THE VALUE OF MORTALITY
I’m turning 64 this month and I’m feeling motivated and very enthused about life! For a long time, I’ve pictured myself living an active, full and healthy life to at least 100 and I still do. I don’t feel overly concerned about aging. I’m still very young compared to my 100 year old self!
However, it is part of the human condition to wonder about what happens when our time on earth is done. Sadly, this is often accompanied by a fear inspired negativity towards aging in general and elders in particular.
I was asking myself recently to try and remember when I first started being aware of my own aging. When I was 49 years old, I was part of a women’s talking circle. We were celebrating the wisdom of our elder members. I remember wishing that I were already 50 but then realized that I hadn’t yet earned that honor. It felt good to look forward to getting older. At that time in my life, I was experiencing a lot of change and I felt good about all the growth and challenges met.
At age 60, I didn’t feel as enthused about the idea of aging. What was the difference? It didn’t have anything to do the number 60. It had more to do with the traumatic loss I was experiencing at the time. It was a time when I felt more pain than I had ever felt before. My response to that excruciating pain would sometimes swing to asking myself how or if my death would change anything about this horrible loss. I eventually realized that I was processing the loss much in the same way that Kubler-Ross describes the grief cycle (above). The intensity of that time of my life changed me. It shifted how I thought of aging in part because I temporarily visited a dark place. That place made death more real that it had ever been for me before. As a younger person, I never had time nor interest in the topic. But, I could relate to it more when I was 60.
Luckily, I didn’t remain in that dark place. I still live with the loss. I am still sad about the loss but I have learned acceptance. I consider this a very important part of my spiritual journey. And, this trauma contributed to me having an even more positive attitude about aging. I now see the aging process as getting to travel in uncharted territory. I’ve always welcomed challenges. Facing that loss was a huge challenge. And facing the stereotypes of the aging adult is yet another challenge.
Acceptance is the positive spin on aging because aging is irreversible change. There is no going back to youth. That has to be ok. Now it is more than ok. Remember that I said I plan to live to at least 100 years old? That’s not just empty talk. Life expectancy has been going up and up these days. So, being in my 60s isn’t a time for winding down, it’s a time for building a whole new reality and taking on brand these new challenges. I sure do like a good challenge. Have you visited my fitness blog yet?
It’s true that society hasn’t understood yet about the new elder. That’s ok. Over the years I’ve worked a lot on issues of sexism and racism. I’m just fine with doing what I need to do to address ageism!
And, another positive aspect of aging is that it is clearly a time for cultivating one’s spiritual practice. That takes us to a place that holds some gifts. Yes, I admit that not every elder does this work. But, it is possible, if the person chooses to go there, to continue a forward movement towards: family, kindness, contributing to the greater good, feeling the connectedness, standing in integrity, wisdom, dealing with suffering, and learning contentment and acceptance.
I care about paying better attention to what I feel grateful about now. I’m interested in the basics. Paying attention is the challenge that intrigues me now. Acceptance and being present in life are the gifts.
Why are we here? Is loving-kindness important? What is important? How do we deal with the hurt and disappointment? Can we let go of perfectionism? How about forgiveness? What is important? What do we do with the fear that our needs will never be met? What is important now and later?
It seems to me that when we accept mortality, we open ourselves to the potential of getting the most out of life.
I welcome you to join me on the journey.