Pains and Gains

Aging is truly a bittersweet saga, full of enormous grace and beauty and crushingly painful limitations. Crushing because no matter how hard you try, the limitations cannot be vanquished.

I have met some amazing women: artists and musicians in their mid-80s who are sharp and intellectual, who have beautiful perspectives on life and have many wonderful stories to share. These women are not what you think of as 80.  One woman sported a sassy short haircut and wore a sparkly purple hat when we met. She was, by any measure, beautiful, all 98 pounds of her with huge luminous eyes.

For anyone who loves a hobby, knitting, painting, sculpting, baking:  to have your hands betray you is life altering. Arthritis is the number one grievance of elders and painful hands can drain the joy from any of those hobbies. To become a master at something that you still love to do means you resent your hands for giving up too early. To others this many seem trivial, but if your self-concept is tied up in your craft, it is a daily painful reminder that your strength is ebbing away.

A Course in Miracles says,  “Every choice is a grievance or a miracle,” meaning you can bemoan the arthritis or be grateful for the miracle of general good health, but it’s a small comfort when you want to create. Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun,” so where do intelligent, beautiful elders go to express that creativity if their hands hurt?

The other issue that is universal and painful is loss of lifetime friends. Who do you share with when your best friends of 20, 30, 40, 50 years have passed?  It tears the heart and there is no relief.

I would urge you to plan your fragile years carefully if you are in your 60s now.  Find and cultivate good friends, expand your circle, mentor a grandchild, guard your health.  If you make it to 65 you have a statistical chance of another 19.3 good years. How will you use them, occupy your mind, stay active, remain relevant?  Do not let 85 sneak up on you. It can be a lonely stretch in search of meaning or a place of great reward, contribution and wisdom.

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