Twelve years ago today I received a healthy liver transplanted from the cadaver of a 70 year old Staten Island woman. I will be thankful forever to her and her family for the gift of life. You can read my story in its entirety – it’s a tale of many miracles.
I am thankful to be growing old. According to the LifeSpan Calculator I could live to 102. In that case, clearly, at 71 I’m no longer young, nor even middle age. But I don’t think of myself as just “old”. I’m not done yet; I’m growing old. That pleases me. Here’s why.
The only “old” that’s sad to be it
Is when the body outlives the spirit.
~Sharon Lamhut Willen
We spend so much time and energy (and money) attending to our bodies’ needs – keeping it healthy, strong and attractive. So much of our focus is on how we’re doing. What about how we’re “being”? What of our time and attention do we invest in maintaining and strengthening the spirit which animates this sack of flesh and bones?
Artists take a simple design from line to shape to form. Then we add color and texture, and consider balance and movement. That’s how we arrive at a composition that’s inherently appealing. I think similar tools are available to us in designing our lives.
In youth we move in pretty much a straight line – learning at home, learning in school, learning to become independent beings.
In adulthood we shape our lives through the choices we make. Where we go, who we engage with, how we challenge ourselves and meet the unexpected challenges that arise.
Those of us who reach post-adulthood have the time to create form where only shape exists. Think of a balloon going from a flat shape to a buoyant form. So it is in life. We find our fulfillment in old age from the inside out. Connecting deeply, owning our wisdom, valuing our persistent presence. We add color by continuing to be engaged in social and political life, the arts, and learning. The days themselves add texture by offering a roller coaster of annealing ups and downs. If we walk more carefully to remain upright on less-cooperative limbs, we’ll stay balanced. If we’re mindful, our daily involvements will move within the bounds of available energy.
You’ve read the statistics: by 2050, people 65 and older will comprise a whopping 24% of the population. The boomer generation is better educated, wealthier, more diverse and remaining more able for longer than any previous generation. What a pretty picture we can paint of “old age” if we remain the spirited group we were in 1965.
“Old” isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding. Make it so.
I Am Not Old
I am not old…she said
I am rare.
I am the standing ovation
At the end of the play.
I am the retrospective
Of my life as art
I am the hours
Connected like dots
Into good sense
I am the fullness
You think I am waiting to die…
But I am waiting to be found
I am a treasure.
I am a map.
And these wrinkles are
Imprints of my journey
Ask me anything.
~ Samantha Reynolds