Friday, February 23, 2007
How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and colour are their last days.
I venture to speak today of Light Hearted Aging
Or is that an oxymoron????
No matter, - it is something to set as a goal, albeit one that is a struggle to reach. So many things get in the way. If I were to list them all I would have to include the cheese and the violin in with the whine, so let us look on the bright side - tra la!
My curiousity led me to the pages of quotes on aging that you can find online. The majority were full of wisdom and described situations that I recognize all too well, but not too many of them were particularly light hearted. Which leads me to believe that this may be a fairly serious subject. Especially if you are going to approach if from the light-hearted side!
For instance, - Charles Dickens wrote these heartening and kindly words in a rosy depiction of the aging process.
"Father Time is not always a hard parent, and though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirts young and in full vigour. With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow's hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life"
When the heart and spirit is young and in full vigour, surely it makes it easier to bear the aches and pains, and sometimes the personal discomforts that growing old thrusts upon us.
John Mortimer - he of Rumple fame - tells us that "when you get to my age life seems little more than one long march to and from the lavatory." Well, on the face of it this may seem funny, and perhaps John Mortimer meant it to be funny, but it has just a shade too much truth in it to be accepted as a joke. It strikes the old with just one more of the realities of life that must be taken uncomplainingly and with good humour.
And Leo Rosenburg remarks - "first you forget names, then you forget faces; then you forget to pull your zipper up, then you forget to pull your zipper down". Now this is not a quandry I find myself in, but I can well imagine it if the gender was different, and it's not funny or light hearted - not funny at all!
I read "don't let ageing get you down. It's too hard to get back up" and "I still have a full deck - I just shuffle a little slower now" - witty remarks, but tinged with a little desperation.....
Eugene O'Neill comments on a characteristic of the old that I have often noted.
"The old - like children - talk to themselves, for they have reached that hopeless wisdom of experience which knows that though one were to cry it in the streets to multitudes, or whisper it in the kiss to one's beloved, the only ears that can ever hear one's secrets are one's own." Can truer words ever be spoken and does this not speak to the loneliness of the old?
And what about the poignancy of Shel Silverstein's excerpt:
Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the old man.”
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the old man.
- - - - Shel Silverstein
So where is the light heartedness in growing old, and how do you achieve grace in coping with it. - I ask myself?
Is it in acceptance? Is it in memories? But what if the memories are too painful a reminder of years gone by, of regrets for opportunities missed, of diminishing strength, of things not done that should have been done, and things that were done that should not have been done.
That doesn't speak well for memories, unless by some alchemy we can change them into happy reminders of things accomplished, - of joys and beauty and love experienced. And of sorrows that have strengthened the spirit, and brought a quiet confidence in what can be borne.
So having reached the stage where memories are a comfort and a source of happiness, what about the acceptance of life as it is, here and now, on a day to day basis.- - where each day is the present, - where there are no regrets for the past, and no worries about the future. Come what may, we seize the day and make of it all that circumstances allow!
But wait, - how do we relinguish the sense of responsibility for the whole wide world, and particularly for those things that affect us, and those dear to us???? How do we release the passions for what we consider to be right, and of good commom sense? How do we close our eyes to what we consider to be a general drift down the slippery slope? Can we forget that we are of the opinion that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and there isn't a thing we can do about it at this stage of our lives?
Is this where faith steps in, and we leave the world in the hands of God, - or do we take the greater leap and cultivate faith in the generations that follow us???
I have heard it said that the last years of a worthy life are the first years of immortality. Surely if we can get to the point where we consider our lives to have been worthy, we can accept our venture into immortality with grace.
The night grows late, and I am floundering.....
Off to bed, where perhaps I will dream the answers to my questions.