The pleasures of growing older

Past 50? Hold on, life is about to get good. I recall talking with my father many years ago about his frail state of health.

Past 50?

Hold on, life is about to get good.

I recall talking with my father many years ago about his frail state of health. I remember his comments:

Old age is the final product. It is what this life is all about.

He was fond of saying that the key is just learning to adjust, that’s all.

Now here I am —middle-aged, maybe beyond. I am not so sure I get it.

All my close friends are ‘over the hill,’ or ‘getting on in years.’ And every one of them struggles with adjusting.

Here are a few thoughts that just may help.

Robertson Davies, one of Canada’s most influential and prolific writers, wrote, “The values that are proper and all-absorbing during the first half of life will not sustain a man (or woman) during the second half.

“If he has the courage and wisdom to advance courageously into the new realm of values and emotions he will age physically, of course, but his intellectual and spiritual growth will continue, and will give satisfaction to himself and to all those associated with him.”

Davies is reminding us that clinging to all those values, ideas, and attitudes that got us through the first half of our lives, will now make us old beyond our years.

“We have all seen these juvenile dotards whose boast is that they are just as young as their sons or their grandsons; they do not realize what a pitiful boast that is.”

And, of course, Davies was right. What a pitiful boast this is.

Staying forever young is not possible. Growing older gracefully is.

If we are locked into continually reflecting on what and who we used to be, we leave little room for who we are, who we are about to become.

When the passions and pretenses of youth begin to lose their appeal, something quite marvelous opens up in us: We come face to face with the fact that the world wants us to be here.

Psychologist James Hillman said, “Getting older speaks to the feelings that there is a reason my unique person is here and that there are things I must attend to beyond the daily round.”

Now is the time “to fill out my biography.”

With all this history of youngness behind us, with fresh eyes we can begin to search out the basic plot of our lifelong story.

Be you young or old, Hillman suggests good alternatives to living ordinary lives. His advice is worth taking.

“We dull our lives by the way we conceive them,” he says. “We have stopped imagining them with any sort of romance, any fictional flair.”

Davies and Hillman are strongly suggesting that getting ‘old’ is also getting ‘new.’

If we find the courage — and courage is what it takes — to cast off “when I was younger” and replace it with “is it good to be alive” we give ourselves the time and space to discover our real calling in life.

What is so often lost, clouded by the impulsiveness of youth, according to Hillman, “is a sense of personal calling, that there is a reason I am alive.”

Today I find myself overcome with feelings of great joy. I often awake feeling alive to the notion that I am doing just what I need to be doing.

Joseph Chilton Pearce drops us a clue as to what is happening here.

“Adolescents sense a secret, unique greatness in themselves that seeks expression.

“They gesture toward the heart when trying to express any of this, a significant clue to the whole affair.”

My take on Pearce is that while we may have a sense of our potential to be “great” in our younger days, it remains a secret only to unfold in our older years.

As we grow old, we naturally begin to strip off the many illusions hiding our real potential.

We begin to see and to feel the final product in all its beauty. The gangly and awkward moments of adolescence pave the way somehow for us to become truly graceful.

After 50 we begin to understand the limit of our abilities. We learn to pace ourselves by first acknowledging what is important and what it not.

As we weather, perhaps for the first time in our long lives, we begin to take ourselves seriously.

We begin to care about “self” in a whole and wholesome way.

As we season, we begin to accept the notion that we are “ecological” — a part of a larger story.

Perhaps it was this ecological self-realization my father was alluding to when he spoke of becoming the final product.

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