by Mary Martin
It has been more than a few years since a good friend and I shared a laugh over breakfast about turning 65. We both pondered the tasks we might need to accomplish in our desire to become a ‘senior with a purposeful life, a wise elder’. As we left the restaurant that morning I had no inkling of the journey I was about to embark on, but I did know that when the student is ready, the teacher appears and I was curious about who the teachers would be.
At that time I knew I didn’t want to be on my deathbed with a lot of regrets. A nameless teacher appeared in the form of an article that I read of someone whose philosophy for life was ‘no regrets’ and how the power of these two words had become a guiding force for action. Those words also rang true for me and I want to share three actions that I took as I consciously embarked on my growing older journey – a journey I do not fear but want to do well.
I have always enjoyed reading so naturally I turned to books. Three I have read and reread are Border Crossing, A Spiritual Journey by Katie Funk Wiebe, Creating A Spiritual Retirement, A Guide to the Unseen Possibilities in Our Lives by Molly Srode and my favourite, The Gift Of Years, Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister. In different ways each book has contributed to my personal growth in a meaningful way.
After I read Molly Srode’s book I sought out a spiritual director to help me develop a spiritual practice that would be a strength and comfort in my later years of life.
However, my third action I almost missed because I didn’t recognize the teachers. My four children have always been teachers that I quite readily recognized; however, my four grandchildren as teachers took me by surprise.
I recently spend several months in the presence of an infant granddaughter and a 4 year old grandson and here are some life lessons that were highlighted for me. My granddaughter is a master in the art of living in the moment and she is still confident all her needs will be met. I had forgotten how freeing it is to live with no inhibitions, that all feelings and all bodily functions are a natural part of life.
My four year old grandson is an intelligent and savvy teacher who is determined to exhaust the opposition until the other finally gives in. He demonstrates true enthusiasm for life like water fights, cookies with icing, building forts or a Wiggles movie. Each and every feeling is legitimate and deserves expression. When he is being asked something he quickly rejects the statement or request before he has truly listened. He is full of wonderment and a full moon brought him bounding into my room to come and look.
So what did they teach me or remind me of?
- When my grandson would inject his emphatic ‘no’ I wondered how often I may have said no to an idea, a request, an opportunity before truly considering it.
- How many opportunities have I missed because I said no before considering the possibilities or risked exploring something new?
- Have I become so jaded that I question if my needs are important enough to demand that they at least be considered (unlike my granddaughter)?
- Do I take creation so much for granted that I forget how to get lost in awe and wonderment in the beauty of a full moon?
- Do I know my values and beliefs so that I confidently express or defend them when they are vigorously opposed?
I am grateful for the many intelligent and savvy teachers I have had over the years and they have all helped prepare me for the journey I am currently on. Joan Chittister suggests that life is about “living into the values offered each day, about growing older with grace” and to do so is my intention.