Commentary: The lives we live

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Melissa Martin is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in the US. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com

By Melissa Martin PhD

“Someday, you will be a lot older, and you will look back and reflect upon the days of your life.” If somebody had said those words to me as an adolescent or young adult, I would have raised my eyebrows and pursed my lips. “What in this world are you talking about?” That’s what I would have replied while chasing my goals and dreams.

“Stop and smell the roses along the way. The days pass by much too quickly.” If somebody had said those words to me as an adolescent or young adult, I would have scrunched my face up. “What the heck does that mean?” That’s what I would have answered while pursuing the pleasure train.

“Someday, your hair will turn, and your bones will ache. Boogie and bop before the sun goes down.” If somebody had said those words to me as an adolescent or young adult, I would have chuckled. “Say what?” That’s what I would have said while stumbling down life’s pathway.

“Slow down.” I would not have listened to the wise elders. I would have continued chasing the future, running away from the past—instead of delighting in the present moment. Yes, I would have balanced the past, present and future—given another opportunity.

What would I have done differently? I would have become my own best friend instead of my own worst enemy in the younger years. I would have stayed in some relationships and left others.

“The years teach much which the days never knew,” penned Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I would have set at the feet of my grandmothers and mother—and listened more to their stories. Unexpected deaths hold power to change us from the inside out and the outside in. We are living calendars on a rotating planet—a beginning and an end.

Humans are hardwired to search for meaning and purpose. Created to work and to play. Equipped to laugh and to cry.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labour with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living,” surmised Anne Dillard.

Women rowing north: Navigating life’s currents and flourishing as we age is Mary Pipher’s new book. She is 71 years old. “There are many lifetimes in a lifetime.” Pipher writes about women in their 60s and early 70s who, like her, are transitioning from middle age to old age.

“Aging is associated with changes in dynamic biological, physiological, environmental, psychological, behavioural and social processes…Modern medicine, healthier lifestyles, and other environmental influences have already allowed a growing number of people to remain healthy and socially and emotionally vital into advanced age. The challenge for the 21st century will be to make these added years as healthy and productive as possible for growing numbers of people.” National Institute on Ageing.

“There are six myths about old age: 1- That it’s a disease, a disaster. 2- That we are mindless. 3- That we are sexless. 4- That we are useless. 5- That we are powerless. 6- That we are all alike.” — Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers movement.

So, we oldsters are living on a senior planet. Another reason to eat cake. Another reason to wear old lady yoga pants. Another reason to vacation at the beach without worrying over our saggy body parts.

“My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?” declared Diane von Furstenberg.

A young person reading this column will respond, “What is that old gal rambling on about?” However, an ageing person will understand my words.

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