Jana Reiss’ article, “6 Gifts of Aging, from Quaker writer Parker Palmer,” appears on the web site religionnews.com and is worth the read no matter your age. Her writing stems from her reading of Palmer’s recent book, “On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old,” as well as phone conversations with Palmer.
Why I Read It
I’m an adult orphan. My parent’s deaths opened a door to a thought I assumed I had securely locked. I’m getting older. At times when I’m around my children and my grandchildren, I experience a time warp. I’m my children and my parents are me. How did this come to be? Aging is an equal opportunist. The six gifts of aging Reiss highlights provide a touch of soothing balm.
Ideas That Stuck
Finding the Patterns
This last year something changed in my reasoning. Discerning connections between ideas became easier. It’s been like gaining momentum while putting together a puzzle. Pieces start jumping off the table shouting, “Here I am. Take me. I fit.” I don’t recall having done anything different to bring this about. It seems to have just happened and I like it.
Reiss is right, “When you discover these patterns in your life, then you can look around you with new eyes, and look ahead with more perceptiveness, with your feet on the ground, and not be carried away by fear.”
“I can’t imagine a sadder way to die than realizing I never showed up in this world as myself. That would be a particular kind of psychological pain that I would find almost unbearable. If you can say you showed up, more often than not, with your heart in your hand, you can die with a certain sense of satisfaction. You have become what you were meant to be.”
I’ve heard it said that time helps us become more comfortable in our skin. It’s true. What I didn’t expect was my skin to literally change. That I’m not as comfortable with. My skin heals slower. I bruise differently. So, while I’m adjusting to this new skin, I’m accepting the reality that I have less years to live than I’ve lived. Now is the time to embrace who I am and allow the chips fall where they may. I’m kicking “Fear” into the back seat; fear of acceptance, approval, or what others might think of me. Nah. I think I’m going to drop them off at the next corner. Now, this doesn’t give me permission to become a jerk or spit out the bit of civility from my mouth. It means I’m choosing to be authentic.
Listening to, and learning from, young people.
The majority of older people I’ve met like to talk, to share stories from the past. Perhaps it’s how they process their life. So, when they sit down with a younger person, the tendency is to say, “Sit down, young one. Let me tell you something.” Instead, Palmer challenges us to remain quiet and listen. “Young people suffer deeply from feeling they’re not listened to; they’re not seen as who they are. When an elder expresses generous interest and doesn’t immediately fall into advice mode, that builds relationship.” What a gift. Through intergenerational dialogue we give them the gift of being heard and in turn we get to see life from a different and fresh perspective. Each conversation with a millennial is an opportunity to hone our mental dexterity. While curiosity might kill the cat, curiosity sustains the mind.
Follow the below link to read Reiss’ article in its entirety.
Rev. Tony Minear, PhD. is the Lead Pastor at Church of the Beatitudes a Progressive Christian Church based in Phoenix AZ.
To reach Pastor Tony