When the subject of aging comes up, as it often does these days in my circle of life, I sometimes announce with great confidence, "I intend to keep enlarging my life, instead of living a smaller, more narrow existence."
Is that wishful thinking?
Obviously, aging comes with many losses: of loved ones, of possessions as we downsize and simplify our surroundings, of capabilities, both physical and mental, of energy perhaps, of our position and influence in the world. Don't all those things contribute to a smaller, more limited life?
Well, yes, but my heart keeps telling me something else. I don't mean enlarging my life through anything that can be counted or evaluated. Rather, my life has the potential to be bigger because of the spaciousness in it. I am no longer driven by any one else's expectations of who I should be or how I should respond or what I should do. The "shoulds" have been melting away, and that leaves so much room for more compassion, for more light, for more silence and solitude, for more presence and awareness.
Recently, I read Oliver Sacks' final book, a collection of essays written not long before he died, Gratitude. Writing about his father, he says,
He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking, but an
enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has
had a long experience of life, not only one's own life,
but others' too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies,
booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great
achievements and deep ambiguities…One is more
conscious of transience and perhaps, of beauty…one
can take a long view and have a a vivid, lived sense
of history not possible at an earlier age. (p. 10)
Sacks also says these older years are a time to "bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together." I love that, and that feels BIG to me.
I confess I don't entirely know what my belief in an ongoing expansion of my existence means, but I am open to the surprise of discovery.
How is your life expanding? I would love to know.