Posts Tagged ‘how to age well’

We sleep.
We eat.
We work.
We rest.

Life has rhythms.

We start.
We finish.
We love.
We lose.
We cry.
We laugh.

Life has seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything,
 and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
 a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 
a time to search and a time to give up,
 a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
 a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,
 a time for war and a time for peace.

Here we find an important subject from the teacher of Ecclesiastes, the rhythms and seasons of life.

The writer, or Teacher, has experienced it all, had it all — big houses, lovely gardens, fancy cars, delightful relationships, entertainments and wealth, and he has come away both delighted and disillusioned, realizing it is all transient, it passes, we die.

Perhaps more than anywhere in the Bible Ecclesiastes embraces the complexities of experience and the paradoxes of living.

Life is wonderful; it is painful. We dance; we don’t.

Yesterday my daughter Laurel was down from Costa Mesa to try on her wedding dress.

What? Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was born? Only yesterday she wore her first dress, and tomorrow she puts on her wedding dress.

Children move in, children move out, they move in again — thankfully they eventually move out, that’s the goal, to get someone else to take them.

“Oh life!” — the ironies, the intricacies, the nuances — all that happens “under the sun.” Life is both delightful, and a chasing after the wind.

Peace and war, love and hate, tearing and mending — all these contras and contrasts exist “under the sun.”

What to do with this?

Be aware of rhythm.

We do well to accept the rhythm and season of life we are in. It helps to be philosophic, reflective, to make friends with reality. Life is young; it gets old. Life brings us close to people; it rips them away from us. We build things; they wear out and we demo them, we build again.

“Didn’t we just paint the bathroom?”

“It needs painting again?”

We must accept it, all, the first painting, the smudges, the painting again. Life has both one and the other, and everything is “beautiful in it’s time.”

Take the season of old age.

Not working, not competing, not playing the game — retirement sometimes feel empty, lost, lacking purpose. But there is a place for being, for not pushing anymore, for not having to justify your existence with work, with chasing wind.

Better one handful with tranquillity
    than two handfuls with toil
    and chasing after the wind.

Two years ago, we vacationed in the San Juan Islands. We took a boat trip to the Salish Sea, to see the Orca whales. When we arrived at the pod, they shut off the boat, we just sat among them, enjoying the massive, splashing black and white wonders. We had no other place to go, we were there. It was good. It was the season to just turn the motor off and sit amid the wonders.

Some of us want so much.

The Teacher speaks of the “miserable” striving and craving of life.

But, right now, today, we each have only have what is right in front of us. It is okay in any season to turn off the motor, to sit with our Orcas, to see what is present, to take that and just enjoy that, even if it is not perfectly balanced.

It is good to revel in those quiet moments, because life won’t always be in balanced, even, calm seas. This too it is good to accept. We must face and accept the reality that we won’t always have perfect balance and rhythm. It is normal to experience times of disequilibrium.

All the kids and grandkids go through smooth, calm periods, and then they go into other periods where they unsettled, get upset, experience failure, break down.

At eighteen month old the little ones often sometimes stop minding, stop being reasonable. At two and one-half they can take over your house. It’s called autonomy.

I heard a mom told her daughter recently, “I love you.” The little girl was like, “I love me too!”

That’s cute, until she dominates the rest of the household with her self-love!

And it isn’t just kids. All of us experience cycles, mood swings, times.

I think I experienced some disequilibrium last week. Change is all around me. My mom died recently. We are moving soon. My daughter is getting married.  Last week, I couldn’t be told anything.

My wife was like, “Take care of yourself; eat more fruit.”

I was like, “Fruit? Really, back off! I had fruit loops for breakfast.”

It’s okay.

We won’t have balance in every season, we won’t alway be on. We will get off, our kids will get off — not to panic. We will do well to just love ourselves and others through our seasons of disequilibrium.

This too, will pass.

Lastly, it is good to see God, there, in every season.

Despite his disequilibrium, his Biblical cynicism, the writer of Ecclesiastes was very God-centered — “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.”

The message of the book is that life is messy and yet — God. We moderns have come to think in our world that it’s all about us pursuing fulfillment on our own, but the author of Ecclesiastes has a powerful message for us: fulfillment is God’s business.

“To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life–this is indeed a gift from God.”

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

Job 42:12

I hear some whining from older people about getting old. Maybe it’s bragging. Whatever it is, it isn’t enlightened. Job’s second season was better than his first, and the same is true for many people as they age.

Older bodies may ache more, but older, mature, seasoned, calmed, wise, tough — it’s good!

Today I worked out, relaxed at home, read, reflected, ate mostly veggies and whole grains, sent out writings for publication, hung out with my wife, fluffed my fluffy cats, shopped for healthy food and was mostly at peace with myself. I honored my body, my mind and my soul —  better than I did when I was younger.

Older is good for me.

Why? It is more, in so many ways. Old has more memories, knows more people, has more wisdom, can be more generous and has the potential to live inside a stream-polished, storm-calmed, well-seasoned self.

Old has some less in it, of course, less physical strength, less beauty, perhaps less opportunity to contribute, but it has a lot of more in it too.

Consider Job; he ended his days with more sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, sons, daughters and grandchildren, and with more awareness the value of God, health, good friends and of a humbled self.

Job was given the gift of old age. It was the gift of having lost, and gained, been lonely, then loved, of having known, and then not known.

Seasoned, for Job, was knowing what he didn’t know and knowing what he did know and of being at peace with both. The same for us.

Seasoned, like Job, tossed a bit by life, we too can make friends with our ignorance and come to peace with what we do know.

The years — they can carry us up high.

For it is aging, that brings us, like Moses, to the top of the sacred mountain, where we can see. Having been sick, we can look out and see the glory of well, having lost friends and investments, we can apprehend the value of our lasting gains, having been lonely, we can gaze from the mountain on the stunning beauty of remaining friends and family.

The latter part of life, for many of us — it is better.