Later in Life~
I am blessed to work, play with and teach lots of people who past mid-life, many who are WAY past midlife! I have beautiful and enthusiastic seniors in their 90’s who come to me for counseling and who attend my dance, yoga and exercise classes. I have been offering “senior-friendly services” since I was in my 30’s, so I think I have a pretty good sense of what matters to our older population.
I often hear some bemoan the loss of “meaning” in their life. Even those in their 60’s who eagerly and finally retire find that time weighs heavily on them when it’s not full. Sure, some of them move from full time paid work to full time childcare for their adult children and their grandkids. They stay active, sometimes too active. I love that lots of older people are volunteering and sharing their experience with younger people, or working part time, because they need the money, or to fill “the void”.
Yet the theme of emptiness still emerges. Sure, by the time you are later in your life, there have been losses and grieving sometimes continues for a long time. The loss of family, spouses and activities that people had put their hearts and souls into, leaves many feeling they lost their purpose.
It seems to me that you shouldn’t have to re-fill your life with work to recapture a sense of a meaningful life. I feel that this comes through our presence. Through our spiritual connection, our sense of living our true purpose. Through valuing and engaging in life as it is, no matter what. Through our attentiveness, our compassion, our presence. No matter what the activity.
Going Through the Motions~
The perfunctory waitress my dinner companion and I had when we were out for dinner this week was an example. Performing service? Yes. Working? Yes. Meaningful? Not so much. Her heart clearly wasn’t in it. Maybe the only thing that gives her young life meaning right now is being with her boyfriend and everything else is just a distraction. Who knows?
Living Like it Matters~
My mom is an excellent example of living a meaningful life no matter what. For many many years she served others, bringing food and gifts to people who were ill, volunteering, working, being on boards, getting things done. Playing bridge with a fiercely competitive spirit, aspiring to be the best in golfing. Attending every single arts event that interested her and there were many. She was never much of an idler!
Now physical limitations and aging have reined her in considerably and some days she can’t “do” too much. Yet she remains engaged in living life and living meaningfully. I see it in the “little” things. Like when she with great delight and care helps me fold the laundry. She can’t fold the big sheets by herself anymore, but she loves to help me do it. We each take an end and go one step at a time to get all the folds just right.
How when she cooks, she pays attention to every little detail of making a nice meal. How she enjoys the process and finds it important, even on days when she is in too much pain to stand and cooks from seated on her walker. How she is still always thinking of others, even when she can’t go visit friends in need. Even when resting in bed, she reads, to keep her mind active and because she loves to learn. The deep appreciation she brings to her bird watching and the stories she tells about the different birds. How she smiles really big every time we have deer in our back yard eating out of our bird feeders. These things give her life meaning and her delight in them gives meaning to mine.
A daily spiritual practice helps us to live our best life according to what is possible, accepting what is and putting our whole heart into all of life’s wonderfully big and mundane activities. Why not put as much of yourself into carrying out the garbage as you do everything else? Slow down enough to admire the flowers. Take in the air. Feel your breath moving inside you. These things also give live meaning and make it rich.
I love Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”. In it, the narrator says; ‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it (God is) always trying to please us back.’ I do think appreciating the beauty around us is a way of saying a spiritual thank you.
I hope today you are able to see and love the various colors in your life. I hope you are able to feel the innate meaning and goodness in your life. I hope you can see all the ways God reaches out to you and the many ways you bring love and meaning to others.
Don’t wait, have a blessed day today!
Dylan Mariah, 6/21/2015