Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
I never thought much about aging until my 49th birthday two days ago. I suddenly felt like I got hit by a Mack truck. One day my mother will die. One day I will die. What will my kids do? What do I do if my mother becomes incapacitated? If I do not find companionship, I need to make a plan so that if something happens to me, someone would find me before I turn to dust in my own home. (Hey, it happens). The big questions about death of course, are perhaps unanswerable–where do we go when we die? (I think we go to someplace good, with so much love that it is almost too much). Do we get to come back? (Maybe, if we want).
The aging, though–that comes with its own set of adventures. You’re exercising as you always do. Suddenly, some ankle bone you’ve never heard of before starts mysteriously hurting. You bend over to pick up something and suddenly you can’t get back up. Knees go out. It hits you like a ton of bricks you aren’t 29 any longer.
Some of us go through a mourning period. Perhaps this is what the midlife crisis we all joke about is. We buy things thinking it will make us more cool, more relevant. Less old. Kids start asking us what life was like in the 80’s. Maybe, for some of us, enjoying the companionship that mellows after years of being together. Maybe some fears about your spouse going before you do.
Maybe you’ve got your ducks in a row now. Maybe, you no longer care what people think of you. Maybe like the woman in the poem, you now wear purple and you spend your pension on brandy and the dime slots in the casino. Maybe you’re no longer insecure.
I’ll leave you with this poem and perhaps now you’ve found your niche, maybe you’ve found your home or maybe you never needed to leave it. Don’t let your mind age. Walk often, even run. Resist the marching onward of time as best you can. Love yourself.
“Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:
Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.
Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.
Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.
Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.
I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.
Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.
Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.