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to everything there is a season

to everything there is a season, blog post by Judy Fox

by Judy
January 19, 2015

I’ve been thinking lately how we really do change with the passing of time; that independent from whatever our religion or spiritual leanings are or whatever work we have done to transform, that the passing of time and aging do have an effect upon us, ideally leading to more maturity. And when that aging with more maturity comes will definitely vary from person to person and culture to culture. We in the United States are a “young” culture so the maturing process may be more evident later in years than other cultures or other times past, but still it happens. I recently read a quote from the civic leader John Gardner from a speech given to the Stanford Alumni Association 61 years after he graduated from that college. This passage struck me:

“The things you learn in maturity aren’t simple things such as acquiring information and skills. You learn not to engage in self-destructive behavior. You learn not to burn up energy in anxiety. You discover how to manage your tensions. You learn that self-pity and resentment are among the most toxic of drugs. You find that the world loves talent but pays off on character.

“You come to understand that most people are neither for you nor against you; they are thinking about themselves. You learn that no matter how hard you try to please, some people in this world are not going to love you, a lesson that is at first troubling and then really quite relaxing.”

What does this ripening, maturing season look like? What is its smell, its perfume? In many ways, the maturing is a dropping away of what was - the unnecessary engagement in things that aren’t so important, a moving away from feelings/emotions that are toxic to one’s well-being, a moving away from trying to please others, to have the whole world love you. And a dropping away from being a “dazzling” personality in whatever way that is and coming to rest more and more in an unadorned self.

And it does actually take time and experience. Clearly I can see this in my 98 year old mom. Her faculties in every way are dulled and her thinking isn’t always clear, but still there is a wisdom of the aging that comes through. What I find is so much more compassion towards her fellowman/woman and at the same time she does not get involved in petty concerns. I mean in her case, she also doesn’t even have the energy to do that anymore. She is down to the basics and with that an appreciation of simple values: the extension of kindness, sweet encounters, the feel of a being’s voice and touch.

In myself, someone who is now in her late sixties, I also notice a change. I don’t have the desire to get into emotional entanglements or the desire to please in the way I used to but it’s not based on rebelling or reacting against - it’s just wanting to be true to myself. I do feel I am in a process and there is so much more trust in what is unfolding rather than the need to push, strive and prove.

And then I think of Andrea’s mom who she wrote about in her last essay, “Not All Old People Are Nice” and the dignity her mother showed when a man got so angry with her for sitting in his seat. She just quietly got up and moved chairs without a ripple. That to me was also a show of maturity and age. It’s almost like the usual knee jerk responses, emotional indignities, are just not operating in the same way.

This whole process of life does begin to bring some humility. In youth there is such a sense that we are the center of the Universe, often holding tightly to our feelings/emotions. Understandably often we lack a perspective on who we are in the context of everyone else, the times we are living in as well as a perspective on our parents or our parents’ parents. In a nutshell it’s all about me and at the same time there is often so much insecurity. In later years, in some ways there is more confidence in what one feels and thinks and at the same time more space for others. That is interesting. Yes, more humility and more confidence and trust.

Age, experience, time really do have an effect on our being which I would not have known when younger. As I live with my aged mom, I wonder how I shall be if I reach such an advanced age. No doubt I will be different from how I am now. I only wish for the same sweetness and surrender that exudes from my mom. Her perfume will stay with me forever.

 

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