Hello Dear Friends,
I received a chain letter in my email inbox a few years back. You know the kind of thing I mean: you’re supposed to read it, add to it, send it on to a bunch of people (on pain of some dire fate if you dare break the chain), and sooner or later you will open your inbox and voilà, hordes of other people’s chain-letter emails come home to roost.
Or something like that; frankly, I shudder to think of it.
Curmudgeon that I surely am, I don’t play the chain letter game. First of all, I don’t like it being imposed on me, so I’m not about to impose it on other people; and secondly, I’m definitely not interested in receiving even more email than the deluge I already wade through each day.
All that being said, though, I saved the message itself, for the simple reason that I liked it.
Yesterday I celebrated my birthday, The Big Seven Oh.
When I was a little kid, I used jump out of bed on my birthday morning and peek into the mirror to see if I looked older. I certainly didn’t feel any different. In fact, it was a wonderment to me that I didn’t feel different on my Big Day than I had the day before, when I was a whole year younger.
Birthdays were fun, of course, but apart from the party, the birthday cake and the gifts, the very same me got into bed that night as the one who had gotten out of it that morning.
What I didn’t realize was missing in those childhood years was perspective, which began to enter into the picture as I grew older. Time doesn’t lurch from one year to the next; it flows, and it is watching the flow that gives a person perspective.
I think it’s fair to say that by now I’ve accumulated a good deal of perspective; and as I ruminated last night on the joys and challenges of growing old, I remembered that chain letter message, written by some unnamed author, that I had filed away long ago. I searched; I found.
I think this little manifesto stands on its own merits, and I present the gist of it here (by now, of course, I’ve messed with it quite liberally and sprinkled quite few edits in there too – because, well, that’s me – so I can no longer call it a quote). But quote or not, here it is, a piece I’ve chosen to call The Elders’ Manifesto:
As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon, before they had time to understand the great freedom that comes with aging.
And whose business is it, really, if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50s, 60s and 70s – and if at the same time I feel the need to shed tears over a lost love, then I will do that too.
If I choose, I will walk on the beach in a swim suit that may be stretched over a less-than-svelte body. I will dive into the waves with abandon, despite any pitying glances from the jet set. In time, they too will grow old.
I know I’m sometimes forgetful. But then, there are parts of life – fears, pain, grudges and the like – that are just as well forgotten. Anyway, eventually I remember the important things, and that’s what counts.
And yes, over the years my heart has been broken, many times. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or when a beloved pet dies?
Healing a broken heart is what gives us our strength, our understanding, our compassion. A heart in pristine, sterile perfection may never have known pain, but it will also never know the joys and passions of its strong, relentlessly loving, oft-mended counterpart.
I am blessed to have lived long enough that my hair alone declares me crone, and that my youthful laughter is forever recorded on my face. So many of us don’t laugh any more, and so many have died before their hair ever had the chance to turn silver.
As you get older, it’s easier to just be happy. You care less about what other people think. You tend to second-guess yourself less. And your ego even allows you to be wrong.
I like being old. Growing old has set me free. I like the person I have become.
I know I’m not going to live forever, and I ruminate from time to time about the next part of the journey as I never did when I was young and knew I must surely live forever, if I thought about it at all. As long as I’m still here, I won’t waste my time living in the past, regretting what was and longing for what might have been. Nor will I squander today worrying about what might come.
This moment – this fleeting breath of an infinitely precious life – is mine to live, and live it I shall.
Oh my, so many thoughts! Firstly, a very happy birthday to you! Secondly, I love the new look of the blog, it’s so pretty. And finally, that “chain letter” that you re-wrote is beautiful for its truth.
Thanks so much, Lorrie! I love the new look too; it feels happy, which I generally am. And it’s whimsical, which I certainly am! I think it’s worth all the many hours of work that went into it – not to mention the urgent emails to the WordPress Happiness Engineers. Thank heaven it’s behind me, though. It’s time to get back to my regular life now.
And yes, I agree, the truths the Elders’ Manifesto describes are close to my heart as I settle into my crone years. And now I have to check my emails – and catch up on your posts too. You’re one of my favourite bloggers.
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This blog/website is lovely (and it showed up in my reader)! Happy birthday! ❤
I recently made some decisions about growing older. I decided that the primary question I had to answer is "Is this thing I'm doing in harmony with the person i want to be?" I even decided to go ahead and judge others in a way, asking, "Is this thing she or he is doing remotely like anything I want to do? Are the things they're saying anything like I want to say — or hear? Is this factual, useful, beautiful, a cry for help or just an empty rant? Gossip?" I figured this is the time I have to live in reality, for whatever sense that makes. I'll admit I'm often a little uncomfortable since I've always believed in "give and take," and probably still do, but with a more analytical eye. I wish I'd woken up to that years ago.
Oh yay, now I know that all my folks are back on my radar again! Thank you for your kind words; they mean a lot to me. And thank you for your birthday wishes too.
Your primary question is the same one I’m dealing with, and it’s forcing me to make some difficult choices. I don’t have the time or the energy I used to have when I was younger, especially as caregiving and writing have taken up a large and extremely important part of my life. Both are essential to my sense of myself, and while neither uses actual physical strength, the emotional and psychic energy involved is large, and I need to choose wisely.
I think this time of life is about honing down to the truly important things. Isn’t it all just an incredible journey? ❤
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