Old Age Reconsidered

One year ago on this date, “Old Age Reconsidered” was published on a young website, Oxygen Buzz. It was the beginning of my life as writer of White Hair Grace. Published here on October 24, 2018, it is the foundation of my testament to my own aging and my then-new outlook on being old. So I thought it would be a good thing to republish it on this anniversary of its origins. As a reminder for some, and an important introduction to the graces of elderhood that I cherish, it stands the test of time all these months later. Enjoy!

I am relishing my old age. Truly. I’m not exaggerating. I am not just tolerating it; I am not just enjoying it, I am savoring it. Delighting in it. Reveling in it. Luxuriating in it. I am quietly but gleefully surprised by the gifts that keep appearing in my elderhood. Gifts like perspective. And calm. And a deeper gratitude. And letting go. And discovering that some of the most meaningful things that I’ve learned have come through suffering.

I didn’t even consider myself “old” until I faced turning 70. That’s when I first allowed the subject to show its face, even though at age 65 I had reluctantly started toying with the idea. I have had a remarkable denial system…I’m still working on that.

On my 70th birthday, I wrote a long and serious diatribe about the dreadful appearance of That Which I Could No Longer Deny. It began, “I hate being 70!” That really covered it, but my dismay and my angst about becoming “old” demanded much more than four salty words. I filled several pages with my recriminations and my growing awareness of the impossibility of stemming the tide and the gross unfairness of it all.

Even as I slowly made some uneasy peace with my own aging over the next few years, I still lived in tension with the realities of growing older and older…and older. I was a billboard for the worst prejudices of ageism. I worried about becoming incapacitated, dependent and invisible. I had little good to say about getting older…and older.

Then, some months after I turned 76, I began realizing that I was falling in love with life in a whole new way. It only took me ten lines, at 76, to speak of changes that had mysteriously evolved without my even noticing them. Changes that I had longed for but found impossible to manufacture of my own accord. Perhaps it was the longing itself that paved the way. Perhaps.

I cannot deny, though, the discovery and the power of three people, three gurus who I came to think of as “my” people who were speaking out about ageism: first, a TED talk by Ashton Applewhite; then a TED talk by Dr. Bill Thomas; and last and definitely not least, a link to a delightful website called Oxygen Buzz and Bill Apablasa. I was ripe for the picking! And I was ready!

After a lifetime of working hard to live a good life, gaining some wisdom in both my successes and failures, I found that I hadn’t really had to do much conscious, intentional work at all in this relatively short span of six years. With age came changes that I had not anticipated. They just – appeared, surprising me with their quiet and mysterious arrival.

So it was that the changes that surprised me, that subtly arrived over time, became gifts that I hadn’t expected; gifts that I hadn’t found by searching for them. Delight had quietly found its way into my life over six struggling, questioning, wondering, longing years. And it has been delicious.

Now, in this newly refurbished life, having reached 77, I relish the deep, quiet calm of my spirit. It’s a calm that I cannot manufacture but which is simply there. It is the foundation of most days (perfection eludes me…), unlike those days which used to be too full of angst and insecurity and indecision. This amazing calm is not just deep; it is deeply grounded, rooted firmly in the soil of experience and reality and my longing for a greater peace of mind.

I relish the enjoyment of sharing the long histories that I have with family and friends. I am fed by our telling the stories of our lives together, laughing and sighing and smiling and sometimes weeping over every “Remember when?” Our stories, so long a part of who we all are, have become balm for the soul. And the stories tell me who I have been, the good of who we have been, and the oh-not-so-good places that sometimes starved our souls. Regret and forgiveness have become comfortable companions.

I relish the discovery, hard-won, that I could survive the death in 2013 of my beloved husband, who was my soul-mate and best friend. I now know that even suffering, especially suffering, remakes us if we grasp its power to refine and heal us. So few things frighten me now. I have been to the depths and survived. I will likely survive the next loss that is going to appear. I am more resilient now, softer around the edges. I know from experience that grace lives in the midst of suffering and loss. And as favorite writer Anne Lamott says, “Grace always bats last…it just does.”

