Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made…
How different my days are now compared to when I was young. All the striving, raging and yearning for validation and success that consumed me, now seems like it all took place somewhere else, not in me. I no longer have to get up, get the kids ready for school, rush out to work, go on courses, get promotions, earn lots of money for the mortgage, holidays or school uniforms. All the rushing around, fearful of not being enough, of making mistakes, of being unloveable has quietly melted away without me really noticing. Now, other things are important. Each period of life has its own purpose and this one gives me time to assimilate and make sense of all that has gone before, all that has led me to this point. But it is not just to endure and wait for the dying, it has a life and resonance of its own that draws me to come alive in ways I never have before.
It’s true that I have health problems, but at this age, who doesn’t? You can’t go hurtling through life, abusing your body with sleep deprivation, faddy diets, food eaten on the hoof and too much alcohol without something breaking down. But what physical limitations do is to make me so much more aware of other things. I see, smell, feel and hear things I previously was unaware of; colours are so much more vivid, my senses are so much more acute. I believe that this aging time is for growth and development as well as consolidating who I really am. Now I’m free to do things there was never time to do before and I am able to do them as well or as poorly as I want, without the internal critic always chattering away on my shoulder.
I found a book several years ago called “The Gift of Years” by Joan Chittister, a feminist nun who wrote the book in her seventies, apologizing that perhaps she might be too young to be an authority on old age. She uses poetry and philosophical writings to illustrate her points and draws on Buddhism as well as Judeo-Christianity and believes in one God, however we may want to worship Him. I thought it might be a bit ‘preachy’ but it’s anything but. She’s a beautiful writer whose poetic prose is stunning and each morning before I get up I read a chapter from the book, along with passages from a couple of others. There is a chapter on ‘Limitations’ and she says:-
“A blessing of these years is that we know at last what really matters, and the world is waiting to hear it, if only we will make the effort and don’t give in to our limitations”
When we define ourselves by our limitations we fail to open our hearts and minds to all the possibilities that are open to us to make a difference in our own lives and in other people’s. This time of life for me is definitely the sweetest, the most heart-warming I have ever experienced. And it’s not over yet…