[This is the second of a two-part, three-way post narrated by Dick Richards. Many thanks to him for initiating this project. You will find the same post at both his site and Deb Call's site. Read Part 1.]

The Gifts of Age: Part 2

What­ev­er we believe to be our gifts of age, it seems impos­si­ble to con­clude any­thing but that they derive from expe­ri­ence. This is true not only for the gifts men­tioned in Part I — free­dom from mak­ing judg­ments, inner con­fi­dence, accep­tance and fruition — but for so many oth­ers unmen­tioned so far, such as wis­dom, peace of mind, con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to a pur­pose, or enjoy­ing the fruits of for­mer accom­plish­ments. It also seems impos­si­ble to con­clude that these gifts are giv­en to all. There are many who have them in great mea­sure, and who rev­el in them and use them wise­ly, but there are also many cranky and unhap­py old men and women who seem not to have them at all. If the gifts are tru­ly gifts of age, then it is prob­a­bly more accu­rate to say, rather than that the gifts are not giv­en to all, that all are not able to receive them.

Dan wrote, “Accep­tance is not a per­fect word. It does not ful­ly con­vey the sense of flow, ful­fill­ment and peace of mind that I asso­ciate with it. It does­n’t ful­ly express the sense of grace. But I like it because what I hear in it is not the part of accept that means endure but the part that means receive. As in receive a gift. If I’ve learned any­thing, it is how to receive. It was a friend, a psy­chic, who first told me — as I was wait­ing for insight at the bot­tom of my lone­ly pit — that I need­ed to open myself and learn to receive (was it this that changed the pit to a well?).”

You are try­ing to do every­thing on your own,” she told Dan. “You don’t trust the uni­verse and you don’t see that the phys­i­cal real­i­ty of your cir­cum­stances, the phys­i­cal world itself, is thin as tis­sue paper.” She relat­ed the sto­ry of a man and his wife, clients of hers. The man was wash­ing the dish­es one evening when he heard a ker-plop into the soapy water of a bowl in the sink. Reach­ing in, he pulled out a ring. He had nev­er seen the ring before. He took it to his wife who exclaimed, “Where on earth did you find that? I haven’t seen that ring in twen­ty years!” Dan’s psy­chic friend explained that it had just come through in order to help the woman deal with what it sym­bol­ized to her, some unfin­ished busi­ness from the past.

“I’m sure I pri­vate­ly scoffed at the story,” Dan wrote, “Yet I would say this has turned out to be what has hap­pened to me, too. Some­thing, a coin, a ring, has come through that tis­sue paper thin wall of time and space. Its grad­ual recog­ni­tion has had a mirac­u­lous effect. I do a bet­ter job of receiv­ing myself just as I am and receiv­ing oth­ers just as they are. I’m more open. The wars between me and me have dimin­ished over time, replaced by an inner con­nec­tion to the flow. I know I’ve embraced some­thing — or it has embraced me.”

Becom­ing more open to receiv­ing what is avail­able to us, rather than strug­gling along pos­sessed by the desire to have things our own way, appears to be a pre-req­ui­site for acquir­ing the gifts of age. And Deb point­ed to a few oth­er pre­req­ui­sites when she wrote, “Age brings wis­dom, a com­mon­ly held belief. Although wis­dom is not con­fined to old­er folks, wis­dom can man­i­fest new strains, or gifts, as we age, if we remain aware, open, and reflective.”

Aldous Hux­ley summed it up this way, “Expe­ri­ence is not what hap­pens to a man; it is what a man does with what hap­pens to him.” It is what we do with our expe­ri­ence that deter­mines whether or not we are capa­ble of receiv­ing the gifts of age, and approach­ing our expe­ri­ence with aware­ness, open­ness, and a habit of reflec­tion appears to be prerequisite.

Deb expe­ri­ences a bit­ter­sweet qual­i­ty to real­iz­ing it has tak­en her fifty-sev­en years to arrive at her inner con­fi­dence. “But some things just can’t be rushed,” she wrote, “Like the silky taste of an aged Caber­net, or the pati­na on a piece of old bronze.”

She con­fess­es, “Over the past two years I have been envi­ous of women with sil­ver hair. Not gray hair, or white hair, but sil­ver hair. It hap­pened again a few weeks ago while out hik­ing to a water­fall. I saw a vibrant look­ing woman in her for­ties with beau­ti­ful sil­ver hair. Con­trary to our youth-dri­ven cul­ture, she did not look old in her sil­ver locks.” Deb will turn six­ty in 2011. “That’s my tar­get date to have grown out my roots and become dazz­ing­ly sil­ver-haired, whether it be au nat­ur­al, or with the help of my hairdresser.”

This Sep­tem­ber, Dan, at fifty-nine, will mar­ry “a fab­u­lous woman and soul-mate.” He explained, “We met on eHar­mo­ny a few years ago. I haven’t been mar­ried in a decade and that will com­plete a cycle of some kind. I feel I am com­ing home, maybe for the first time. Indeed, what a les­son, learn­ing to receive, and a ring it is that shows up. Who on earth would have guessed?”

Photo Credit: J.K.

I am the old­est of our troi­ka. I have eight years on Deb, sev­en on Dan. Unlike Deb, I’ve been bald for a long time and don’t care at all about what hair I do have. Like Deb, judg­men­tal­ism feels less sat­is­fy­ing to me, and I no longer care much about prov­ing some­thing to oth­ers. Unlike Dan, I would prob­a­bly not have scoffed at the psychic’s sto­ry about the ring. Like Dan, I have had to learn how to receive and was remar­ried at about the same age that he is now.

I can say from my “elder” posi­tion to both of them (and per­haps to you) that if you remain aware, open, reflec­tive, and recep­tive, the gifts of age will keep get­ting bet­ter, at least for the next sev­en or eight years, which is all that I can speak to.

Ring image photo credit: “JK.” Technorati Tag:

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