"In youth the days are short and the years are long. In old age the years are short and day's long." Pope Paul VI
Reverend Bill Neely, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton, NJ recently asked congregants to finish the sentence, "With age comes ..."
The answers may surprise you. Here are some:
• With age comes a kind of joy in knowing, truly deep in my bones, that at every step - whether confident, stumbling, or falling down - I really was doing the best I could at the time.
• With age comes surreality.
• With age comes appreciation of the simple pleasures of life - a cup of tea, watching the seasons, friendships.
• With age comes the possibility to grow in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom ... if you're paying attention as you go along!
• With age comes the breaking down of the body, the building up of the soul.
• With age comes the chance to look back and review one's life. What have I learned this time around?
• With age comes many opportunities to practice loving kindness.
• With age comes comfort with yourself.
• With age comes perspective.
• With age comes the power to be one's unmasked self.
• With age comes creaking joints - and confidence.
• With age comes a smaller circle of closer friends.
• With age comes wondering if you can possibly ever be the wonderful wise woman your grandmother was.
• With age comes maturity.
• With age comes acceptance, featuring frequent use of, "It is what it is," whether ailments, setbacks, family issues, or daily irritants.
• With age comes awakening to the power of kindness, love, and simple human caring, and the enormous need for it.
• With age comes appreciation for this chance at life.
• With age comes acceptance of life's ups and downs.
• With age comes gratitude.
• With age come aches, pains, disabilities, limitations; a furious desire to overcome them and/or an acceptance of them. Thinking about death and/or (more likely) not thinking about death.
• With age comes an awareness of how insignificant I am in the greater scheme of things, and yet just how much one can change the world by being kind to just one person.
• With age comes a calmer, more confident me who is more accepting of myself and others.
• With age comes less worrying about would haves and should haves, more forgiveness of myself and others. I love more and tell those I love that I love them.
• With age comes a far greater ability to see my cup as overflowing and to focus on gratitude for all I have - the simple things in life like a roof over my head and water to drink.
• With age comes the good words like wisdom, serenity, freedom, and acceptance; but there are others for some as well: loneliness, regret, and resignation. And let's not forget the wrinkles and the aches and pains.
• With age comes more small pleasures.
• With age comes an appreciation of all the seasons, even winter. And with age comes experience; wisdom is optional.
The take-away of it all, concludes Rev. Neely, indicates a lessening of any need to control and instead adoption of an "it is what it is" attitude. This letting go is freeing as it keeps us from worrying about things we can't control or shouldn't even try to influence.
With age can come the ability to find peace by letting go of whatever we can let go of, and by letting "it is what it is" be the extent of it.
Perhaps, the longer we live the more cognizant we are that life is uncertain and unpredictable and often brings surprises.
Rabbi Kushner concluded something very similar in When Bad Things Happen to Good People: bad things just happen. They are out of our control. Bad things, or suffering, are not punishment. Bad things happen whether you're bad or good, not because you "deserve" it. It is what it is, and the response is up to you.
Things that we thought important in our youth, seem less so as we mature and what lingers seems to be an appreciation for pleasure and peace. Many elders learn to accept that they did their best with what they had and what they knew at the time and can thus let go of the "what ifs" and the "should haves" and "could haves." We can learn from past misfortunes and try not to repeat the same mistakes...but we get no do-overs because unlike our cars, life has no reverse gear.
With age comes experience, and perhaps peace, but wisdom is optional.
Read the full sermon here.