Insights of an Elder, Part 3

QUILT DREAMSTIME (3)

When you’re an accomplished introvert like me, and you live in the north country, winter becomes a generous friend that gives you multiple opportunities to be more of yourself than at any other season of the year.

 

After a December that was almost too kind here in Minnesota, January woke up and reminded us that winter is winter, after all, and we can’t complain because we did choose to live here. Polar Vortex and all.

 

It is all a gift for the introvert.

 

In the past month, this introvert has known those deep satisfactions and blessings of the heart and soul of one who is never more content that when hunkered down at home. With piles of books, computer, iPad, reams of paper and empty notebooks ready to be written in. Dressed in wool and fleece and warm slippers, I have had the power of silence to keep me company, day after day.

 

Silence, when it’s welcomed, can be a siphon. All the ideas that have been floating around out there somewhere in space have a chance to come pouring in and to find a place in that precious part of my brain that has been so keen on discovering and capturing and putting them down, making them concrete.

 

It’s a good day for writing again about insights, it turns out. The snow is thick and still falling outside. A day to hunker down. Parts 1 and 2 got me started, but I’m not done yet. The siphon is still serving its purpose, and my fingers are itching to get the latest inklings down. So, Part 3.

 

Falling in love seems to be a good place to start, being February now when the hearts and flowers have been hanging around for the past month, waiting for their Big Moment on Stage for the lucky. So, what about love?

 

7. When you fall in love, you have to do it twice for it to last.

By the time we’re in our elder years, most of us have discovered this. Or else we haven’t, and real love has remained elusive.

 

Remember those rose-colored glasses you had on when you fell in love? How endearing every little thing was about this delightful person before your eyes? The “where have you been all my life” face that might be that soulmate you’d been looking for? Yeh, that one.  And oh, how lovely when it grew into commitment.

 

Then at some point, the imperfections appeared. The small ones were irritants, but the big ones grew. They were there in both of you, though you didn’t notice your own yet.  And that’s when the second falling in love had to happen. To stay? Or to walk away? That became the question.

 

There was one way to stay: when the good that was there outweighed the problems, then a second falling in love could happen: when you learned to love the other both because of who they were and in spite of what they were not. And when you saw the truth that you were imperfect, too. [Note: the rules all change in abusive relationships. No “good” overcomes the “bad.”]

 

Anything less is very much like a fairytale. Because we are all very much imperfect, and life is imperfect, but real love can embrace it all if we’re willing to do just that.

 

8. Happiness is a by-product, not a goal.

We all want to be happy, right? Gazillions of dollars have been spent over decades in the highly vaunted goal of happiness. Long before that, it was enshrined in our Declaration of Independence as “the pursuit of happiness.” Some of us have spent a lifetime pursuing this elusive “happiness” in vain, always finding that we’ve fallen short of finally attaining it. Yet, we keep trying the next “how to.” In vain.

 

Perhaps that’s because the pursuit of happiness is mostly focused on ourselves. On how to make myself happy.

 

What things, what people, what actions would make me happy?

How can I get them?

Everything and everyone becomes a commodity to be acquired for my own happiness.

 

It turned out that what I thought was happiness lay so much deeper and took so much more attention than merely accumulating a basket full of “happy things.”

 

It was not until I began to pursue meaning and purpose that I began to discover the richness and deep satisfaction that I was meant to live into. The pursuit of meaning and purpose is both a goal and a never-ending journey. It focuses more on others than on ourselves. And that’s when happiness shows up as the by-product of the real pursuit.

 

The question has not been, “How can I be happy?”

The question has always been, “What kind of person can I become

so that happiness shows up all around me?”

 

9. Old age is not the condition of waiting to die. It is the time of finding out how to live more radically in elderhood.

Here’s why – and I love this! The word, “radical,” comes from the Latin, radicalis, which meant, “of or relating to a root;” “of, relating to, or proceeding from a root.”

 

To be a radical of any kind means to “be rooted.” Simple. Might I suggest that some  roots run deeper than others? And that it is not just about politics? It’s about living as full and deep a life as possible, and that can last a lifetime! This is the time to let our roots grow even deeper!

 

To be “rooted” in old age means that we come to embrace new discoveries that couldn’t arrive until now. Their roots keep growing, down and down into the rich soil of experience and wisdom, seeking the nourishment that mostly comes in  these last years.

 

We learn now to radically focus on what matters most and to let go of everything else. We can find ourselves with a clearer insight into just what is most essential and what just needs to fade away. Being rooted means waking up to the wonder of deeply savoring life, relishing it for the new gifts and opportunities that we never dreamed of before when goals and achievements and full calendars took up all our time and attention.

 

The gifts are things like a deeper insight and serenity and the peace of forgiven mistakes and the deepening joy of simple pleasures. Treasures like embracing the newly given freedom of finding the meaning of our whole life as we have remembered and pieced it together into a beautiful patchwork quilt. 

 

Falling in love. Happiness. Living more radically. They’re all a part of how I got here. And I’m so very okay with that.