“Passage into Elderhood—Happy 60th Birthday,” by Janet Grace Riehl

Womens Memoirs published my story “Passage into Elderhood: Happy 60th birthday” on my 2011 birthday December 29th exactly two years after I celebrated my 60th birthday by returning to Ghana.

Long ago a Ghanaian friend asked me, “Janet, what kind of old woman do you want to be?” This story is the answer to his question: the kind of old woman I am becoming.

Here’s my prize-wining essay on Womens Memoirs. “Passage into Elderhood” Just in time for my birthday.

Here’s a note of thanks to Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler of Womens Memoirs:

Dear Kendra & Matilda,

As usual you’ve found an inventive way to honor our circle of sister memoir writers through your contest. I’m honored to tie with Heather Cariou for the First Place, Grand Prize Award. Oooooh. Love the designation.

To publish the piece on my birthday is a special treat, and a gorgeous way to start my day. As one of the legion of holiday babies it’s always wonderful to be acknowledged on the actual date of our birthdays.

Janet Riehl

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  1. Thanks, Susan.

    Yes, that question caught my attention even in my early forties. It’s not something we speak about in this culture, yet it’s so important. To name ourselves as Old Women and as Elders yields dignity and strength to those years. It neutralizes the fear we have of old age.

    Janet Riehl

  2. Janet:

    Thank you for taking us along on your memorable birthday journey to Ghana, and for winning an award for your earthly prose.

    As for the person we want to become, here’s a quote from my book An Artist Empowered that address something that many have experienced. You meet someone and despite their age or station in life, you sense a depth that transcends words.

    An old soul has nothing to do with the chronological age of the host person; an old soul can be a child or an adult. You can’t detect an old soul with thinking. When you meet an old soul, you can sense a depth in her that is palpable. You can’t quantify this feeling because it is a metaphysical encounter; you are, however, the ‘galvanic response’, the instrument of detection.

    An old soul brings things to light in the most simple ways; an old soul sees past the pitfalls of illusion; an old soul is gentle and lively; an old soul is evolved; an old soul is mostly free from karmic debt; and, perhaps, most of all, an old soul is fully present, which we can call divine.

    Happy Birthday!


  3. Eden,

    Thanks for your definition of an “old soul.” We can only become one through the practice of countless lifetimes. What should new souls be guided by?

    Janet Riehl

  4. Great question, Janet:

    I will defer to a sage I know on this:

    1) The first rule to be guided by is respectfulness.

    2) Once you have the first rule down, you can proceed to the next rule which is this: there are no other rules.

    Respectfully yours,


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