Aging is a spiritual journey.

Zest, Grace, and the Beautiful Red Envelope by Patty Trevor

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Recently I read an article by The Rev. Nancy Gordon, who develops programs in the field of Spirituality and Aging.  Two words leapt out of the pages into my psyche, Zest and Grace.  The following is my response to those words in the aging context.  

YES!  ZEST AND GRACE in capital letters.  That is how I will strive to live my life as I age – with zest and grace.  The very thought of it fills with me wonder and anticipation for the present and the future that is before me. “Zest” and “grace” are not words one often pairs together.  But that is just what I want to do in my remaining years – pair them together in my life.  While on the surface they seem to have such differing qualities, they also have some interesting similarities.  To live life with zest one must be aware of the interests and talents that bring one pleasure. To be filled with grace one must have an inner awareness of the needs and interests of self and others in order to be present for others and self.  Both zest and grace require an internal and external awareness and action.  I now have the time to develop awareness and take action. This will fill my life with joy.  I will experience a sense of using the gifts God has given me and a willingness to share in a meaningful presence with others.

So often we think of aging as being a process of giving up life and all we treasure, but I choose to think of it as giving to myself new ways of approaching and living life to the fullest, despite the challenges aging brings. When you think of it, life from the very beginning is all about changes and challenges of different stages.  From those previous stages, I can draw on the lessons learned from the myriad experiences of my lifetime.  Old age is just one more of these stages.  It will come with its own challenges, but also opportunities to explore – who I am, who I want to be and how to best share life with those in my world.  This is my time to become the very best me I can.

In the past, I was so involved in family, work and social obligations I had little (or took little) time to think about who I am. Aging brings a certain freedom that allows me to not worry if I don’t use all the latest social media apps that the younger generations are so hooked into. So what if I go to a meeting or grocery shopping in a sweatshirt, and no makeup on my face? I have no need to impress others with the latest clothing styles.  I find as I age I actually look better if I use less makeup, and anyone who sees me knows I no longer color my hair or wear hairstyles that require blow drying, curling irons, or hair spray before I go out. I simply wash and run a brush through it and I am set for the day. My daily grooming routine is down to a minimum giving me more time for things I want to do (or need to do). I love it!

I have, at the ripe age of 71, reached a stage where I am looking for ways to give, sell, or donate treasures and items I thought were so essential to my life. I now have a new-found joy when I rid my life of some of these possessions, for I realize that at some point those possessions begin to possess me.  It brings freedom from dusting, cleaning, and caring for things I don’t really need.  Before giving these items away, I can take a picture of those I truly treasure for an album, write the story behind it and look at it whenever I want.  There is joy in giving my treasure to someone else who will also treasure it.

I can use my time to explore my interests, hobbies, and deepen the important relationships in my life with family, friends, and neighbors. Nothing gives me more pleasure than finding ways to bring a smile to a face of someone with a kind word, thought, or deed. There are so many who need encouragement, and hope in this world. I welcome the challenge to find new ways and opportunities to graciously give those gifts to others. At the same time I want to explore my gifts and talents and take the time to develop them further – so what if I spend three or four hours in the kitchen trying out some new recipes or cooking techniques, something I couldn’t or didn’t do when my life revolved around work and family. I love being part of a Writers Club. I always had a secret yearning to write and now I am a writer.

There is so much to explore as I begin this process. Who knows what adventures lie ahead.  Yes, there will be challenges – challenges of physical changes and inability to be as active as I currently am, but new opportunities will open that allow me to pursue other activities. There will be losses of family and friends who move away or die. That is inevitable, but there will be new people and family that will bring new joy to me. I can only say I am excited as I look forward to the opportunities for becoming the person God has always intended me to be.

Oh, and the beautiful red envelope with the intricate heart my husband, Mac gave me on Valentine’s Day? In it I will keep slips of papers with thoughts and ideas I want to explore as I grow and meet the challenges of aging and life. Yes! ZEST AND GRACE!  They are mine to claim and share.