Sunday, July 14

The passage into elderhood

Our lives are a series of passages: from boyhood to manhood; son to father; daughter to mother.  Of them all, perhaps no transition is more difficult than the traverse from middle age to senior citizen; reluctant to leave the glory days of our life’s chronology we struggle mightily to resist moving on.

Having enjoyed the luxuries and leniencies of living in the liberating decades of the seventies and eighties it’s understandable that we find it decidedly uncomfortable to go from being in control to being overwhelmed by the information age.  We can handle Facebook but aside from Donald Trump we are not natural tweeters.

Grasping technology is problematic.  But the real discontent and unhappiness we suffer is the result of having lost a precious pathway to the full experience of being alive.  Swamped by data assaulting us from every direction we have become human doings who have forgotten how to feel with our hearts and our bodies.  That is not the environment for an older generation weary of competition and yearning for connection.

I realized I had to change the way I saw the world.  I began by blocking out the amped up hyperbole and little by little gained insight into how to go within; gradually becoming aware of my internal experience.  Slowly I learned to close my eyes to the turmoil and stress of the world around me and to open my eyes to a more loving place.  My goal was, and remains, to leave cynicism behind and embrace compassion.

It took several years but gradually I acquired an intuitive understanding of the existence of something outside of normal awareness, something hidden from everyday scrutiny; something “other than me” that operates unseen.  It was difficult, but when I learned to put aside ego and grandiosity the rewards were extraordinary.  I could see beyond the material and competitive aspects of my life, and envision myself as a constituent of the entire universe.  I came to understand the ancient wisdom, “If you truly hold a stone, you can feel the mountain it came from.”

When I got beyond self-importance I was able to begin the process of self-forgiveness.  I let go of my dislike for the man I was in the past and celebrated my progress toward becoming the man I was determined to be.  I saw the mistakes I had made as ‘hard lessons’ that taught me what it takes to be that man.  In the same way, the process of forgiving others began when I let go of my anger at what they had done and instead, recognized the wisdom I gained through the difficult experiences they facilitated for me.

I crossed the threshold into Elderhood when I asked myself what I call the mirror questions, “Where did you ‘give in’ and become someone you are not?  Who did you satisfy at the expense of who you are?”  When I saw the gap between the face I presented to the world and the man I aspired to be I realized I had lived my life as a “presentation” in thrall to my ego.

That is not how I will live the rest of my remaining years!

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