“I feel that when you recognize that death is on its way, it is a great liberation, because it means that you can in some way feel the call to live everything that is within you. One of the greatest sins is the unlived life, not to allow yourself to become chief executive of the project you call your life, to have reverence always for the immensity that is inside of you.” – John O’Donohue, “Walking in Wonder“
The immensity that is inside of you. Can we ever fully grasp just what that is? Or are we always a work in progress?
In my late seventies, I suspect that one of the great graces of elderhood is that there is still time. Maybe not as much of it any more, but there is still time to discover just what else lies in that immensity that is me.
Given my history, I suspect that figuring that out will still prove challenging. But why should I stop now? I’m still being nudged to get to it. To keep at it. To keep discovering what immensities are yet to be uncovered. I’ve certainly liked the ones that I’ve already found in my elderhood.
Things like a growing compassion, a deeper love, a new tolerance for change, an unexpected capacity to endure suffering.
And loss. The big ones but also the small ones that multiply.
Some of the immensities show up in small, seemingly insignificant ways. Like creativity. When I was 3 years old, I picked out “Jesus Loves Me” on the piano – with harmony, so I’m told. That little revelation was the beginning of the immensity of my musical creativity which is still here.
At age 34, my voice teacher, calmly and unobtrusively, shared her faith with me, an atheist. Two weeks later, I had a conversion experience. That simple lunch that we shared was the beginning of immense creativity in all the ways that I served as a pastor.
At age 78, a writer who had a blog about aging read a couple of my little comments on his site and replied that I was “a good writer.” His support and encouragement led to my writing this very blog. I didn’t know that this would be part of the creative immensity that was inside me.
The unfolding of the immensity that is inside of us only awaits our permission.
None of these – and more – would have happened if I had listened to my first doubting voice. That 3-year-old didn’t know yet that she was supposed to be able to create her own story. That 34-year-old had forgotten that a new creativity is just around the next corner. That 78-year-old had to emerge from her ageist cocoon to see a new creativity ready to burst open. All of these – and more – meant saying “yes” when the first voice said, “no, it can’t be.”
It’s becoming – over and over – the chief executive of the project that we call life!
Simple things. Simple creative steps can change life. Even minutely.
See those colorful calligraphy “a’s” up there on the top left? A month ago, I was sure I would never even come close to mastering them. The oval is usually the most difficult letter of the alphabet to master in any kind of calligraphy. I was using a large brush pen. And there they are, all those a’s…that begin with – an oval. The closer to perfect, the more satisfying they were.
Part of the immensity that still creeps in on soft paws is that I no longer judge myself on how close I have come to perfection. I may strive for it and love it when it shows up. But I’m enjoying every one of those a’s because I’ve worked so hard to get there, and they are all friends now. It’s another season – admittedly small – of my continuing passion for creativity. It’s what my husband called, “Life’s little victories.”
These little victories that we give ourselves are outward signs of our inward richness. A new discovery about ourselves that can delight and carry us through the aches and pains and losses and discouragement. You know, the ones we think we can’t get through. The ones that wear us down. The ones that keep showing up in elderhood.
O’Donohue was talking about this life within each of us. This spark of humanity that is uniquely each one of us. Of divinity, if you will. This spark of the sacred that connects us to earth and each other and the very meaning of life.
Answering the call to live everything that is within ourselves. Everything. That’s what this time of our lives calls for. Living the rest of it. With some joy and amazement sometimes. Who thought I could ever do a (nearly) perfect oval? (Oh, my sisters will say they did. ‘Cause Love.)
Some day, that oval will lead to a card that I’ll send someone because they need compassion or congratulations or remembrance or appreciation or condolences. Sometimes it’s the little things that are immense. That fill the immensity that is us. And burst forth into something bigger as soon as we welcome them.
In the time that is left, what is there yet to do? The question is there for every one of us. What a gift to have the time to discover just what it is – and then set out to do it. Being our creative selves is at the root of so much of who we are.
It’s more than being artistic. It’s being creative as a friend, a spouse or parent, a leader or a follower, an inventor, an activist, a healer. And more.
Where does your creativity lie? And how would you name the immensity that is you in the midst of it?
Welcome to the journey!