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aging as a natural process

aging as a natural process

by Judy
March 28, 2013 

I recently read “Reflections on Aging” a chapter in the late Dr. Gerda Lerner’s last book Living with History/Making Social Change. Gerda Lerner, the foremost pioneer of women’s history in America, wrote insightfully and poignantly from her own experience about the aging process. This week I would like to give you a few selected passages from her reflection. Interestingly part of what Dr. Lerner expresses about the aging process is applicable to how wisely we maneuver through our life right now whatever our age. She writes without any sentimentality, acknowledging both the beauty and difficulties of this stage in life. 

"It is part of life, and yet it is more difficult than anything that came before it. It presents us with new challenges and demands….

Our body which we have always trusted as a reliable, familiar friend, now confronts us with its weaknesses and limitations. We have to develop a new relationship with it, adapting to its slow decline in capacity and strength. Pain and physical impairments become our steady companions. We have to get used to them, respect them and adjust to them, as best we can….

We must accept what is and prepare to let go.

Giving up more and more of what we have gathered in and what we cherish means simplifying our lives and letting go of clutter. It means choosing what is truly essential to our well-being and holding on to that, while giving up what is negative, destructive and hurtful. It may mean giving up old feuds and festering grievances; it may mean giving up things we cherish, because we no longer have the energy or physical capacity for pursuing them.

The losses of aging are multiple and often cruel; they are more easily accepted if one accepts aging as a natural process, an inevitable aspect of living and evolving….

We must develop whatever we still can develop and learn new ways of seeing, perceiving, and functioning. Learning to continue living with diminished means has its own rewards. One of these rewards is observing and treasuring the particular over the general. Watching birds at the feeder and ducks in a pond can evoke earlier sights of vast panoramas... We can learn to observe more keenly and to think in metaphors, which is the great contribution of human beings to the evolution of life on earth. Even though we are diminished in our physical capacities, we are still part of the great life cycle.

Aging is a process of purging, of purification; one lets go of unnecessary expectations; one no longer agonizes over old quarrels and accusations; one makes peace with one’s life and one’s way of living; and one learns to treasure the gifts of each day. One enjoys old friendships and well-known, comforting places, and yet one strives to make new relationships in order to stay rooted in life. Living consciously through this process, one finds a new kind of happiness, more serene, more peaceful than anything that went before."

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