It has been a blessing watching my clients confront and overcome the issues that first brought us together. We literally have grown older together. The pictures of weddings, graduations and cuter-than-puppies grandchildren are pinned to the walls of my heart.
But today, technology has made the photo album old hat, passed over in favor of the Pictures file on our iPhone. We are in the middle of a new life stage and looming in front of us is an unavoidable and disquieting reality, the slow decline of body and mind known as ageing.
Perhaps no transition in life is more difficult than the passage from middle age to senior citizen. The popular premise supposes dire scenarios, I have nothing left to live for, no value to contribute, no purpose for being here; but they are self-imposed and consequently, we allow them to become true.
Thankfully, notions of aging as defined by some stereotype of a crabby old guy or cantankerous grandma hamming it up on an awful sitcom, are becoming increasingly discredited. When older men and women complain about no longer “being in the game,” the truth is, they’ve stopped playing.
Aging is like owning an old car; not a particularly original analogy, but it fits. Take care of it and it keeps on going, even as it gradually loses its shine and its get-up-and-go. But if you get lazy and forget the regular maintenance, the timetable for the junk yard speeds up exponentially.
How one looks at aging makes an enormous difference. If you think Botox and a tuck here and there can stem the creep of time, you haven’t read the last chapter of Dorian Gray. It’s an ugly demise. On the other hand, if you see your senior years as a time to present yourself to the world without artifice, faithful to your authentic identity regardless of the situation, your biography will add many exciting chapters.
It is vital, no matter your circumstance, to not lose touch with the world outside your door. Force yourself, if necessary, to stay engaged; above all else, do not become isolated. Let go of ‘what was’ and build your future around a realistic appraisal of ‘what is.’
Yes, we are getting older, but as Sister Joan Chittister writes in her inspirational book, The Gift of Years, “clearly, life does not end till it ends.”
Perhaps this Taoist text by Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism, provides the guide to follow. His book, written around 600 BC, is entitled “The Book of the way and its Virtue.” Of its many maxims addressing reflection and experience, I like the one headed “It is Never too Late.”
It is never too late to become a sage,
never too early to begin.
There is no seminar to attend,
no certification to obtain.
There is no quest to undertake,
no mountain to climb.
We simply wake up,
and look around,