Aging And Growing
This is has been a hard week, hard couple of weeks actually. All that I teach, preach, write about and practice has been put to the test.
I am not referring to raising or working with wounded children; today, I am talking about aging and growing ourselves.
As I help to settle my own father into a home, not his home, and struggle with all of the emotions screaming out of me, I also realized that this experience with my father is much different than the experience that I had 21 years ago as I helped my mother die with grace much too young; both of us.
As I have aged and mastered new skills in LIFE! the experience of LIFE! itself has transformed. Ironic occurrence; a group planning a large conference found themselves with no Key Note speaker a week prior to their event and called our office on the slim chance that I am in town and available.
The message reached me as I sat with my father awaiting yet another test, another poke, another prod, another stick, another stranger, another less than compassionate person making decisions that would bring prolonged life or the chance of death.
And, I said, Yes. Immediately but could not for the life of me figure out why, until now.
I am in the middle of aging. In western culture, 50-55 is the beginning of old age. And here I am, raising younger, some wounded and scared children, and now, helping an aging parent who is no longer independent.
And in comes the request to speak about Mastering LIFE! at any age~ sure, why not? I got this, right? Exhale………
So, here goes.
I have discovered that as I age, LIFE has improved. I don’t deny aging and I don’t try to prolong my youth. I am saying good bye to youth and making plenty of room for the stage of life that I am in. My hair will gray, my skin will wrinkle, and all the while I will rejoice in LIFE! We can face each day with a sadness for lost youth, or celebrate another day of LIFE just as it is, because it is!
Life gets better and better as I begin to master these new skills of living well. Sure, walking two miles each morning takes longer now than it did 10 years ago, and downhill, well, my knees are not keen on that idea. However, with a walking stick, I enjoy a slow walk down the mountain I just climbed. Acknowledging the gains and the specific advantages that accrue with new skills gives LIFE! more meaning, purpose and yes, pizazzzzzzz~
Here are a few lessons that I learned along the way~embrace them for yourself and wonder about your Mastering of LIFE!
1: With Age our Confidence Grows
Youth is a time of searching, insecurity, the unknown and trygin to figure out who we are, how to live and what matters. The more friends the better, but keeping them all happy is stressful. However, as time passes, we pay less attention to what others are doing and thinking and develop our very own internal compass. Small groups are more enjoyable and meangingful and we become clear on what Matters~
2: Self Knowledge Increases
An expanding awareness of our strengths and vulnerabilities supports us as we move through challenging times. The chaos of others is less likely to become our own. We are not so easily swayed by the opions of others or their judgements about what we should or should not do. Our convictions are stronger and it becomes a pleasure to stand on solid ground even in tough situations; not out of stubborn pride of youth, but because we know who we are.
3: We Get Better at Relationships
One of the most significant gains with age is employing all that we have learned about relationships. What fills us up? What do we long to give and to receive? With intimate partners especially, the gain in self knowledge allows us to be more open with each other and more comfortable in our vulnerabilities as we try not to repeat the mistakes of the past. We appreciate the loyalty of true friends more and more and have less patience, and time, for the superficial relationships of the past.
4: We learn to see through different lens
We each see Life, Love, Family and Relationship through a unique lens. Some of us see the world as safe, loving, and fun. Others, not so much. Respecting the ‘lens’ through which others see the world,takes a certain amount of security in self, and maturity in LIFE! As we age we tend to let go of the need to be right, and embrace more the need to love and be loved.
5: We handle decision making with less frenzy
Even at the crossroads of life, decisions tend to come with less frenzy about them. Over time, the hard earned benefits of hindsight begin to add up. We can see where we may have gone wrong, we can learn from many past experiences about what feels best for us, and allow the past to inform the present situation. Complex choices are easier to make with more experience under our belt, and rather than guessing about the outcome of a decision we have to make, our experiences offer a level of comfort in making the decision now.
6: Our courage grows
We have been through some tough times and have come out on the other side! We no longer fear adversity as we once did. We know how crucial it is to seize a level of contentment while we can. We don’t stand on the sidelines waiting for the best opportunity; we know that LIFE demands compromise, mixed with some luck and risk and we know that there is NO time like the present.
7: Generosity grows
Generosity begins to take a central role in what we value. As the decades pass, we discover a need to contribute to the greater good and not only to our own interest. This, feels good. We become more sympathetic to others and discover that each of us face the same fundamental challenges in life.
8: Spirituality deepens
The search for meaning continues throughout the lifespan, but as we age, it deepens. Petty concerns fade, and going through the grief and loss of loved ones wakes us up to the domain in life that really matters.
9: Body and Soul change places
The body may deteriorate over time, but the soul expands! When we are young we looked at our elders and could not possibly imagine what fun that could be!!! The happiest people I work with are those who may be closer to death but live LIFE to the fullest now.
10: Our eyes may not focus, but we can see further
I work with elders who are radiating LIFE! We slow down, pay attention, enjoy the conversation and see so much more than we could have 50 years ago.
As we age, the awareness of our mortality brings an immediacy to much of what we do. As I watch my father struggle to move, I have added an extra session of stretching to my routine. Time becomes the most important currency and we spend it more wisely than in days gone by.
Looking for a fountain of youth brings sadness and grief. Accepting and honoring where we are in LIFE invites an experience of joy. As we age we have more time to be ‘awake’ and enjoy our time; many of us enjoy our grandchildren; we become a source of wisdom for others and wear whatever we choose!
In no way do I mean to dismiss or ignore the disease and challenges that older age bring and make life more difficult. But I do mean to say that we can explore many distant horizons even as our physical bodies change.
A few more thoughts before we part ways:
Adapt as the circumstances demand~ I live in a ranch with no stairs.
Accept your limits with humor~ laugh with yourself not at yourself.
Find new pleasures to replace the ones your must surrender~ I love board games now.
Stay active, be social, serve others and laugh.