What Lies Ahead
Recent events, as well as the chaotic years leading up to now, lead me to believe that the life I have worked hard to create, including a calm yet stimulating and personally satisfying old age, will be more of a challenge to acquire and maintain. The escalating discourse and fracture on most issues of importance are negatively impacting any senior’s ability to enjoy, without concern, the years that make up the end of our lives.
I have endeavored to ensure “The Joy of Aging Gratefully” does not concern itself with politics. I believe you’re an elder before you’re a liberal or conservative, and aging is what we talk about here. Having said that, the way of the world, both here in the US and in other countries, has adversely affected our security now and in the foreseeable future. This is difficult to admit, but we must. We must acknowledge the upset that is our world, or we won’t be able to figure out how we senior citizens can survive and make the best of our remaining time. At the same time, I’m not saying we need to focus on the upset, just see its role and learn to love more in spite of it.
I’ve been angry, upset, scared, and confused. I’ve frequently experienced anxiety, sleepless nights, sorrow, and disillusionment. On more than one occasion I’ve wondered if I could even carry on “The Joy of Aging Gratefully” while the shit show of life unfolds around me. It feels shallow to talk about meditation and gratitude as a way through this anger and angst. It also feels disingenuous for me to pretend that everything in the world is “la ti da” delightful and has no effect on me or mine. How will we cope? How will we find happiness and satisfaction? How will we not succumb to all the negativity? How will we avoid the huge waste of time criticizing someone or something that differs from our perspective? How will we identify and celebrate those things that can bring us joy, regardless of what’s happening “out there”?
What will help?
The thing that will help me came this past week right in the middle of the overwhelming upset and confusion. That thing is connection, a deep human connection. To me that connection, going both ways, involves being honest and vulnerable, and feeling heard, respected, and cared for.
Let’s be clear, I’m NOT talking about the kind of interaction where we sit around griping and complaining and shaking our heads. I’m NOT talking about throwing up our hands and exclaiming, “Well! There’s nothing I can do to make things better.” I’m NOT talking about soaking in all the news of conspiracy theories, lies (big and small), people judging and condemning others, or children going without (through NO fault of their own) only to spew that hate and ugliness out at every lunch, party, social media visit, or other gathering. I’m NOT, no matter what, perpetuating or being complicit with the soul-sucking darkness of authoritarianism.
The absolute only things that will help me experience joy in the remaining years of my life are interactions that are real, connections where I really listen with interest and where I give and receive compassion and assistance as requested and needed. These connections with close friends and family, as well as casual acquaintances can be rich and rewarding. They remind us that good, loving people exist, people who want to associate and be close to us. Authentic connections are genuine, without facades, judgment, or competition. Genuine human connection includes being open and sharing our true selves with others. That is what I am doing here today.
I’ll not waste my time settling for anything less. I don’t want to chitchat just to fill space and time to ease any awkwardness I may perceive.
I’ll be informed and on the lookout for lies and disinformation. And when a differing point of view is offered, it’ll be my goal to just be, to listen deeply with curiosity but without motive or judgment, never forgetting we’re all humans. I don’t need to contradict or share a differing point of view.
It’s clear that the simpler things can bring the greatest joy and satisfaction for me, like my pet, Kali, or anything perfect or imperfect in nature, books, or time in silence. It’s a simpler life yet still meaningful and rewarding.
Needless to say, I’ll continue to support causes that are important to personal freedom and liberty. And I’ll continue to advocate for those who support and can make a positive change for people who most typically experience the brunt of limited thinking: women, immigrants, children, and the aged, to name a few.
Being together at a deeper level, supporting each other as seniors wanting to make the best of our later years, is the way forward. Finding simple things in our relationships and in nature will bring the joy we need and want.
That’s my future.
And even if you don’t agree with my point of view, I’ll continue to respect your right to feel and think differently.