I think one of the most challenging aspects of aging is the growing awareness that our one last breath is drawing nearer with every breath we take. By perforce, that awareness embodies the realization that time is fleeting. It passes quickly – and there’s less time to do the things we want to accomplish, to achieve our dreams, to heal relationships, to change directions – to step joyfully into whatever we see before us.
That pressure of time passing can act as both a deterrent or motivator to making change happen in our lives.
Sometimes, we can fall into the habit of acting out on our belief there’s no point in doing anything. We don’t have enough time to make change happen and we’re too old anyway. Our acting out looks like inaction — but the act of thinking about doing nothing is action in and of itself.
When we choose to believe every breath matters and every breath is an opening into wonder and awe, the possibility of our taking active, committed and passionate steps towards whatever it is we want to achieve or do overrides time’s insistence we keep watch of each passing minute, without doing anything else.
I like to multi-task. Keeping watch of time motivates me to keep doing the things I want to do to add richness, variety, excitement, joy, mystery, wonder and awe into my life.
I’ve lived most of my life like that. Why change now?
If like me you’ve been on this earth awhile, you’ve probably heard people, especially your elders, say things like, “Growing old is not for the faint of heart.” Or, “Growing old is no fun.”
I remember when I first awoke from that relationship that was killing me and began, after an absence of a few years, to do the thing that I knew would be most healing for me; write in my journal. The first thing I wrote was, “And now for the hard part.”
I remember stopping and looking at that line and thinking, “Wait a minute. Who says this part has to be ‘hard’? Going through that relationship was hard. Why does healing from it have to be hard? Can’t I choose otherwise?”
It was in that moment I chose my path. obviously, I had a lot to heal, internally, with my relationship with myself and others. Obviously, to get to that ‘healing’ I had to go through the pain. But… did I have make going through it feel hard? No. I could choose to go through it, no matter what ‘it’ was, In Love.
That meant, no matter what I was experiencing, no matter how painful or dark or grimy my road, I had to choose to treat myself and all the world around me, with tender loving care. I had to hold onto the truth of my own loveability. I had to choose to love myself.
Today, I am deeply grateful for that lesson I learned and embraced so long ago.
And… here’s the challenge. I’ve let some of that lesson go! Fact is, there are times I have perceived aging as a ‘dark and gloomy night’. A place I did not want to go. A place I dare not shine the light within for fear it would be extinguished.
My mindset and my choices dictate how I age and while, just as I cannot control my emotions, I cannot control time and its passing, I do have the power to choose how I express my emotions and I get to choose how time’s passing resonates within me and upon my life.
I have the power to choose to be angry with aging, or lovingly accepting of its beauty and its warts, making the most of each precious moment I breathe.
Seeing it all through the eyes of love, feeling it all through a heart flowing with love, and experiencing it all as part of this journey called LIFE, creates a wealth of opportunity for me to grow and expand and breathe life into each moment without placing too many expectations, or fear, into what the next one will bring.
When I quit viewing aging as a thankless, relentlessly painful, and loss-filled journey, I create space for wonder, awe, and magic to be present too. And just as opposites can co-exist in the same space, aging and love can co-exist without one being overshadowed by the other.
That doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the real and sometimes challenging realities of aging. Let’s face it, getting older is messy. At times it feels like it’s happening entirely against our will with its demands we face its seemingly relentless reminders of how fragile and vulnerable we are becoming or how our limbs just ain’t what they used to be.
That kind of reality can suck, especially if we spend all our time trying to avoid it — because avoiding it tends to suck the air right out of us.
Which is why I am choosing to face the realities of aging, the good, the bad and the ugly, with a grateful heart, counting my blessings every step of the way, savouring each deep breath of the wonder and awe of each moment.
Because, as long as I am breathing, I get to age. And that is a privilege many do not get to experience.
I AM many things. A wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend. Artist, writer, poet, story-teller. I love fiercely, care deeply, act with intention. No matter what my role, no matter how I am in this world, none of who I am is diminished by the label, senior citizen.
Sometimes, we wear a label as if it makes a difference to who we are and how we are in this world. A label is not our identity. It is not a reflection of our worth. It simply is what it is, a label of no value to the quality of our life. It’s only value is it works as a road marker to help us see where we are on the road of life.
A label sometimes serves to put us in a box. Sometimes, we call the box our comfort zone. Our familiar ground. Our ‘special place’.
What if there is no box?
What if we LIVE as if there is no box?
What if we choose to view our lives as limitless fields of possibility that greet us every morning with their invitation to run, wild and free, amongst the wildflowers blowing in the winds of change and opportunity, through the trees whose leaves are unfolding and dropping, unfolding and dropped in a continuous circle of renewal?
What if… There is no box!
It’s been an amazing week of fullsome conversation, sharing and for me, a lot of internal exploration, growth and learning.
