Growing older possesses many deep, often mysterious meanings. I wonder: is there a particular moment of truth? For me, such a moment occurred when I found myself at a casual, informal party where everyone was at least 30 years younger than me. We may glimpse the emergent truth of our aging in someone else's eyes, our own candid look in a mirror, or recognition of some other change taking place within us.
"I live in an unusual small town in which one is able to go on feeling young even in age," writes a reader. "However, when I travel away from my town and into the larger world, I realize my age suddenly. The blue jeans and shirts I usually wear appear sloppy and undignified, if I can tell from the looks I get. To many people I must appear peculiar, an older woman who is not acting her age. But who is to judge what is old?
"Aging, in my view, is a process in a person's life that allows experience, maturity and wisdom to come to the fore. A rich, deep understanding of our life can emerge. We can hope to discover fresh perspectives, give and accept forgiveness, and move closer to peace of mind and soul."
Personally, I find that a sense of humor is helpful when a problem related to aging leaps out at me. For example, my memory sometimes fails me. In the midst of telling a favorite story to friends, I may sense -- correctly -- that I've told them the story before. I've also been known to misplace things. Recently it was a set of keys. I looked everywhere for them, and found them in my coat pocket. I was wondering if something was wrong with me, but then a friend in his 40s confided he'd lost his billfold. I was reminded that we're all human and share the same kind of problems. It's helpful to relax and laugh about it.
"Aging becomes obvious to me when I get tired of looking in the mirror," writes another reader. "I was turning 63. I tore up a set of photographs because they showed my wrinkles and falling skin. I always felt that my mother was old at 40 and I decided not to go that route."
We're free, each one of us, to approach aging our own way. Attitude clearly plays a major role in how we do it. There is not only our outer appearance to be considered. Equally important is our interior life, how we define ourselves, what we ultimately desire.
"I found out I was growing older when I didn't get a promised promotion at work, then was let go," writes a reader. "My pride was seriously damaged. What was the use of anything if I couldn't be who I wanted to be? Soon, however, I decided that the most important thing is to be myself. I discovered that I'm older, growing old, and wouldn't trade places with anybody. I've had a great life. I have a great life."
What do you want as you grow older? Share this with me. What changes, if any, do you wish for? Can you bring about these changes by yourself, or do you need help? Is there more conflict than serenity, or more serenity than conflict, in your present life? Any advice to share?