“I was lucky. My mother taught me about growing old,” said my friend.
“That’s interesting,” I said, thinking about my friend’s mother, now deceased: a brilliant, determined woman with a clear vision, years ahead of her time in the causes she fronted. She introduced modern dance to New Zealand. She fought for peace and workers’ rights. She was part of a small group that alerted New Zealand to the very existence of our nation’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi, not to mention its content and significance. In other words, an extraordinary woman with seemingly infinite energy and strength.
Ageing must have come hard to such a dynamo!
“What do you mean, she taught you?”
“She would sit me down and make me listen: ‘This is what it’s like to grow old.’ I was young, I was sure it would be different for me, but she would insist that I listen.”
“So what did she teach you?” I asked, curious. Here’s what my friend replied.
- “You learn what you can and can’t do.
- “You can push yourself as far as possible, but that’s not necessarily the best thing. If you keep on pushing yourself past your limit, you end up annoying everyone.
- “You have to slowly learn to give way and give up. It’s a loss, but if you don’t, you’re pissing everyone off, and also doing yourself no good.
- “I became far more aware of my body, and of what I did and didn’t want to do. I’m old enough not to have to oblige. I just make a quick decision — otherwise I just mull and mull, and that is bad for you.”
Different teachers, different truths. I think this advice is valuable for me right now.
It’s so puzzling to notice your previous interests, energy, activities, and focus have begun to change of their own accord. This wise woman took charge of those changes simply by acknowledging their reality, and choosing how to respond. Thus she maintained her dignity, self-respect and grace. I’d like to do this too.