After several days of dangerous weather throughout the nation causing too much death and disruption, a “cyclone bomb” in many places, going from rain to ice to blizzards, with extreme wind chills ⎼ temperatures changing where I live in a matter of hours from 45 degrees Fahrenheit to zero or below ⎼ today is cold but the snow is falling lazily, individual flakes dropping from a still, gray sky.
Inside myself, there’s a stillness in the center of a storm. A feeling that my life is changing too quickly, that I’m aging too quickly. Despite being 75, until recently I had felt internally maybe 35 or 40. Still exercised an hour and a half to two hours each day. Still wrote blogs each week. Until a year or so ago, despite being retired from regular teaching, and when the pandemic allowed it, I still led an after school martial arts class at my old school. But not this past year. One health concern after another, and the sickness and death of friends and family ⎼ this is aging me.
Add the earth in tears with so many species in crisis and near extinction; so much hate, politically manipulated hate and violence, thanks a great deal to a former President who, despite now being out of office, is still lying about and working to overturn an election he had lost, overturn democracy. Then there’s the invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic ⎼ this ages all of us.
My dad died at age 96. Before dying, he looked me in the eye and said, “you know, this man is dangerous.” He was warning me that DJT reminded him of the early years of Hitler. He would say the would-be dictator’s name, but wouldn’t say the German dictator’s name, and wouldn’t say ‘Nazis’, just pronouns, ‘him’ and ‘them.’ This wasn’t a warning I needed. But it did make the DJT presidency even more real and frightening to me.
Months earlier, my dad had talked about spending his whole morning just getting dressed and ready for the day. And then most of the evening getting prepared for bed. I wasn’t the most understanding, then. My comparative youth got in the way. But now I feel what he was saying. We age to the point where we spend most of our day waking up and then going to sleep. Or maybe, we do that our whole lives without realizing it, preparing for life instead of realizing we’re living each second of it.
We think death won’t touch us, then it does, and powerfully. At some point we need to look at the slowly falling snow and realize here we are. This is it. We’re falling; we have been falling since we first stood up. And now, the flake of snow is getting closer to the ground.
Can this closeness turn the whole thing around and make us also closer to waking up, to wising up as we get closer to dying?
Last night, I dreamed of attending a workshop at a retreat center where I used to go every summer I was teaching. However, when I got near the center, my car died. I coasted to the curb, parked, and left it behind to find another ride.
When I arrived at the workshop, there were children and younger teenagers there, students as well as older teachers and workshop leaders. Too many teachers for the number of students. So, I told the group of teachers ⎼ I had retired years ago but was still going into school. Maybe, this was a sign it was time to leave.
And as I stood up to do just that, I saw each teacher going off to a small space with only one student. And in each space. I passed on my way out, they were creating together a fantastical stage set, a tiny and almost mythological world specifically made to fit each student. I said goodbye to each student and teacher as I left, hurrying a bit as I remembered I had left the key in the ignition of my car.
The dream of retiring and the dream of aging, of looking out for death, of looking for a new way to face our world changing quickly right before us ⎼ face our world with death and life standing together and asking, when will we wake up? When will we wake not from this, but to this?
I have been living in such dreams for weeks now where the words, I had retired years ago were spoken. Maybe now, even at the center of my being, I am finally accepting it.
Can we move even more to that quiet center inside and all around us, and be more intimate with it, love, and care for it as much as we can without denying the rest? Maybe this is where everything is leading us, all this struggle, pain, and joy, to an embrace deeper than any we have ever felt before? Or so I wish. By gradually, tenderly allowing ourselves to perceive the reality of aging, we can gradually and more fully live each moment of our lives.
This Post is republished on Medium.
Photo credit: iStock