Some days I get extra nostalgic as I make my way toward my 78th birthday coming up in May. Most of my nostalgia becomes sweeter in elderhood, but today’s showed up at 5:30 this morning (!). I’d gotten only about 5 hours of sleep, but my White Hair Grace Muse (recently named Flicka) was wide awake and eager to get my attention. Sleep would have to wait. Again. (More about that name later…)
I reluctantly paid attention, maybe because I was not wide awake enough to launch a protest about the ungodly hour. And there it was: my word for the week. Flicka hasn’t failed me yet, so I listened. Without hesitation, the word appeared:
(a deep understanding of a person or thing)
Okay, then. Insight it is. My old age insight, to be sure. I’m just a bit nervous about that.
Anyone remember Pete Seeger’s 1960’s song, taken from the opening words of Eccelsiastes 3 in the Bible?
“To everything…there is a season…and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die. A time to plant, a time to reap what is planted. A time to weep, a time to laugh. A time to mourn, a time to dance. A time to love, a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. Turn, turn, turn…”
I bet some of you can sing the whole thing. And every word is still true.
I am deep into the season now of elderhood. I have nearly 78 years of life experience, and an interminably curious mind. And the season of elderhood that starts around age 70 has been particularly rich in – you’ve got it – insight.
This is the time, after all, to reap the years that have been sown. To lay claim to wisdom and insight and offer them so that maybe – just maybe – others can lay claim to them even sooner than we did. This is the time, for us, too, though – to name for ourselves what we have learned. To speak what we have firmly grasped at last because our minds are calmer now and long years have honed our reality to a fine sheen.
What have we learned that maybe we didn’t realize before? Or we’ve known but forgotten? So much, it turns out. Once I opened the door to insight, the flood began. There were way too many insights to talk about in one blog, so I begin to share some of them with you in this one and hope that they’ll find their way to your insights as well. So here goes…
1. Life isn’t fair.
I didn’t just start with any old insight. Some just need to be brought out into the light more urgently than others. And this one is probably the hardest one of all to hear.
Was it fair that my best girlfriend growing up was born with naturally curly hair and knock-’em-dead brown eyes and became Homecoming Queen while I was graced with dishwater blonde hair and got my first glasses in first grade? Okay, that may seem shallow, but for this plain Jane, it was often devastating.
Was it fair that I grew up in a beautiful, loving home and some of my friends had to deal with abuse or poverty, or face the death of a twin brother in junior high from cancer?
Fill in your own list. It can go on…and on…and on…and on. Well beyond our own personal worlds, of course. So much isn’t fair. Dang!
Life should be fair. That’s only fair, isn’t it? We figure that out when we are just wee children, right?
So if we finally have to give in and admit that life is not always fair, what the heck do we do with that besides rail against the unfairness of it all?
It may take a very long time, but we can make peace with this painful reality. But here’s the thing: until then, we go about finding our own ways to create “fair” wherever and whenever we can.
2. Treasure the little things. There’s more room for little things in your heart.
Your baby’s first smile. The first “dada” or “mama” that is uttered. The happy dance that your pup leaps when you come home. The love note with crooked letters that you found from your first grader. The humble crocus that first comes up in your yard to announce spring. The hand squeeze that a friend gives you when you’re low. The smile from your spouse who sits across the supper table every night. The first fish you caught; the first date that you had; the first pile of leaves you jumped into in the fall. The smell of clean laundry; the special green of spring’s leaves just beginning to bloom; the feel of the hot sun on your cool skin.
You name them. The little things. The ones from the past, but also the things right before your eyes right now – today. The big things are exciting. But the little things run deep and are captured with a delicious hint of a soul full of wonder.
3. Boredom is the thief of imagination. Don’t get bored!!
I love this from Wendell Berry: “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
I know that when I am bored (which hardly ever happens any more…I don’t have time to be bored!), I am wasting valuable time, and I don’t have time to waste any more! I have so much yet to do, to learn, to explore. To write.
Give me the impeded stream! Throw something in front of me that I can’t resist! Show me something that calls out my creativity – my curiosity – my fascination – my wonder. I will rest when I need to. In the meantime, baffle my mind! I am not done with this world yet. Not by a long shot. I’m very intent on embracing these elder years! I’m traveling the impeded stream. I want to sing!
As my dear friend, Bill Apablasa (of Oxygen Buzz fame) loves to say, “Yahoo!”
More insights next week…we’re just getting started.
And about Flicka? It’s Norwegian for “young girl,” which I am not. But its ancient meaning also included, “light-hearted woman.” Which I am. So that’s what my Muse named herself. She is definitely not boring!