We succeed in this life when no matter win or lose
in the eyes of the world—we can walk away from any
demanding moment with a measure of more true
self-understanding than we took into it.
– Guy Finley-
This is so complicated, isn’t it? On the one hand I dislike ageism. I don’t want to be categorised on the basis of my age. You are this and this because of your age. You can and can’t do that because of your age. But then I think: What am I talking about! Of course I am different now. I am not who I was 20 years ago and to my eternal gratitude I am not who I was 40 years ago. My ageing changed me. It is the years that changed me.
Two aunts of mine lived a large city near the small town where we lived. They lived in a tiny flat and my mother and I were invited to stay over. It was so exciting. The city, using a lift (I know!!), going to see My Fair Lady in a smart cinema! I loved it all but even so and even though I was just 12 years old I understood that these two women acted in childish ways. And some years on I thought to myself that I wanted to be different when I was older. I wanted to be grown up when I was older.
And still I strive for that. I will be 73 years old this year and still have entire days when I respond from that place of immaturity! I do notice sooner than I used to but goodness, I am still so quick to jump into blame or defensiveness. It’s that urge to protect the self, me! I didn’t make the mistake! It’s all of you out there that is causing whatever! And the thing is maybe I am even right but for the sake of my own peace, my own calm why do I have to do battle over it? I forget now who pointed out that there will be no world peace until we each of us operates from a place of peace. And for me personally this urge to be right, to be seen to be right is a sign of immaturity. Not being grown up.
At least I know that much. And I do have bits of my life where it feels easy to let go and accept what arises and deal with it without first assigning blame or attempting to change it. I have been thinking about why this should be so. And it is that those are the areas where I have simply decided that argument is unproductive, that being right might win me this fight but lose me the war.
So much for growing up, what about growing old? Well, that has been a surprise. I don’t feel old. Does anyone? There are more niggles and aches but for now there is also more joy, more confidence, more intensity to every experience. My late sixties saw me start swimming in the ocean and my seventies had me start swimming in the winter. Why? Why only now? I reckon because I now choose for pleasure. And for what feeds my soul. At the same time though, there is more awareness of the pain out there in the world. I think I have more compassion. I have become far less sure.
But….for now I am happy with where age has brought me thus far. I am happy with what it has shown me, taught me. At this moment all is well. And like in that strange place, the past, I will ALWAYS have just a moment at a time.
Life doesn’t always get better
But you do
You get stronger
You get wiser. You get softer.
With tattered wings you rise.
And the world watches in wonder
At the breathless beauty
Of a human who survived life
– L R Knost –