I relish the deepening gratitude that has, I suppose, been with me always in some ways. Yet it was so often pushed to one side when life disappointed me and I failed myself and others. With the coming of a few physical limitations, I have had to make a choice: grouse about my body (or sometimes my mind..) or smile (even laugh!) at how good life has been and how good it can still be.

And I relish the new hunger that I have found for discovering who I am yet to become. My purpose on this earth is far from done. What quietly profound surprises await my discovery? Ah, the possibilities! “The teacher comes when the student is ready,” the saying goes. I’m ready.

I recently learned that the 70’s are the second happiest decade of life. And that the 80’s (believe it, friends…!) are the first!! So I’m going to relish as much in these years as possible, because they’re the last years that I’m going to have and I want them to be smashing!

 

12 thoughts on “Old Age Reconsidered

  1. I have to say this essay blew me away. I think sometimes, it happens when we allow our souls to dance, and then we are able to put that experience down on paper, something like this breaks out. It is beyond beautiful and such an accounting of the way in which God would choose for us to live. Our Heavenly Father would always have us choose joy. Suffering is a part of life, and it does help mold our character. Yet, Jesus has taught us to dance; our souls are meant for joy. My printer is not working at the moment, but as soon as it is, I am going to print this out and keep a copy by my desk.Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda, thank you so much! It was truly a labor of love, and when I pushed that button to send it to Oxygen Buzz, I held my breath for hours. And the rest is history. To find that it is still helpful is music to my ears, because that is my fondest wish and my reason for doing White Hair Grace in the first place. Also, thank you so much for following WHG! I have read some of your articles now, and I find them equally refreshing and helpful. So I shall be following you as well. You are a wonderful writer with a beautiful spirit. To the future…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are a bright and beautiful spark…you never know who that spark will touch, or what that spark might ignite. Know only that there are always others who are touched by that light. This is what we were created for…to share our light with others. God is the divine spark that works through each of us…when we allow that radiance to shine, He lights up the world. It is like on Christmas Eve and we sing Silent Night. We pass the light, candle to candle, until all the candles are lit. This is my favorite moment of Christmas when all the church is lit up by candlelight. I love that every little light counts…there is a unity and a presence of God’s grace.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes it seems so sad how much energy and time is wasted on trying to be younger than we actually are. As you say, there is still a lot of life left to be lived, and those years are meant to be relished and enjoyed!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good stuff, indeed. You are very fortunate to have old friends and old family with whom you can share lives well lived. That is one area that distresses me. I am the only one of my generation left. Good friends are gone. I have friends and acquaintances but we share more recent history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is one of the times when older age is tough. When we’re the last or one of the last in our circle of family and friends. I’m very fortunate to still have all but one of my generation. We’re getting together, in fact, in a couple of weeks for a yearly cousins’ reunion. We’re not only still living, we’re all healthy enough to travel. As one of the two oldest, I may not be the one left behind, but life has a way of making those decisions for us. You are, for sure, one of the most engaged people I know, and I hope that that helps most of the time.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rachel. I’ve perused your wonderful site and enjoyed every part of it! The survey was enlightening and encouraging. I’ve just started white hair grace recently, so I’m a neophyte. You are a woman of many talents, and I love your energy and creativity! I look forward to following you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is all happening because of you, Bill. Your faith in me and your encouragement, your invitation to be a guest blogger have all given me the courage to give this a go. Thank you, my friend, for believing in me. Oxygen Buzz will always be my first home!

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  5. Martha, As the proud benefactor of your first blog at Oxygen Buzz, congratulations! May all who come to this first page realize they are at the starting gate for what I know will be a beautiful journey! Your post touches my heart. It’s wise and empowering and full of love and joy—everything life should be about. I will be following your every word with so much gratitude that the world has you in it! Bill

    Liked by 3 people

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