Honoring Life’s Spaces

Have you ever reached a place in your life when you knew something was happening, but you simply didn’t know what?     

If so,  my personal guess is that this state will become more and more familiar to those of us who are moving into our final chapter of life. Change and changing…from what was, to what will be. Little by little, or a lot by a lot.

Today I find myself in that place.    Confused.

And not wanting to admit it.

An aging woman. Lethargic and sad. Really feeling my 77 years and not wanting to own up. Not wanting to do anything except sleep. A big change in my usual routines of positive and active living.

Looking back on the past months of this year, I note that the universe has repeatedly demanded that I stop, or at least slow down … a back fracture, a car accident, cataract removal, discovery of stenosis, scheduled classes being cancelled for lack of enrollment. And, by the way, new cuddly furniture. Hmmm.

Each had their annoyances. And, to be perfectly honest, each was also greeted with some relief.

Concurrently for the past eight months, I have been having a sense of things changing at my core. The one who thought herself so invulnerable is now facing her vulnerabilities. And finally, not fighting them quite so much. The one who never needed a thing is now learning to ask for help. I’m getting acquainted with “flow.”

Could the events of these past months have been a second iteration version of a necessary 2 X 4 to the head? Slow down, you dummy!

While I neither have a name for all that is shifting, nor a discernible direction for what might be next, here I sit. On good days I want to play along with whatever is happening, daring to note my discomfort. On my best days I detect no urgency for clarity or certainty or for things to be any different.

Solace comes from a favorite Chinese proverb: “The beginning of wisdom is putting the right name on things.”  The word TRANSITION seems to be the “right name” for this time in my life.

The emotions of change arise. Part of a mysterious shift over which I seem to have no control.

  • How can I express my grief and sadness in away that reveals whatever it is that I, at 77, am losing or have lost?
  • How can I allow my fear of living in this empty space between what was and what might be?
  • How can I drop more deliberately into a not-doing-silence, sacred and sincere enough to invite my wisdom whisperers to speak?

The observer/witness sitting on my shoulder offers her comments:

–This is “what’s so” right now.
–It’s temporary.
–Be grateful for the availability of your feelings.
–Enjoy doing more of nothing.
–Pay attention.
–The truth of things is never toxic.
–Follow your intuition.
–Continue being curious.
–Rest over the holiday season ahead, which is always, for you, a potent time for cycling through the recurring endings and beginnings which are part of life’s journey.

And so, I stop.

I sit down to write.

I remind myself how good it feels to do so. “What’s so?” is here, not so comfortable, yet inviting my curiosity.

For now, I’m giving myself permission to live into this space of not knowing.  Confident that “What’s next?” will emerge when the energies newly align.


Conversations That Matter

What’s next for you to be thinking about in your life?   Is it hard to be alone with your thoughts?

In this new stage of life, what is it that’s calling for your attention?  Would it help to find like-minded others with whom to explore it?  Or, how about inaugurating a conversation yourself?

Recently I surprised myself by doing just that. An article caught my attention. It was some research on the Shifting Trends for Resident Engagement at senior living establishments, much like where I currently live at Providence Place in Holyoke, Massachusetts.   As I said, this report really caught my attention. So I gathered a few folks willing to read the report and invited them to lunch to discuss.

What happened is that the conversation generated interest. And seemed to spread of its own accord.

Yes, we do want to be engaged!   My neighbors are older, from the few in their 70’s, to the majority in their 80’s to a surprising number in their 90’s. We’re not dead yet. Nor do we wish to be invisible.  We are still wanting to be living life. Yes, we want safety and security. Yes, we want to be included and accepted for who we are. Yes, we want to live with meaning and purpose during our remaining years. That means that Yes, we want to find our voices and express ourselves.

And that may mean thinking about, and starting to talk about, what we really want to be doing on a daily basis, with whom we want to be doing it… and then, to make it happen.

Very organically, a little grass roots movement started. We named and inaugurated some of the activities and discussions in which we would like to participate as elder beings. From water aerobics,  to a book club, to the memoir writing group, to fulfilling volunteer activities, to the possibility of a choir.That’s the short list.

It’s only been two months. We have a newly arrived Program Administrator who is eager to champion our ideas. There is a new energy of excitement. And it feels good.

Here’s the deal! What matters to you? What conversations about life, from whatever age you are looking forward into your future, are important right now? Is it how to live fully? Or age gracefully? Or plan for a good death?   Or, how not to leave a mess for your children when you pass on? (These are a couple of  tough ones, but you might be surprised how many are wanting a forum in which to explore exactly this.) Or, how to build a supportive community of friends in new circumstances?  There are any number of other queries.

I’m discovering that these conversations are actually proliferating in our cities and towns, as our Boomer demographic enters their 70’s. They are happening at the local colleges, at the senior centers, at the libraries, at the churches and in Meet Up groups. Seek and you shall find.

Or, dare to meet your own needs by just starting a conversation of your own. You might be surprised at the result.


Are You Listening?

Sometimes we get “messages” that we just might want to listen to…and ponder.

And they may come from unlikely places.

Twenty years ago, I encountered strange symptoms and was ultimately given a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.  It was a real shock to this forever healthy, seemingly invulnerable, 57-year old business owner.  Years later, in retrospect, I saw how I had allowed myself to endure extraordinary personal and business stress for a number of years prior, pretending I could survive anything.

Since I hadn’t paid attention to an onerous schedule and a difficult partnership that, with attention, would have been otherwise “manageable,” I was given a 2 X 4 to the head in the form of a condition that forced me off my self-imposed treadmill. Chronic fatigue ensured that I do much, much, less on a daily basis.

Since then, I’ve done my best to learn to take my “to do” list much less seriously.  I’ve nearly mastered the amble, the linger, and the meander. Although I doubt that I’ll ever play tennis again, sufficient energy has returned for me to have a fairly normal life. But, I still have to make sure those hard worker habits of a lifetime don’t return and sabotage my state of recovery.

Warnings come in curious ways.

Last week, my printer died and caused a halt to my work plans.  My watch stopped and was sent off to the factory. The brake fluid drained out of my car leaving me with no way to go anywhere at all. In addition, in many areas of my life, I have been feeling the need to let go of what I don’t want, to be able to have what I do want. I admit to being slow in attending to those feelings.

Is this another wake up call for me? Or just a coincidence? Probably both, but inquiry into the former is what is likely to be more fruitful.

In the unique concurrency of all these events,  is there a message here?  If so, I’d like to be open to it sooner rather than later. Just in case, I’m scheduling more naps, agreeing to no “deadlines” and scheduling time for pleasure writing which I’ve been postponing.

How about you? What are the messages in your life that may be trying to get your attention?

Listen up! You might be getting a wake-up call.