Today’s post really isn’t so much about faith as it is about friendship and serendipity. A close friend and I have been discussing aging recently (we’re both 63) and how to shift gears into this stage of our lives as gracefully as possible. Physical ailments—especially chronic pain and fatigue—are kicking our butts more often than we are “managing” them.
I continue to discover some amazing new friends in our neighborhood, like Maggie, whom I wrote about last Friday and again this week on Monday. So today I’m going to mention two more friends who each live a stone’s throw from our house.
Priscilla (whom I met through church before we became neighbors) is packing to move and said she had a book to give me. So this morning as I walked across the street to take her some boxes, she gave me her copy of The Living Spirit of the Crone: Turning Aging Inside Out. Priscilla is a little older than me, and we are both cancer survivors and we share the same concerns that so many women our age have. But here’s where serendipity comes in. The book was written by another neighbor and new friend, Sally Thomason, who lives directly across the street from me.
I fell in love with Sally the first time I met her. She reminds Bill and I of his favorite Aunt Betsy, who lived most of her life in Boston. Sally is former Dean of the Meeman Center for Special Studies at Rhodes College, and is also the author of a short novel, The Topaz Brooch.
But it’s her book on aging that has me turning the pages today. And being thankful for this chain of friendship that seems to be circling my life. I may write more about the wisdom between the pages of this book later, but for today, I’m going to share an excerpt from the third chapter, “Beyond Patriarchy.”
I was probably in my late sixties when I came to the stark realization that I would never, could never, figure out my life. Life just is. And life is to be lived not figured out. It is not ours to control but a gift we receive in all its wonders and complexity. I know we are connected deeply and irrevocably to all that is, yet we are also exquisitely a separate entity that experiences the gift of life in a unique and singular way. But even stranger and more perplexing is that we ourselves are continually changing, growing, diminishing—a living, self-conscious process that ultimately defies reductive definition. However, because we are acutely aware of how the human species in spite of individual differences, conforms to patterns of structure and behavior, our very nature demands that we build theories and myths to explain and control our existence. This is part of our humanness.
Ten years ago when I started a serious study of aging, I focused on the way our society fears old age and defines it almost exclusively by biomedical, physical criteria. I learned a great deal about our culture’s history and beliefs, which are shaped by a tradition of patriarchy and allopathic medicine, as I describe in the next chapter. I also learned, by talking with older people, a great deal about the human spirit and the impulse of some aging individuals to defy cultural expectations and live a full and abundant, though vastly different, life from what they previously lived.
That’s the life I want to discover—or to chart for myself—as I continue into my sixties and, God willing, beyond. Today I’m thankful for friends and neighbors who are on this journey with me. Especially for Priscilla and Sally.