Entering the early wintertime of my years
Much has been written about the seasons of our lives. We compare our lives to the seasons of the year. Spring, summer, autumn and winter.
I feel this comparison and metaphor more deeply as the years go by. Approaching the age of 70 next year, I feel myself entering the early winter of my life.
I remember spring and youth, although not appreciating its beauty so much at the time as I was busy doing things, comparing myself, trying to be what I thought that I was supposed to be.
I remember summer and feeling myself coming into more full bloom. Yet still busy doing and striving and fretting.
Autumn brought a beginning quietness. A deepening of color. A sense of loss to come. A richness that is beyond description and that ends all too soon. I appreciated autumn more, feeling the edges of what was around the corner and coming next. And the brilliance of what was still there.
I have been quiet and self isolating the past several days (having been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID recently). This time of isolation and no social contact has been rich with many feelings, some of them more painful, some simply and quietly there.
I approach 70 and realize that aging will continue to bring more changes. To my body, my face, my mind, my functioning. I will do my best to keep active and as healthy as can be, but aging will continue (if I am lucky and blessed enough) and it will bring its own gifts. Some of them more welcome than others.
In this period of more intense isolation (and I am not a hugely social person in general, as I prefer long periods of solitude and my own company), I felt what I think of as the different sort of isolation that I believe, see and hear that aging can often bring.
Less engagement, perhaps, with as much or as many around us. Less participation in things of quantity and choosing things of quality more often. This includs friends and social interactions. Preferring quiet one-to-one interactions of depth versus larger, more social gatherings of groups.
I have never really been a group person, although I can and sometimes do enjoy these events. But, for me, the richness and reward comes from a quiet conversation where the connection is deeper, richer, and with more soul to soul conversation.
Yet I also became aware the past several days of the importance of still feeling connected. Still feeling part of the world. Still feeling engaged and like I am an active participant. Perhaps the need is less than it may have been in earlier seasons of my life, but the need is still there.
I found myself wondering if this need continues to slowly decrease as the years continue. As we approach the time of our departure from this life as we know it.
I remember as a very young girl, maybe around the age of 6, lying in bed and suddenly having intense thoughts about the time that I would no longer be here, be part of the group, be part of what was going on. As I look back, this seems to be a pretty young age to have any beginning awareness of these things. Perhaps being an only child contributed to this.
I began crying in my bed. My mother came and not understanding what I was trying to say about my experience, shushed me and told me to go back to sleep. A lost moment of deep connection there. I don’t blame her. But I do want to go back to that part of me within and listen to her now.
I have that awareness of endings and separation from everything much more constantly now. And I got to “practice” naming what some of my fears may be about this by watching all the interactions on my street and in my neighborhood these past few days, feeling myself separated and apart from them all.
My sweet young neighbors had a first birthday party for their little girl, whom I adore, and I could not attend.
I heard the laughter and joy coming from their home, and felt distant. And like I was getting a taste of no longer being part of things. It was interesting. Poignant in some ways. Instructive. A reminder. A reminder of the brevity of this journey, of this life. And a reminder to engage when I want to and can. To continue to be part of this life, my life.
I woke up this morning feeling such a depth of sadness. I worked to simply breathe into it and not run from it. It is a grieving, I believe, for my own mortality. For when my end will come, whenever that will be and however long I may have left in this body and on this earth.
This sadness is a gift. A sacred remembering. An acknowledgment and nod to mortality and endings. And a call to life. To live and connect and participate in my own life with others of my choosing. To love while I can, laugh and share when I can. To keep living while I still walk this earth. To appreciate the winter of my life and the fires that still burn within.