Every once in awhile you come across something that says it just right. For example, a few years back somebody sent me this great essay by Barry Dym. He muses about growing old and his opening sentence is exactly right: “The biggest surprise of old age is how new, how fresh, things feel.”
I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna about getting on in years. Of course not everything is new and fresh. There are plenty of disappointments (usually in the personal relationships arena), nasty surprises (usually in the physical arena), things that make me smolder (usually in the political arena). But what IS new and fresh is how my brain seems better at getting beyond the same ol’ pathways I’ve carved in the past.—the way I’ve always looked at things or people or circumstances. That ESPECIALLY goes for memories. And Barry expresses it for me:
“Of all the things that change in old age, history seems the most unlikely. I mean your personal history, your life story, which by this point is extraordinarily well-rehearsed, as you have told it to others and mused about it inwardly for decades. Instead, my narrative keeps changing. My father, who felt like such a rock, now seems such a troubled man. My mother, who felt more like a peer, a friend, now seems like an inspiration. I’d like to tell you that, with the perspective of years, I see them more clearly, but it may be truer to say I see them differently. I see them now in light of my current life. I see them now as younger people. I see their lives more in terms of the choices and drives and changes they faced, and less in relation to me, their child. In ways, that makes for a more interesting story.
Old age = new perspectives. You, too? Come, join me in a glass of wine!