In the past month or so I have noticed that I am ready to move on. I am ready to move on from COVID. I am ready to move on from yelling at each other. I am ready to move on from fearing what may happen. I am ready to move on with my life.
Of course, my life has been moving on, whether I am ready or not. Weeks fly by in spite of my mindfully paying attention to the moment. My weekly appointment calendar that was pristine in January promising splendid adventures, is now filled with appointments kept or canceled and reminders for observed holidays and phases of the moon.
When I look back, I am struck by how my memory of these past months since COVID is rooted in the experience of doing nothing. I don’t actually remember dates of things. If Facebook didn’t tell me what my memories from X years ago were, I wouldn’t have a hook to hang them on.
Oh, Those Metaphors
There is an unspoken agreement that when you get in an elevator and push the “up” button, the elevator will go up and the door will open on a different floor. It won’t go sideways or tumble around. Sometimes, though, the elevator isn’t working. You push the button (maybe several times) and the door opens and you are on the same floor.
That is what these past months with COVID have felt like. I am in an elevator, with shopping bags and melting ice cream, and the damn elevator won’t go where I want it to go. I have plans. Things to do. People to see.
How many times did I get in that elevator over the past 18 months with the expectation that it would work only to be disappointed? Even though I knew it was not working, I insisted on getting in, punching that button and stood there, fuming about the fact that it was not working. Seems to be the very definition of “crazy” – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I should know better!
Readiness Does Not Signify Change
What is true for me is that just because I am ready, doesn’t mean that things will change. I am ready for a new relationship, yet I have sat with the doubt and fear that I am alone and forgotten because no one has called me or spoken with me in days.
I am ready to return to vitality and good health, yet I have come to better understand that willing something to be can blind me from accepting what is. I don’t eat well and I don’t exercise enough.
I have sat with many elders who have lived a full life and are ready to go, but remain suspended between living and dying. My capacity to witness their pain and suffering increases with practice, but doesn’t hasten their passing.
COVID forced me to do nothing. I had to re-evaluate both my self-worth and my net-worth. My capacity to earn a living was dependent on others seeking out my skills as a therapist. My self-worth was dependent on being seen as a psychologist.
While I succeeded in transitioning my practice from in-person to online, my physical and psychic capacity to be present and work with others was hugely impacted by COVID. I preached self-care and didn’t follow my own advice. My experience with COVID gave me new perspective on the necessity of taking time to slow down and come to terms with what kinds of influence I have on myself and those I am connected to. It took COVID to really teach me just how vital self-love is.
And now I am ready to move on.
The Tipping Point
Malcom Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, came out in 2001. In it he brilliantly brings into focus how social change occurs. It is not linear. The visionaries, the salespersons, the “mavens” as he tags them, all swirl around, seemingly without connection, until, “Boom!”, the kaleidoscope turns and the pieces fall into place. I am sensing we are at a tipping point now. It has certainly taken a while, but it is here.
The Tipping Point on Aging
Those of us who have been working in the field of aging will tell you that for decades it has been a lonesome journey, with only the occasional gathering of the tribes to reassure us we were not lost in the desert. We would speak of the same themes: the challenges in meeting the needs of an increasingly older population, lack of funding for research, lack of resources to adequately train and staff care homes and long-term care facilities, underpayment of providers, and a general dismissal of the extraordinary nuances that life after 65 represents.
As with many life changes, it is only when we are living the experience that it takes on importance. There are now sufficient numbers of Boomers who are taking stock of what it feels like to be 68 or 73 or 86. And it isn’t like what “they” said it was going to be!
Reclaiming Our Present; Rewriting Our Future
Because of this, more and more words are being written by aging adults exploring and describing their experience. These words are reaching across the generations and penetrating wider markets. These experiences are in stark contrast with the images of frail elderly or dumb and dumber technologically challenged gray-hairs perpetuated by marketers and pharmaceutical companies. We are reclaiming our present and re-writing our future.
Heraclitus is credited with saying that you can’t put your foot in the same river twice. I have been sitting on the riverbank for too long. I have been watching the river move past me, thinking that I was no longer able to enter it, much less harness its energy and let it take me further on my journey.
I am ready to move on.
A friend posed three questions to me recently.
- “Who am I now?”
- “Why am I here?”
- “Where would you like your ‘where’ to be?”
Here are my answers:
- I am a vital, thoughtful, and passionate older woman who has wisdom and insights worth sharing.
- I am here to change lives for the better and to offer compassion and understanding, especially to those who feel silenced or invisible.
- I would very much like my “where” to be here and now, although I find myself spending more time with my past and making amends. I realize that my physical “where” may need to be more temporary than it has been, because the world I am a part of right now is unsteady, but my internal “where” is anchored in my heart.
How do you answer these questions?