Each morning when I first awaken, I ask myself the same question:
What shall I make of this day?
I’ve entered the minefield of Elderhood, and it’s as jarring as puberty was.
After the shock and insult of puberty, we enter The Growing Years; about fifty of them.
First, we must navigate our way through several years of Formal Schooling, cramming our little brains full of information that may or may not be useful later.
Then in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, many of us invest a great deal of time and money in our own and our friends’ engagements, marriages, baby showers, birth celebrations, and raising of children.
Our minds continue to grow as our careers expand and take unexpected turns, occasionally including cul-de-sacs and dead ends. We become time-management slalom skiers, racing through the obstacle course of each day’s agenda, collapsing into bed at night, grateful that we survived another day.
As fledgling children finally leave the nest, and retirement parties become the new way to celebrate, we discover there’s no map to help us find our way because the next phase comes on slowly and feels different for each person. We stay busy, and if we have grandkids, they may be young enough to want to visit us. Our bodies may still be relatively reliable, so we’re free to indulge in all those retirement activities the sports-minded among us have dreamed about.
People like me, without children or grandchildren, still experience this transition of being over-booked for five or six decades, then suddenly having this new thing called “free time.” We can take a nap just because we feel like it, even when we’re not sick in bed with a fever. If we stay up late, or are awake in the middle of the night, we don’t fret because we have the luxury of sleeping late if our body needs to do that. It sounds wonderful, and it is, for a while.
Then comes the part we thought would never apply to us: The Minefield of Aging. As I write this, I’m thinking, “Do I dare make a blog post out of this? Is this just one big bummer?” Maybe so. I know that as I turn 70 years old in a few short months, it’s no longer a surprise when I hear of an acquaintance’s sudden heart attack or cancer diagnosis or broken hip. Suddenly our calendars become strewn with doctor’s appointments instead of hair cuts and business meetings. We become cautious as we open emails with the subject line “Latest News” because it could well be the sender’s latest diagnosis or a mutual friend’s death.
It’s easy for us elders to keep these stories to ourselves. It takes courage to face the fact that daily life will, at some point, unavoidably shift.
If you’re still reading this, congratulations, it gets better.
The good news is that this grit, gravel, and sandy soil of Aging is precisely where we get to plant our final seeds, the hardy ones that thrive best in adverse conditions. They are the relentlessly resilient dandelions of Elderhood. There is no time to waste, and yet plenty of time to savor. Everything, especially Time, becomes precious.
So, as I ask myself, “What shall I make of this day?” I also ponder:
Am I feeling bored? That’s proof I’m neither putting out fires, nor in triage in the emergency room.
Am I feeling judgmental? Consider the possibility that I was self-critical first.
Am I feeling unloved? If so, I have certainly forgotten my well-deserved place in this world.
The following video, 52 minutes long, may well NOT be your cup of tea. It includes profanity. For some, or for many, it may sound irreverent as well. It may seem to have nothing to do with the other posts on this website, and yet for me it feels like the underpinning of everything that has ever helped me release the shackles I macraméd for myself over decades of listening to others instead of to my soul.
There’s a stillness I feel while sketching outdoors that I find no other way. Some discover it through traditional meditation. I get there by looking, and breathing, and looking some more. It’s a peaceful sense of timeless wonder, awe, liberation; the “now, Now, NOW” that Kyle speaks of here. Toward the end of the video, he laughingly describes how useless his memory has become, because Here and Now are so attractive, so compelling, that he never wants to leave. To others, it looks like memory loss, but it’s not. It’s Now-Bliss. It’s addictive, with no side effects, except perhaps social ones. If you’re in love with Now, people may accuse you of being in denial, or being self-absorbed, or even heartless.
In truth, you are only as heartless as every other infatuated person has ever been. Welcome home.
Kyle Cease video. May 23, 2021
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Finally, thanks for spending some “aloft” time with me.