“When Colette reflected on how her mother entered the autumn of her own life, she wrote… “with such serenity” and with “the gaiety of those who have nothing more to lose and so excel at giving.”” Maria Popova on how Colette considered the sensorial and symbolic rewards of Autumn.
I am in the Autumn of my life. As such, I have found both comfort and truth in Colette’s observation of her mother entering the Autumn phase with serenity and grace. Transitions between life’s seasons flow so gently and gradually that we don’t know we don’t know it has occurred until it is already over. For me, Summer slid into Fall somewhere between 65 and 74 years old.
Once the immersion was completed, there is one thing for sure: I am getting old. The season of Autumn reminds me that, yes, I have reached old age. And very, very surprisingly in very, very good condition. We’ll see.
Colette wrote of three conclusions regarding her mother’s aging: (1) with serenity, (2) with nothing left to lose, and (3) with a greater desire to give. Of course, there are many more wonderful traits concerning getting old, but let’s stick to Colette’s three.
One thing we all wish for in life is Peace, and for this essay I am thinking of inner peace—that condition of the heart where one feels settled in the inner self. Striving for accomplishments fades as acceptance of one’s own condition is no longer contingent on power, prestige, or possessions.
Instead, acceptance of self (or being comfortable in our own skin) becomes THE single reward for old age, where I realize that I am what I am… no matter what… But… I continually begin again in personal growth of love, practical wisdom, and maturity. Yes, to be settled, to be serene, and still be prepared to Become the one I wish to be. The result: serenity.
Nothing Left to Lose
With age, our grip may loosen a bit, somewhat physically but even more important is the relaxing of our grip on the need to control. I am no longer hampered by some inner drive to be right or to “win” an argument. Truth is, very often I just don’t care. There is no “winning an argument” because “being right” is no longer needed for personal validation.
And when I am serene and comfortable with my most inner self, I have nothing left to lose. So, I can move on to Colette’s third observation.
A Greater Desire to Give
I have been blessed (or cursed) with a desire to serve the needs of others, from business executives to the poorest of the poor in Uganda and to those on the margins of American society.
And these days, in retirement, I see nothing else worthy of my efforts other than service, philanthropy, and spiritual growth… and oh yea, enjoying the hell out of the ride. This has less to do with me personally than it has to do with getting old.
This is the definition of “growing old with grace.
May it be so.
The Grace of Old Age
Photo courtesy of Kirby Russell at istockphoto