize her as one. Or you may already be a crone destined to leave a legacy for other women.
The word crones conjures up images of an old woman, a hag, a shrew, or a witch, writes Jean Shinoda, MD in her book, Crones Don’t Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women. She proposes that the time has come to reclaim and redefine “crone” from the disparaging names women have tolerated through the ages.
A crone is a woman who has a good sense of who she is and can express what she knows and feels. “She is that the rare spirit who recognizes flaws in herself and others, but sees it in a soft light and without judgment.” Cultivating these qualities— inner beauty and wisdom—makes the third act of life a time when we can enjoy who we are, what we have, and what we are doing.
Becoming a full-fledged crone happens in the later decades. To be one takes self-reflection and courage. The mirror reflects our outer appearance, that which we see. But the thirteen qualities we must develop to be a crone are intangible traits having to do with our soul.
1. Crones Don’t Whine. A crone knows she and her troubles are not the centers of the universe. “Grief is not whining. Whimpering is not whining. Maybe some body part is not working well or is painful— and you are doing what can be done, medically and otherwise. Whatever you are struggling with can be told to people who need to know, want to know, or as updates to friends with whom you share the ongoing story of your life. However, crones don’t bore others with a litany of their symptoms.”
2. A Crone is Juicy. She’s an older woman with zest, passions, and soul. If you aspire to be one, the secret is to be yourself as long as your mind and body still function well enough, and you appreciate being alive.
3. Crones Have Green Thumbs. Using gardening as a metaphor, Jean explains that like plants and pets, people respond to crones because they nurture growth. They protect what is vulnerable until it can survive on its own. They are patient knowing that small things can grow to be big things.
4. Crones Trust What They Know in Their Bones. They trust their instincts about people and principles. This trust grows through growing older and wiser, through learning from life.
5. Crones Meditate. It can be washing the dishes and staring out the window or folding laundry and day-dreaming. It may be having a quiet cup of coffee in the morning watching the sunrise or watching the stars at night. It is a time when creative thoughts come to us, or something beautiful truly seen, or a dream or conversation remembered.
6. Crones are Fierce. Many women are fiercely compassionate about the suffering caused by the indifference of those in authority. They are not naive or in denial about reality and turn their anger toward helping the abused, helpless and neglected.
7. Crones Choose Paths with Their Hearts. After learning from experience, they apply past lessons to present choices. They are women who are passionate, courageous, and principled.
8. Crones Speak the Truth. “Many women, uncomfortable truths or differences of opinion don’t pass through their polite lips. They say what others want to hear. To become a crone is learning to be both truthful and compassionate.”
9. Crones Listen with Their Body. “As we age, more than ever, it behooves us to get on good terms with our inner body. We must give it the physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well as pleasures. If dancing brings joy, the endorphins are released, giving pleasure and diminishing aches and pains.” Others want to feel the warmth of the sun or breathe the crisp mountain air.
10. Crones Improvise. “Baby boomer women define their lives as improvised work in process. There was no single track for this generation. Flexibility, resourcefulness, good health, friends, the ability to learn and keep on growing, being needed or doing service, having absorbing interests, and the ability to enjoy your own company, are qualities and possibilities that make improvising a good life possible. With curiosity and an adventuresome spirit, some crones discover a whole new world of interest. Some finally take something up that has lain fallow for decades. There are late-bloomers in all aspects of life. When Mom becomes a widow, for example, her grown children often are surprised at how independent she becomes, how much she travels or takes care of the business.”
11. Crones Don’t Grovel. After decades fearing rejections, women in the third act recognize that they don’t have to please anyone. When groveling occurs between two adults, fear of punishment (rejection) exists. It is a hierarchical relationship with one person having power over the other. Crones know they are good enough as they are. Many women today are non-groveling crones because of feminism. They agree with Eleanor Roosevelt (who became a crone without the women’s movement), “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
12. Crones Laugh Together. When women come together in the absence of men, spontaneous laughter arises as they tell stories of embarrassing or out-of-the-ordinary past moments. It’s laughter that releases endorphins (feel-good molecules), and often they laugh until tears flow. There is no pecking order here. If you try to retell about such a moment, you end up defeated exclaiming: “You had to have been there!” It’s healing humor, which acknowledges and makes light of difficulties that unite rather than divide us.
13. Crones Savor the Good in Their Lives. They think of themselves as connoisseurs of experiences. They savor the good and have no appetite for chewing on past pain. It is that friend who points out a gorgeous sunrise, a rainbow, or a flock of egrets flying across the sky. It’s the friend who attends concerts with you and sips fine wine with a deep sigh of appreciation. Your joy is their joy, too. Crones know how fleeting life is and breathe an attitude of gratitude.
An exceptional man, motivated by love rather than power, can be a crone. He’s grown psychologically and spiritually through suffering. This man has earned his place among us and we honor him the title — Crone.