Last week, I had a realization I think many of you have also experienced. Dare I use the cliché—a life-shifting moment?
I will be sixty-two in the Fall. Turning sixty was monumental for me as for the few months before, and for many months after, I helplessly, unconsciously, parroted in my mind all the beliefs held by previous generations about what reaching that age implied and meant (for them). I rued the changes in my physical self instead of appreciating my continually sharp thinking and ever crisp and powerful memory, among other positive qualities. I wasn’t always focusing on the negative, but speaking with my clients, friends, and strangers every day, I learned so many of us concentrate on ours and others’ shortcomings and forget to acknowledge what is going right.
This discouraging outlook became distressing for this eternal optimist—me—who most always sees the glass as full to overflowing. Lockdown exacerbated the situation for many by a factor of, at least, twelve. We all kept our heads down, met the challenges, found the needed toilet paper and glued our slow cookers to the kitchen counter.
Now, the After Times are starting. The insight and wisdom gained during our dark night sparks first in our peripheral vision and then drops bits of clarity all around for us to find and absorb.
My latest flash of insight? How much I appreciate being the age I am, because of the incredible database I have from living life for sixty-one and three-quarters years. I have a workable knowledge about a lot of different things; a treasure chest waiting for me to pick out the jewel I need to help me be and do better. Sometimes I just marvel at what I remember and find useful, time saving, and even life-saving in the moment. Does this sound so obvious as to illicit a, “Well, duh” from you?
What crystalized for me in that moment felt like a mantle of blessings gently wrapping around my shoulders: I have lived enough life that I can draw upon to joyfully share my knowledge with others and make sound decisions for myself and my family. I couldn’t say that in my thirties or even my forties … or my early fifties. Perhaps because every day there was more of life than there was of me, and I gulped down every moment to take in as much as I could. In truth, was I, at times, maybe just chasing my tail?
I still see my body aging. I feel surprised every time I notice a new change. That isn’t the way I remember the skin on my arms looking or why didn’t my last two workouts get rid of the roll I found lolling about my hips? But, somehow, I can better accept these alterations in my appearance. They still matter, only now I don’t feel completely defeated by them.
The renowned psychologist, Erik Erickson, laid out a template of the eight stages we humans pass through as we move along the arc of life. He was one of the first theorists to consider the aging process as part of human development and to look at and discuss the changes adults and older adults experience. Options for the stage I am closing in on (Stage 8, 65+), include acceptance, a sense of wholeness, and a sense of peace. All elements of Vibrant Aging.
Yes, these sentiments became real for me in that life-shifting moment. To Erikson’s list I would add appreciation and gratitude and awe—for all I have learned and all that I know from my time here on Earth. I truly feel differently— lighter, freer, and yes, more whole. This feeling is one of the profound gifts the pandemic gave me and I am ever grateful.
For you, how has the pandemic changed your life for the better? What insights have you gained? As always, I look forward to hearing your story.
Until next time…Be Vibrant!