I hope I’m a long way from dying.
We don’t know, do we? I am grateful to have lived this life that is mine, very grateful. I’m grateful not only for the “good” things, but even for the hard things. I count myself as privileged, in many, many, many… ways.
Now that I’m over 60, though, I am more and more aware that I am growing older. For the most part, my health has been good, all of my life. (I am grateful for this, also). Actually, I began to realize that I was growing older – like all of us! – when I turned 61. And so I can relate to those who are in denial.
That’s how I think of it. Sometimes, in an effort to sound positive and to not make that leap into a deep acceptance of growing older, I hear someone say: “I am in perfect health!” Well, maybe you are! But, like me at least, you are also growing older. You, too, will need the doctor more than you did in the past. Young people already look at you as if you are older – if they look at you at all.
Several years ago, I traveled with a small group to a wonderful retreat in Germany. On the plane flight home, I made my way to the back of the plane to use the restroom. When I left the restroom, several young men were in the aisle. They did not look at me at all, and they hardly moved so that I could make my way up the aisle. I know the reality that “older” women are invisible.
Invisible! How sad is that? The wisdom-carriers, those who have lived, and not lived, and are alive to tell it…! Invisible!
When the weather is warm and the days are long, I long for the days when I was young. What a joy to bicycle to work, to spend long days in the sun, to enjoy a music festival under the long, long, sweet evenings, humid and languid. What joy to walk barefoot in the streets, way past midnight! What luxury to be a student, to set my schedule by classes and papers and interesting conversations in the Student Union. What a joy to look at the young men – and to have them look at me! What a joy to know that life lay ahead of me!
But those were hard times, too. Things are always easier in hind-sight, aren’t they? Those were fear-filled times, times of uncertainty, of not-knowing, of living with the anxiety of knowing I had to make that passage into being an adult, whatever that meant for me. And there were the days of loneliness, of fears, of failed relationships, of being adrift in my life, until I began to realize I had to grow up, on my own terms, in my own way. I had to take the road that was calling to me.
And – I did. For that, I am grateful, too. I am grateful.
One of the gifts of being “older” is that I know that when we take that step – when we step off the cliff to fall into the journey of trust in What Is, without seeing the safety net, without knowing the answers, without having someone’s hand to hold – except the hand of the great unseen, unknown one – the journey will not always be happy, or be easy. It is in the nature of journey to have beginnings, and endings, like birth, and death. And in the “in between,” in all those days and moments and years, there are lots of hard times. I know it now. I don’t expect to take a magic pill and be all happy, all the time. Life – the spiritual journey included – is not happy all the time. We do a dis-service to life, and to ourselves, by only expecting happy times, good times.
But I digress… or do I? I am writing today about that ping, that small, silent, but strong ping that “pings” in my solar plexus, day after day, when I know I will never know those long evenings, that utter bliss – and terror – of being young. I am older, now. I am one who has lived for many years, now. I am one who has known this life, my life, as it is. I am one who now, as I am, must surrender again to the great expanse of time and distance and space.
Even now, I must say, “Yes!” to this time, to this call, to this journey. Come what may.
And will I discover the wisdom in this falling, in this surrender? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’m not there, yet. For now, all I have is the ping, that little ping that is the reality of this time, this age, this moment.