Conscious Aging: Savoring What’s Best about this Stage of Life

I finally ventured back to some semblance of my normal routine by having breakfast with friend Louise on Friday morning. She’s just back from a women’s retreat with twelve friends who’ve been a spiritual and activist group for decades — they still gather twice a year. She shared one of their insights with me: this is a time to savor what’s best about this stage of life.

That made me think about what’s best, through my own eyes. I don’t have anything to prove professionally any more — and even if I had the ambition, the necessary pathways are no longer open to me. I’ve done what I’ve done. As they used to say in traditional film-making, the production is “in the can”. I can recalibrate the way I look at my professional life, use different measures for judging my success, but I can no longer alter what’s there. That, in a sense, is a relief.

I have enough life experience to have a very clear picture of my own strengths and weaknesses, and to understand how hard it is to change deeply rooted temperamental qualities or alter the influence of early, life-shaping events. I no longer waste energy thinking my tendency to ruminate is going to disappear. I can, and do, manage that impulse when I find myself doing it — but I no longer think I can erase ruminating from my persona. It’s in there, for whatever combination of reasons. I don’t have to indulge it, but I won’t die having vanquished it.

I’m better at picking friends. Or, I should say, I now pick friends solely based on friendship potential, with some of the more transactional ways I used to keep people in my life no longer relevant or necessary. That means I have a smaller, but richer social circle.

I no longer pretend to be interested in things that perhaps I should be interested in, but am not.

I’m no longer the driving center of our family — my adult kids are. Rather than making me feel irrelevant, surrendering the central role is a relief. I’m happy to give advice and input when asked, but the weighing of trade-offs and the driving of decisions is largely out of my hands. I’ve done a lot of it, and never shied away when the decision-making was mine. But that role has moved on to wise and capable hands, and I’m happy to look on.

Glad to hear your thoughts on this, if you’re at a similar life stage, or an earlier one. Savoring the moment we’re in does seem to me to be a piece of learned wisdom — I’m wondering how early in life it can appear?

4 thoughts on “Conscious Aging: Savoring What’s Best about this Stage of Life

  1. Your insights are very powerful and very true.

    I’m still working on my profession but it’s different. I’ve achieved my “bucket list.” I like still working since it gives me a professional identity, a place to go (and wear the closets full of work clothes I’ve accumulated over the years), a platform for nursing leadership, and, of course, money. I like to spend money, mostly on other people and on trips. I don’t need any more jewelry or fancy things.

    My large, extended, multicultural family continues to evolve. When my Dad died 3 years ago, my Mom didn’t assume the leadership role, I did with some help from one of my sisters who lives locally. She helps with my Mom and shares doing the finances for my Mom with Ron. My Mom assumed the role of “information central.” She is up to the minute on all the people in our big family, all without the aid of the internet. My Dad was good at the internet, email, and online research. My Mom has never touched the computer, although my Dad’s laptop, printer, and wireless network (The Tartan Network) still live in their home. It’s good for out of town family members who come in to visit and stay for a while and we use it when we visit.

    My oldest daughter Valerie r and her spouse Dana have assumed the leadership of some family functions, while “Christmas” is still, traditionally, in my home for everyone (usually 30 people). I enjoy that they are willing to host family events. I have the responsibility for advocacy for the many members of my family with serious health problems and complex psycho-social issues. I do manage to make a difference, even winning a battle to get one relative with a life threatening disease her medicine.pro bono. I’m good at it but it consumes a considerable amount of time, research, and energy. I know I could be productive as a nurse advocate even without my job, but I still want to work and still like the money. I kept hoping I’d find another job that I would be happy in. That hasn’t happened and at my age, doors close rather than open if anyone googles me – they see my age.

  2. for Katie: Thoughtful piece. Look forward to talking more when I see you next weekend. There’s a lot here.

  3. A few more thoughts on my retreat with women friends of like age: We reflected on “both sides” — if you will — of aging as we are experiencing it. What is it that I Resist, as I age? What are the parts that I enjoy or “Allow” as I age? One of my Resists is “being marginalized in family gatherings” which makes me feel less competent or capable. I note that you, Pamela, see this “surrendering of the central role” as a relief. I take that as a healthy suggestion; I will look forward to being “relieved.” Conversely, I noted that one of my “joys” is the respect that my children show for the way in which I am “managing” my aging, as when my daughter volunteers, “I am so proud of you, Mom!”
    It’s easy to become preoccupied with your aching back, your crooked arthritic fingers, and that wrinkled image in the mirror. It is perhaps more of a challenge to contemplate the wealth of experiences we draw from, the wisdom we can share, all of which give us the freedom to design our future. (Note that I do not call it “the rest of my life” or the “remaining years” — it IS my FUTURE.)

  4. for Louise: I like thinking of what is to come as “my future”. That seems hopeful. More to talk about, I’m sure!

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