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?