It is the best of times; it is the worst of times. (Charles Dickens, slight paraphrase)
let me not obsess
about the lines
time etches on my face;
let me age with grace… (Rhodes)
Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be. (Robert Browning)
I never gave much thought to getting to this stage of my life. When I was younger, even middle age was in the distant future, something that surely didn’t–wouldn’t–apply to me, an attitude comprised of equal parts denial and total immersion in the present. Time stops for no one unless death intervenes and suddenly, I find myself in the position of looking back, rather than forward. It’s an odd sensation. I’m still learning the rhythm of these days, of life returning to a slower pace, of being responsible only for myself.
There is a sense of accomplishment in viewing one’s children grown and thriving, busy with family and work that satisfies them creatively. There is wisdom gained from life’s challenges and heartbreaks and I find I wouldn’t trade that for fewer years to my credit. I may regret some of my choices along the way but I’ve learned valuable lessons from them. Every experience has served to shape me into the person I have become, in this moment.
Being older is a curious blend of strength and fragility. It is also a time of extraordinary freedom. I find I’m not willing to compromise my sense of self for anyone’s approval. I’m happy with my appearance, comfortable in my skin as never before. I wear what pleases me, regardless of current fashion trends. I fear judgment less; I speak my truth, rather than saying what I think someone else wants to hear.
The paradox of aging is that it confers both the gift or more time as well as the knowledge that we have less of it left. It’s a time to explore creativity, to dream, to dare rather than defer. I feel blessed; rich beyond measure. And I am thankful, perhaps as never before, for each new day’s wonders.
It’s a strange phenomenon today that there are so many books, programs, and inspirational quotes to “teach” us how to be happy. In spite of all the conveniences we have at our disposal, we frequently complain that we don’t have enough time. Compared to the slower pace I grew up with, life in these modern times travels at warp speed. We’re in a hurry to do everything–get married; have children and raise them; find fulfilling work (not necessarily in that order). We cram so much into a single 24-hour period that we often find ourselves juggling too many balls. Inevitably, some of them drop. When that happens, stress, guilt, and unhappiness usually follow. We’re a product of our times, spending part of today looking ahead to the uncompleted tasks and unsolved problems lurking in our tomorrow.
It seems too simplistic to say that we need to slow down….but there’s truth in that old cliché. Happiness doesn’t come from having everything we want, exactly the way we dreamed. As we grow, priorities change; we learn that there are very few absolutes. It’s not that we compromise–rather, we adjust to reality. Learn to treat ourselves more gently, and let it all ripple outward from there.
Years ago, I worked in a nursing home, and I still remember one of the residents saying, “You think you’ve got it bad? Someone else always has a worse story.” Worse stories are on the news, every day. We have so much to be grateful for!
If you haven’t already, I challenge you to look at your life with new eyes. Daily miracles are too often missed, like diamonds set in brass–it’s a matter of focus, and of choice, which one you see.
I saw this on Facebook today and because it caught my attention, I decided to share it here. As we grow, some of the things on this list will disappear: homework, school, fake friends, being ignored. Growing up is a painful process, one we all experience. Growing, however, is life-long, and some of these issues will spill over into our post-school years, such as fake friends and being ignored. And there will always be Mondays!
Any group of people tends to sort itself into sub-groups; we align ourselves with people we’re most comfortable with, both in the work place and in our personal lives. Social networks function similarly, although there is also the benefit of meeting people we might not have, otherwise. There is so much available to connect with–art, music, writing, reading, cooking, and more, with each new connection exposing us to a wider range of experience.
I have read many inspirational postings that resonate with me, thoughts I willingly share with others. There is a lot of negativity, too. That’s human nature at work, the yin and yang of it. Speaking for myself, I’d much rather begin any day on a positive note, and so I am mindful that what I surround myself with is my choice.
What will you choose to surround yourself with today? I challenge you to open your mind to new possibilities. Nothing grows in a vacuum.
4:27PM, driving along the Old River Road in Cedar Rapids, IA. We’re on the lookout for bald eagles and they like to hunt around the roller dam. Considering how cold our weather has been, there’s still a surprising expanse of open water. Good for fishing, if you happen to be an eagle. At first, all we can see is an occasional glimpse of a white head or dark body amid the bare trees but then, patience rewards us as two birds take flight. Kevin drives down closer to the water–a little too close for me!–and we sit, spellbound, watching our national bird soaring effortlessly through the still, late-afternoon air. Yes, it’s below zero, but only just; that doesn’t matter. We are, after all, warmly dressed, sitting in a heated car. One of the eagles lands in a tree fairly close to us and we observe it for a few minutes, settling on a branch, fluffing its feathers, twitching its tail. It’s always a thrill to see these magnificent birds at close range, in their natural habitat–free and unfettered, as they’re meant to be. The sun begins its descent, gilding the tree tops. The light is gorgeous, liquid gold….and I’m mildly irritated that I’ve left my camera at home. Sometimes, though, it’s not about taking the perfect photo, observing life from behind a lens. It’s about being in the moment, letting it wash over you and speak to your heart. The burning disk of the sun slides gently down the fragile blue sky, painting the clouds in watercolor shades of rose and apricot. Twenty minutes later, nature’s extravagant farewell to the day is over; the sky has changed to a uniform soft gray. An hour later, writing this, it has become full dark. The images linger in my memory, enchanting me, and I am reminded that each day contains many small miracles, if we have eyes to see. They aren’t necessarily big, “ohmigod” moments; they might be as commonplace as a sunset, a lone horse in a field, a cardinal or bluejay at the bird feeder, vivid splashes of color in the austere Winter landscape. Gifts of beauty, a balm to the spirit….and I am grateful.