As we age, it seems to me there’s a great deal of looking back. We become naturally more reflective. We measure our lives as a way of answering some pointed questions. Did my life matter? Did I accomplish something that will remain after I’m gone?
Recently, I came across a fascinating project produced by the Yale Divinity School. Aptly named Reflections, the Fall 2013 issue of this magazine offers a stunning photo essay, viewable on its website. The issue’s theme is Test of Time: The Art of Aging.
Beyond the photos, short articles offer interesting first-person memoirs and discussion. Editor Ray Waddle prefaces the journey by challenging his readers: “The sooner we face our conflicted thoughts about aging, the better.” He invites us into the rest of the magazine to “… finally see the beauty of age.” His challenge presents itself as a superb work of art.
I’m still trying to decide how to define my personal attitude toward aging. Am I, as Waddle asserts, conflicted? No, I don’t enjoy the aches and pains (or health issues in general) that are a byproduct of aging. No, I don’t like the cultural tilt that turns its back on people over fifty. Nor do I appreciate the frequent categorization of “seniors” based on assumptions that may or may not be true of me (or scores of others my age).
But, I’ve learned to ignore such stereotyping. I’ve also learned to accept that as we age, our bodies will eventually wear out. I hated to read a story about Jane Fonda’s blog post (posted but then removed) where she admits difficulty as she contemplates her mortality. (My goodness, the picture in that story certainly belies her 76 years!)
Mortality isn’t something Baby Boomers ever wanted to face. But if we didn’t want to admit it then, it’s impossible now to deny that age enforces a brutal price. (My sonnet Aging Well says exactly that: we tender youth.)
Recalling what has gone before in our lives can be a means for weighing and embracing the good things we sometimes forget. Before aches and pains begin to overwhelm (or dementia gradually robs you of the precious memories), one of the sweetest exercises may be to reminisce … maybe even create a scrapbook of reflections. (One of the articles in the Reflections magazine provides a thoughtful conversation about dementia.)
As we age, one of the joys my Beloved and I share is the appreciation of our four adult offspring. In them (yes, even with our estranged son), we love the adults they have become. We’re always amazed by the part we were privileged to play in their lives!
This sonnet was written some years ago, before our sons left home. I remember people around me talking about the “empty nest,” warning me it would be a difficult transition. (I didn’t find it to be.)
The years since have continued to be (as the poem suggests) a series of adventures for me. I’m older than when I wrote this sonnet, but I’m still enthusiastic about the future with its “new adventures” … and more blessed than ever!