Sunday, July 9, 2017

Getting Older

It occurs to me, not for the first time, that I'm getting older.

I'm not old yet. I'm pretty sure once you hit forty, and until you're somewhere in your sixties or maybe even early seventies, old is defined as "twenty years older than I am right now".

But I am getting older. Surprisingly, I'm good with this.

I went to a day-long retreat when I was in my early thirties. The group numbered around ten, ages ranged from mid-twenties to ninety. As we were going through our responses to one of the meditative exercises, the topic turned to getting older. Without exception, the older women in the group - about half our number - said their lives had gotten easier after they turned fifty. These were women I admired. They were classy, smart, kind.

And I thought, if this is true for all of these women, perhaps getting older isn't so bad after all. I tucked the thought away in the back of my mind for future reference, and there it has stayed, coming out at random moments as my life has flown by.

Some things surprise me still - evidence of how quickly the flow of time runs often pulls me up short. Can it really be true I graduated college over thirty years ago? That my grandbaby is six already? That my son is married - and high time; he's almost thirty!

I look down at my hands. Sure, there are some wrinkles, but my fingers still work just fine. My brain cells still have some empty storage; it may take a bit more effort, but I can still learn new things (and some things are easier to learn since they build on lessons learned in the long-ago). I can't run anymore, but I can walk just fine. Thanks to karate, I can easily balance on one foot for over 45 seconds. I couldn't do THAT when I was younger.

I take great comfort from my long-lasting friendships. There's something nice about talking to someone who already knows the back-story - even though those events happened last century. It's true that some fiend has taken the many of the pictures from my Facebook feed and run them through one of those 'this is how you'll look when you're a grandparent' filters, but I know how those I love really look. My memory is clear on this.

As Victor Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning:
"In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured.  People tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness, but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the full harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.From this, one may see there is no reason to pity old people.  Instead young people should envy them.  It is true that the very old have no opportunities, no possibilities in future, but they have more than that.   Instead of possibilities, they have realities in the past – the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized – and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past."
The granaries of my memory are fuller than they are empty. I've let many of the things I used to worry about fall by the wayside without regret. Carpool headaches, gone! Worries my kids will grow up warped and stunted because they had a 'mother who works', no longer a concern - my kids are doing a bang-up job of adulting! (Yes, this was once a concern of mine - the generation before mine stayed home when their children were young, had great doubts about the commitment of mothers who didn't do the same, and passed these convictions on to me.)

Those women from the retreat were right.
It's good to know.

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