Thank you. I am so very grateful for each of you. For this beautiful opportunity to keep growing and becoming more of me.
Have a beautiful, sunny-shiney bright kind of weekend!
Years ago, as part of a play he was performing in about homelessness, my dear friend Max wrote a short soliloquy about his lived experience of homelessness.
I am a father, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend.
I am a carpenter, a musician, a writer, an artist.
I laugh. I cry. I bleed. I feel pain. I feel joy.
Which of these is diminished because I am homeless?
In her comment last night on yesterday’s blog, which reminded me of Max’s words, Iwona wrote,
I am a writer, a quilter, a calligrapher, a photographer.
I am a wife, a friend, a relative, a confidante, a mentor.
These are the qualities and traits that I am proud to acknowledge.
Some may say these are "labels".
And Cristl wrote her manifesto too,
I don’t like labels as I have been called a criminal, homeless, senior and blunt. None fit me as the people I am now. I am a passionate person who believes that every person be treated with dignity and respect. This includes me.
While Nance shared her beautiful insight, as did JoAnne.
Somewhere along the line we decide which labels suit us. We can accept labels we agree with, and make our own labels. We can live without labels. We can talk about what we do, without making it who we are.
But some people work very hard to have certain labels. It’s good to think before we label.
And maybe that’s the thing about labels.
I have the power to choose my own. The one’s that work for me. They are not all of me. They are often a reflection of my passions and what’s yearning to be expressed within me.
I do not give others the right to choose them for me. And, while I get that for demographic stats it’s easiest to group people under labels or headings that denote similar attributes, and l understand that labels are convenient for identifying demographic trends and policies that work and policies that need to change to address gaps in public services, I have the power and the choice of determining what the ‘label’ that puts me in a specific group means to me.
I have the power to choose how I live the labels with which I am identified.
I have agency.
Which brings me to my own statement of Who Am I. Because in my agency, I also know that while there are many ‘isms’ I have encountered because of my gender, I have privilege that too many others do not experience because their choices were limited by the labels we applied to keep them in their place.
I am a human being of great worth. I am a woman. A mother, a wife, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, a friend. I am an activist, a disruptor, a staunch defender of our human right to be treated with dignity and respect. I am a believer in upending our social constructs to create equity and inclusion for those who have been marginalized, pushed aside and under the colonial structures of our past. And however I am, where ever I am, I am an artist, a writer, story-teller, creator of words and images, a lover of life and this fragile condition we call our humanity.
Which of these is diminished because my age puts me in the demographic cohort of being labelled a ‘senior citizen’?
It happens to all of us. We can’t get over it, under it, around it. From the moment we take our first breath to our last, it keeps on happening.
It is as much a part of our lives as breathing.
Yet, we do not fear breathing. Most of the time, we don’t even think about it. It just is. Automatic. Necessary. Essential.
Yet, so many of us fear ageing. Or if not fear it, think about it a lot, spend inordinate amounts of time trying to slow it down. Push it away or put it off as if we have the power to stop its natural progression with the fervour of someone trying to stop diarrhea with just their mind.
And still, always, ageing happens. Slowly. Inexorably. It’s always there. We cannot avoid it.
Ageing is on my mind.
Perhaps because my beloved and I just had our first encounter with COVID and, until he was approved for Paxlovid, I was sure he was destined for the hospital. In those moments of helplessness and fear, the fragility of life takes centre stage. And, as in the COVID experience, so does age. The older you are, the more susceptible to its insidious nature.
But, even before COVID made its appearance on the world stage, our ageing nature was always present.
It is part of life. It is life.
Which is why I’ve decided to try a new venture. Call it exploration.
I’ve decided to explore the many faces of ageing in a series of short (1 – 3 min) video conversations about ageing. I’m calling these conversations, Dare Boldly: No Matter Your Age.
‘Cause let’s face it. It happens to all of us. But, what I’ve noticed as I slide closer to the last year of my 60’s… ageing feels as if it’s happening faster and getting to feel heavier on my mind the older I get!
And I want to understand it. I don’t want to feel burdened by age. I want to live within its grace. To be as curious, excited and inspired by life, no matter my age.
I don’t want to be stressed about the extra aches and creaks of my body as much as I want to be committed to taking tender, loving care of my well-being. Inside and out.
I don’t want to be wishing to turn back time. I want to be dancing in time with the rhythms of life.
And, I don’t want to carry regrets for things I’ve done, or haven’t done. I want to carry the joy of stretching myself every day to live my fullest, most engaged life yet.
And to do all of that, I have to face, with loving, joyful acceptance, the many gifts, challenges and opportunities life brings me at every age.
I hope you come along with me on this journey. I hope you share your thoughts, ideas, feelings, hopes, wishes and dreams about what it means for you to be full of life and daring boldly, no matter your age.
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