Conscious Aging: Risking Real Relationship

A friend just shared a long typewritten letter from 1975, a personally significant year. I read — twice, because there was a lot in the letter — and we spent time talking.

I have two thoughts about such sharing. One is that the person we were remains the person we are, albeit with more nuance and depth. Decades of life experience does that for you. The other thought is that risking vulnerability is what makes real relationships.

We’re all vulnerable when we’re young. We have no choice, because we ARE vulnerable. We need competent adults to care for us. But we learn, over time, that vulnerability carries risk. Our vulnerability can be overlooked, dismissed — even worse, made fun of or denied. Our vulnerability can be used to hurt us.

No sensible person my age risks vulnerability willy nilly. The fact that we risk it at all, despite a lifetime of swings and misses, is for these moments of connection, the stuff of which real relationships are made.

Lots of things are closed to me now, in this final third of my life. I’ll never climb Mt. Everest, or start a new career, or give birth to a child. I’ll probably never buy the Aston Martin of my dreams, or ride a bike from Cairo to Capetown — as Jerry wanted us to do before he died. But the joy of real relationships is still rich and full and endlessly open.

I’m grateful, and consider the deep relationships in my life a blessing.

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