Marking the Years
Recently, my friend Tara was taking some pictures of me in the park. In one shot, the light was just right, revealing how silver my hair is becoming. This is a desired effect. I stopped dying my hair over two years ago, a liberating action that gifts me a crown of silver to wear into my seventies. It seems to me to be an appropriate marker. In this last year of my sixties, there are a lot of markers, pointing the way to what’s next in the brave and bold adventure of getting older.
Embodying the role of an elder is upon me and it doesn’t look like what I thought it would. All of my best, saved up wisdom and advice means nothing to a younger generation. I certainly didn’t want the advice of older women when I was in my twenties, thirties and forties. The lesson is this: You don’t really become an elder until you learn to listen deeply to the younger people around you, and offer support, validation and goodwill. Then and only then, might you be honored with a conversation that will benefit each of you. A lot of being an elder is bearing witness to the process of youth as it struggles out of the chrysalis and unfolds it’s wet wings. Kindness, support and encouragement are powerful and empowering offerings to give to the next generation.
Another marker is the shift in energy that I’m feeling. I’ve lived a physically active life for all of my years. It’s a real blessing now. I know that most aches in my body can be transcended through a morning walk. I’m able to exercise daily, though some of my activities have changed. I no longer play tennis, but I walk for three miles every day. I do some stretching. A swimming allows me to have an easy range of motion. In spite of all of that, I'm feeling the need for quiet and rest. My Type-A personality can no longer go eight to ten hours a day. The disappointment I’m faced with is that the energy that once propelled me to meet all deadlines and be proactive in my work, has waned. This means that I have to choose the outline of my days more carefully so that it contributes to my health and not to burnout.
In the past couple of years, I’ve come to a deeper level of reflection, which has resulted in embracing past pain, joy, regrets, sorrow and love. My life has not been smooth. Most people’s aren’t. But the acceptance of my jagged edges has produced a tenderness that grows from a heart that cherishes the lessons and longings of life. That's given me a great sense of peace.
As I embrace the years and the process of getting older, I'm drawn to the chairs on my back porch which overlook the forest. Nature keeps us alive after midlife for a reason. Obviously it’s not for the proliferation of the species. I believe that it’s for the purpose of reflection and contemplation upon the life we’ve lived and where all of that fits into the grand scheme of things. Aging brings a lot of outer changes -- silver hair, waning energy and the emergence of a reflective heart.
At this age, I believe that I’m here to begin the slow, rolling surrender to some great, eternal love, some indescribable awe that pulls me into feeling that I am a part of everything. The stardust from which I was made is the same stardust to which I’ll return. And the knowledge of this particular marker fills me with gratitude. I love the accumulating years. What a wonder to evolve and grown psychologically and spiritually until the day we die.