Saying YES to My Older Self

Dearie, Hon, Sweetie: Saying ‘Yes’ to My Older Self

by Cynthia Aldinger

               Hmmm?   Not sure when it happened the first time – it may actually have gone unnoticed but I seriously doubt it!  “Here, let me help you with that, sweetie.”  “How kind,” I probably thought and accepted assistance with gratitude.  “Here you go, hon.”   “Gosh, are people getting nicer?” I may have wondered.  “What do you need, dearie?”  “Are you talking to me?” was surely my reaction the first time I heard that one!

               With the first sprouting of silver-grey I seemed to have entered into a new age of courtesy.  Help with putting my bags in the overhead bin.   Sweet smiles and extra service when ordering coffee.  A sense of a subtle, gentle lowered expectation from others regarding my capacity to take care of myself. Not always, mind you, but increasingly so!

               What’s so bad about that, you might ask yourself.  Nothing actually.  Truth be told, it’s kind of nice – it has likely extended my duration of being a world traveler!  It just sort of crept up on me, though.  Perhaps it was strange at first because I realized that I often use such expressions (except for dearie) when I am speaking to younger folk.  Everyone (except my age peers) seems to be about the age of my children or grandchildren now.   These terms of endearment have been part of my vocabulary for years, usually applied to those for whom I feel somewhat motherly.  But I remember when I was a younger person and how people also used those terms when speaking to the elderly.

               As my husband often says to me, “Welcome to the golden years!”  It’s all relative, of course.  Putting aside karma and destiny and looking only at hereditary, I have a number of models to choose from!  My maternal grandmother was just shy of 105 when she passed – and in pretty good shape up to the end.   My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, was not much older than I am now when she crossed over.  My parents at 88 and 89 are still going strong.  Will I have that same resiliency?  Truth be told, what matters to me the most is that I acquire the ability to be open to whatever comes.  Not a “just lie down and take it” kind of open, but an active and engaged sort of open, an openness that says, “Well, this is interesting!”

               Rudolf Steiner offered many exercises to help us become more whole, more resilient, more engaged throughout life.  Among those is the exercise that encourages openness to whatever one encounters.  He suggests that before we meet an experience automatically with judgment (sympathy or antipathy), we first bring open interest.  Warmed interest supports healthy judgment upon which we can bring rightful action.  He also offered an exercise on equanimity that supports the possibility of deepening our joys and sorrows by wrapping them in our inner life of thinking rather than exhausting them through emoting to everyone we meet.  Remembering that these are called exercises rather than achievements is a great relief to someone like me who has spent most of one lifetime, and likely a few more to come, working on them! 

Thank goodness, Dr. Steiner also had a great deal to say about forgiveness because that, my friends, may be a major player in getting to ‘yes’ in our lives.  One of the most beautiful things we can model for the children and adults in our care, in the hopes that they will be able to emulate it and grow more resilient because of it, is forgiveness.  And I think the place it starts is with ourselves.  Surely if God finds me worthy of being loved, I can offer myself some kindness and understanding now and then.   Perhaps I can say to myself, “Okay, dearie, what you just did was not the greatest; you know you can do better than that.  But don’t worry, you will get another chance.”  

In the larger cultural context, I have noticed that we Baby Boomers have shared our every breath we take perhaps more than any other generation before us.  Did we not teach the world about protesting, birthing, breastfeeding, midlife crises, menopause, dementia and incontinence!  If we are experiencing it, we are also writing about it.  Fortunately, there are individuals who are sharing models of graceful ageing and exiting when the time comes, offering examples of the fulfillment of inner life while transitioning in outer form.

  I want to share a verse Dr. Steiner offered in 1919 that seems especially apropos to this ideal: “The heart of the matter is that the human being, in fact, retains the possibility throughout his whole life to look forward to each new year, because each year brings forth as if by magic the divine-spiritual contents of his inner life in new forms.  That is something which I would like to characterize by saying that we have to learn in truth to experience not merely our youth as capable of development but our whole existence between birth and death.”

               There is only one thing I can think to add, “Yes!  Thank you, sweetie.”