“Do you remember spreading your trick-or-treat candy on the floor with your brothers and sisters and trading with each other for your favorites?,” my husband asked me last evening as we watched a Netflix show portraying this tradition. “No, my brothers and sisters were away at boarding school. Maybe, if I got lucky, one of them drove me around town to trick-or-treat,” I replied. “That’s so sad, I can’t believe with so many siblings you never had that,” my husband replied. He’s usually not this sentimental. But we are both raw in a happy, sappy, parent-y kind of way.
We just returned from a college visit with our daughter, our precious jewel who is approaching her time to move away for college. That was the conversation we had just before bed on the day we took Isa to the University of Arkansas. When I woke up this morning, I was drifting out of a panicky dream of trying to keep all of my loved ones inside a bowl. The bowl was imbalanced and my loved ones were unhappy being crammed in it against their will. But I selfishly wanted to keep them there to hoard the good times forever.
When I was much younger, I used to create collages for family and friends to capture funny memories and special photos and create something permanent. I would glue magazine images to coke bottles, homemade cardboard footstools, cigar boxes and more, so happy to have created something permanent out of moments from the past.
I think aging can sometimes feel like a struggle to create permanence – maybe out of fear or sentimentality – but mostly from the desire to comfort and reassure ourselves of many things.
After all, when we are young, we are encouraged and supported to “try new things” based on the assumption we will devote a lifetime enjoying and perfecting the things we choose when we are young. When we are older, however, because of the uncertainty of time and limited energy and resources, the tendency to accept or try new things feels risky and pointless. After all, shouldn’t we just reach a magical age when work is over and all we have to do is sit and bask in the splendor of relationships we have worked our lives to create? While this is one of the assumptions that traditional American retirement is based on, I know that, at least for me, it is not going to work.
Aging well is more about accepting impermanence and knowing when to do the 2 most important things in life: 1. Resting; 2. Devouring the ripened fruit.
My sweet little baby girl has ripened into a young woman – it is time for her to transition from living with me to expanding out into the big world. She no longer fits in a bowl, the world is her bowl and I have prepared her for it.
Painful as it is, launching a child into the world is a beautiful act of creation. Our daughter is her own person, influenced by genes, experiences and love from home. She belongs to herself and her footprint in this world is original, unique, and borne of her own spirit energy.
Takeaways from all of this?
- It isn’t sad that I never swapped Halloween candy with my 6 older siblings – at least I never felt that loss until my husband, who is much closer in age to his 2 younger sisters, pointed it out. Obviously, that experience from childhood meant something to my husband that continues to bring him joy today. Any time we can grab a fleeting moment of warmth from our past, it’s a divine experience – like eating a ripened peach – that we must stop and enjoy;
- Denying the sadness I feel over my daughter’s emerging adulthood would prevent me from fully experiencing what is happening now, and I don’t want to miss the parade. Literally, she is in a parade in 2 hours
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin