The Conundrum of Legacy I

These days, “How will my life matter?” is one of those deeper queries that is coming to the surface.  Once daunting to contemplate, maybe it doesn’t need to be so tough.  While whatever legacy I leave will be the judgment of those who survive me, the very least I can do now is to freely express who I am as a unique being in the world.  And, let that be enough.  And, that’s a challenge in itself.

What I’m noticing is that, as I continue to relax and dare to just “be me” on this planet, I  find myself more regularly surprised at how my existence has seemed to matter to others.

Today, in the YMCA swimming pool, a man I hardly know told me how much he admired me coming to the gym to swim, given that I have a walker in tow. “You are my inspiration,” he said, “and have been for a while.” Given that he comes to the pool with crutches that replace one of his legs, he, also,  has long been one of my inspirations.

For the first time, today our exchange was more than a minimal greeting. He said he was turning 60. I asked: “What questions does that raise for you?” He shrugged: “Nothing much. I’m just here to live the rest of my life as well as I can.” Surprised at the ease of his answer, I persisted, “But so many I know reach 60 and are dumbfounded at the new concerns they face about how to manage the unknown terrain ahead.”

He explained: “I did that work already. As a young man, I nearly died of bone cancer and lost a leg in the process. I made peace with my mortality, and decided to have a great life.  Which I have done. My age and physical limitations are non-issues. I’m looking forward to the rest of what has already been a wonderful life.”

With my 78th birthday coming up, I will have lived 28,460 days. I’ll make a guess and consider that I may have 3,650 more to complete my tenure on the planet. Given my time remaining, how will I live these days? In what ways will I contribute?

Maybe one way to look at life legacy is really simple. Just do your life in the most vibrant and joyful way that you can, growing and changing and being with the adventures offered each and every day.

As my swim friend and I discovered, in ways previously unbeknownst to either of us, his way of showing up mattered to me… and my way of showing up mattered to him.

Our sharing was an extra special encouragement and an enjoyably serendipitous moment in time.

ANOTHER transition in process?

Yes, here we go again.  This is a time of change.

Autumn is behind us and winter is here..with beautiful snowfalls and temperatures plummeting, prompting the temptation to hibernate.  A whole year is ending as a new one begins, giving reflective souls an opportunity to review the past and re-envision the future. In addition, at the rate of 10,000 a day the Boomer generation arrives at a new age stage of 60, 65, or 70, surfacing the daunting questions about next chapter choices.

And then, there’s just what happens in a moment…

My 83-year-old friend, took a fall and injured his back. ‘Compression fracture,” the doctor said. “Three weeks of taking it VERY, VERY, easy.”

It’s clearly painful, and clearly temporary.

That being true, it’s still easy to ignore the surrounding emotional machinations around what might actually represent a deeper version of change from one expectation of aging to a more visceral experience of the reality of it.

–“I’ve never been really injured or sick, and now I really hurt. I’m perhaps now really an old man.”

–“I’ve always taken care of others, and now someone has to take care of me. I don’t like it, particularly as it potentially foretells my future.”

–“If I can’t take care of myself and can’t take care of others, am I now worthless and useless?”

And I, as his friend, who shouldered some of the care taking to a greater or lesser degree, have to also ask myself…”How am I set up to be taken care of in case of my own event? After all, at 78, I live gripping onto the very edge of physical independence with my condition of MS and scoliosis. Am I honoring the reality of my own decline with my life style choices?”   For those of us aging consciously, in the moment of loss, whether it be permanent or temporary , we enter a new stage of how we live our life and assess our living.  How do we deal with what may be a very significant transition in our lives?

–We find ourselves appropriately sad and angry about the impact of this event and what it suggests to us.
–We are newly aware of moving towards a real change in our life, with both the blessings and the distresses.
–And, it is becoming clear that our future “independence” once a source of great pride, is no longer realistic and has to shift to a cognizance of a community network in which “interdependence” is the hallmark.

Do we give ourselves permission to grieve our losses? Do we dare to accept our new reality, and love ourselves living it? What choices does it present to us? Where are the places we can talk about it?

I was laughing the other day having counted up my memberships in five supportive conversation groups for the over 55s. Today, I became deeply aware of why I have been inclined to both create these opportunities myself, and, join similarly enriching conversations led by others. In those circles, we get to engage in all of these important questions, and learn from each other while doing so. We attempt to explore the uncertainties of the terrain ahead and know we are not alone.


—-In this reflective and transitionary space between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, what major and minor changes have you experienced over the past 12 months?
—-How have you invited, and honored, and told the truth about the emotional journey that accompanies them?
—-How will you now review your vision about what it looks like for you to live fully, age gracefully, and die well?
—-What are the new choices you’ll make in order to bring those wishes to pass?

We might as well get used to saying “hello” to change after change in our lives. And, we better get used to honoring the all kinds of emotions that naturally accompany each and every one of them.

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.