Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth . . whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.— Max Ehrmann
Children change as they grow. That is a concept extremely familiar to all of us. As parents, we listen to the moody, whiny and angry teen accusing us of our latest offense, and wonder in our hearts about the precise current location of the delightful three-year old who adored her parents.
We stand by, a proud audience, as these persons who began life weighing less than ten pounds, cross each exciting threshold – kindergarten, agonies of middle school age, high-school graduation, college acceptance and on and on. A young man very important in my own life, recently shaved facial hair for the first time! Imagine that.
Here’s the thing I want to share with Senior Moments readers: We are too often totally oblivious to the fact that our own changing and personal growth doesn’t end at age fifty. Our culture is so obsessed with youth and so certain that age is a time of decline, decline, decline, that we have allowed ourselves to believe that total lie. That system of thought is called “ageism.” It has slithered its slimy secrets into every corner of our lives. Too often we the elders just passively accept those ageism beliefs as the guiding statement of our status in the second half of life.
Have you forgotten that, just as the children change and grow, we who are over fifty also change and grow? Think about your own life: Are the friends of your heart the same people you loved being with when you were 45? Are they your best friends forever (bff) today? Sometimes yes, and that is why we often feel that “old friend are the best friends.” However, is that true of every friend you had at that time? No. We move away from friends who once shared our interests, but have now moved on to different interests. So have we. Stay with me here. The above sentences demonstrate how you have continued to change and to grow even though you are past 50. Ponder the idea. You will come up with many examples of how you are continuing to grow, develop and change.
The growing, changing and ultimate maturing that the children do continues into every age of our lives, but that is a truth so, so easy for us to forget and even ignore.
Toby and I have just returned from a visit to thelandofIsrael. The unforgettable experiences we had there have sent us into frenzy here at home. What is the frenzy? Its reviewing world history (by borrowing our grandchildren’s textbooks) and comparing what we learned years ago to what we learned last week. We scour the Bible itself to put Old and New Testament verses into the context of what we saw and did and learned. We are paying more attention to current events because we now understand where many of those countries are actually located. We understand a bit more about possible reasons, both historical and current, for their never-ending conflicts. Please understand it is not my intent to put us into the company of learned scholars and educators who have studied these matters for years, and have published learned treatises on the subject.
It is my intent, however, to demonstrate that though continuing to age, Toby and I are changed by that one experience. Furthermore, because of the experience, we are excited to learn more and more of things that our younger lives kept us too busy to research and study.
A second point: as our young children move from one milestone to the next, do we take time to criticize the previous milestone? Let’s say our child graduates middle school and moves on to high school. As a parent, high school takes a lot of supportive time and wise energy. Do we waste that time in constant criticism of the old middle school? In context, that seems unwise, doesn’t it? If our child is happily in middle school, does it make sense to spend our valuable time in criticism and complaints about his elementary school? No. We have moved on.
Let’s say the old middle school did not hire the teachers and administrators that we would have chosen. Let’s say that the same school attempts to educate in a way that we think is flawed and ineffective. Does it make any sense at all for us to snipe, gripe, whine and complain about that middle school? Does it make any sense at all for us, from our distant vantage point, to spend our efforts to muster every possible argument in the hopes of convincing the “old” school leaders that they are wrong and we were right?
I respectfully submit that it does not. Our child, our interest here, has moved on to high school. He/she is growing in a new way, completely independent of the old. We have new administrators, new teachers and new wind mills with which to joust. As we review our lives, and realize that as adults and older adults we are still growing, it is a big mistake to become mired in the past, whether recent or years ago. It stunts our personal growth and delays our enriching journey to new plateaus.
Here’s the thing: dwelling in our past and holding on tight to the hurts, grief and insistent dogma of our own thoughts, interferes with our growth at any age, but especially as elders. We must ignore the ageism all around us and, as my friend Sandy Lundahl has written, we can adopt the challenge of “moving mindfully toward the full, rich wholeness of the second half of life.” (www.sandylundahl.com)
Thank you for reading. Stay well. See you next week.