A blogger I admire deeply — The Dalai Grandma — has been talking about a topic near & dear to my heart: everyday Buddhism. That’s not, I’m sure, what she would call it :). She is both far more educated in classical Buddhism and way better read. Which is, I suppose, one of the reasons I was so happy to see that she too struggles with everyday life. And, too, that she values it for what it is: neither nirvana nor its absence.
I had a BIG birthday this month. And in part due to that, in part because retirement looms on the summer horizon, I’m thinking a lot about age. About what changes, mostly for the ‘worse,’ we often say. But far more often (at least for me), for the better.
We become invisible as we age. Middle age — old age even more, I suspect — is something that we elide, at best, in our culture. It’s not ‘pretty.’ It’s not attractive, literally. Like the force between two magnets turned wrong way round in a science lab, middle age pushes people away. But you get used to it. And it’s often quite funny :).
What you don’t often hear about middle age is that, like Buddhism, it’s a space of reflection. I realise, now, that I will never be an astronaut (not that this was ever my dream). I’m okay with that. I also realise that my life now is perhaps my most precious non-possession. Because I rarely possess my life — usually it’s the other way! My life runs me ragged — especially this past month, juggling a national conference, a teaching job, writing, and a badly neglected personal life.
These days I don’t beat myself up over that. Unlike the Dalai Grandma, I don’t have a deadly disease. Other than the one we all die from — life :). Still, I struggle w/ the indignities of an aging physical reality. And while doing so, in my life of immense privilege, I remember Virginia Woolf’s quote: If I’m a woman of privilege, and I’m this unhappy, what about those who struggle? Arthritis is not my friend Diane’s multiple sclerosis, nor my friend Carol’s ALS. Nor is a bum foot the same as my friend Judy’s fatal brain tumour. And still I sometimes whine :). But less so. A lot less so.
Because this is it, folks. It’s what we’ve got. This huge tangle of good, bad, indifferent. Gold & lead and dawn and darkness and the fragrance of roses and the odour of my wet dogs. All new every day. And I’m verrrry slowly beginning to understand, in this the afternoon of my life, that it’s enough. Most of the time ~