Late life is marked by transitions (e.g., retirement, grandparenthood, caregiving, loss of loved ones, downsizing, relocation, declining health).
These changes can create a time of chaos and loss of meaning. At such times we are more vulnerable to negative portrayals of aging. This month we review the memoir of Carol Orsborn’s one-year journey from endings and self-questioning, through to a new understanding of meaning and growth in old age.
Our May 14 workshop on Writing, Aging and Spirit explores two mindfulness tools to support older adults through life transitions – journaling and meditation.
Our Jun 4 panel on Aging in Community addresses the role of mutual support to ease transitions for ourselves and others.
Aging with Spirit – Poem of the Month
are we related to something infinite or not –
that is the telling question. ~ Carl Jung
Your passion, I read, was Bingo.
But what I want to know is:
When you slapped down your counter
and yelled Bingo!
did you for a split second
And you, I read, loved to crochet.
a lifetime fell from your fingers.
What link did you find
in those filigreed chains
and who let them drift
into bins at the thrift store?
This one loved to go fishing,
loved his lures, his fisherman’s luck,
his small wooden boat. Fisher,
alone at dusk,
the sea a mystery around you,
did you ever see yourself
inside a fish’s wild eye?
Loved ones, when you write my obituary,
say this: Once, sitting still,
she changed into a tiger.
– Mildred Tremblay
Book Review – Fierce with Age
Carol Orsborn; Nashville TN: Turner Publishing, 2013.
Carol Orsborn recounts one year of transition, the four seasons during which she struggled with unexpected feelings of being old. Having moved across the country to New York City for her husband’s exciting new position, she suddenly lost her absorbing online job as a Boomer generation marketing expert. She became overwhelmed with the fact of her aging at a time when she was disconnected from her usual supports. For her, this year was a journey to wild side.
My persona unexpectedly found itself cracked open against the onslaught of time. One moment, I was a smart, spiritual woman at the peak of her game. The next moment, it was as if I had forgotten everything I’d learned over the course of my life. I’d forgotten how to be powerful, how to feel worthy and visible.
One day it was business as usual. Then suddenly, I found myself ashamed for still being alive.
In a surprise encounter with a newly frail good friend she found herself exclaiming, “It’s been a tough year. In fact, keeping a diary was the only thing that kept me going. Writing it all down I managed to turn myself from victim to witness. Then life got good again.” She later realized that a memoir based on her journal might help others grappling with advancing age.
Not only did journaling keep her eye on the details of her emotions, but it eventually broke through the barrier that had kept her from praying. One breakthrough occasion was hours of writing what she had figured out, resulting in a prayer to accept the mystery of life and her list of 11 spiritual truths of aging. These include:
The less of whom we think we used to be, the more room for God.
Others’ rejection is our freedom.
We can dance with, rather than struggle against the essence of who we are.
When confronted by ultimate concerns, we can be more curious than afraid.
Another lesson for readers is that emotional turmoil need not be correlated with the extent of life crisis. Paradoxically, her husband’s loss of his glamourous job during the year led the way to freedom.
Finally, Osborn sees aging as a search for wholeness in freedom and takes the stand to be fierce with age, a term from octogenarian Florida Scott-Maxwell. See her current blog: Fierce with Age.
with this shadow photo, I bid you adieu,