Passing by 80 seems to be a milestone of some kind or other for many of us. It may be the realization of where we are on the continuum, how we regard a life that has blessed us with wonderful relationships, opportunities and choices. Here are a few observations and experiences that have emerged, along with me, over this extended period of time.
Echoing the sentiments of Bertrand Russel, I regard my life as a stream or a river where the current ebbs and flows, sometimes rushing on and other times slowing to almost imperceptible movement forward. Many streams and rivers increase in size and depth as they follow the gravitational pull. With few exceptions, including some painful experiences, the way has been and continues to be forward. There are those who see set-backs as some kind of penalty that has delayed or stopped them. These can include a fractured relationship, a health concern or some other kind of loss. Those are real and not to be minimized. They are also learning experiences for what lies ahead.
When the prevailing attitude and mind-set are gratitude, even for the difficulties and challenges that one encounters along the way, there is little time or room for complaints or conflicts. These can be resolved one way or another in order to continue life’s grand design. When we feel and believe that we are an essential part of this amazing and ongoing creation, we can evolve to the next stage in better condition than we might have imagined previously.
If I were isolate a few more things that I believe account for some of the characteristics of a life well-lived I would add kindness, gentleness, patience, perseverance, love, forgiveness, empathy and faith. The integration of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions also help one live in what I call the broad and deep spectrum of humanity. I believe we are all connected, part of the same fabric. We would do well to understand those with whom we disagree about one thing or another and do so with a higher degree of civility intact.
When I wrote a brief memoir in 2013, I concluded it by saying, “If we are to succeed…we must learn how to build collaborative energy, listen carefully to what is and what is not being said, ask questions that are penetrating and honest, discern the real from the superficial, and help a group move forward with a purposeful, shared vision…Hopefully you are following your passion and purpose beyond yourself. That is what has worked for me. I commend it to you on your own journey of lifelong learning.”
When we reach this stage and still have a measure of grace, humor and confidence intact we can consider ourselves fortunate. I begin each new day by regarding it as a gift waiting to be received, embraced and celebrated. I set aside a few moments and with deliberate and conscious intention offer a quiet prayer of gratitude for yet one more opportunity to make of a day whatever I can. The sense of freedom in choosing how I will use this gift of time remains large on this landscape of life as we know it.