Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thinking Young




Yesterday, I visited my mom and she asked me, “How old am I?” I said, “Ninety-nine, Mom. But no one thinks you are that old.”  She said, “I don’t believe it.” I told her, “You always think young.” She answered, “Yes, I think young.” And she laughed,  very pleased about it. I understand that this is one of the most important lessons that my mother is teaching me.

   I was out in the barn last night, standing with Silk in her stall while she ate the exquisitely tasty green hay from this year’s abundant harvest. Each night in the past couple of weeks, I have begun a new ritual. I stop cleaning the stall and just stay with my twenty-five year old horse, leaning against her or resting my arm across her back as we take some time to enjoy the silence. In her presence, I have been thinking about how we are both growing older and slower and wondering what kind of toll the approaching winter will have on us.  I see that I have a choice to make, either giving in to the aches in my arms and legs and back or actively stepping into whatever challenges life is going to offer me next.

   I’ve been reading the poetry of David Whyte and listening to these talks that he has recorded about being in mid-life.  What he says resonates for me so deeply. He talks about how tragic it is when children see their parents burdened by the responsibilities of their lives, never allowing their imaginations to carry them forward to the wildness or edge, only narrowing and succumbing to the burdens of their job, their mortgage, their health. And the children come to realize that the time they spend with their parents is also regarded as a burden by both of them.  It becomes an obligation that must be carried out before moving on to the next item on the list.  I am so glad that my family – especially my daughter and my mother and myself – don’t feel that way about the time we spend together. Each moment we spend together is a gift.

   Whyte talks about how at each stage of our lives, we go to a particular frontier or fierce edge that “allows us to taste the ripe fruit of our experience at any one time and celebrate and understand the season that we are occupying in that moment”. As I rest each evening with Silk in her stall, I am able to find some space in which to reflect on the frontier that I am at right now. Certainly, the winds of change are blowing around here, and in the next year, I will be facing the daunting task of once again re-inventing myself.  David Whyte says that one of the tasks of adulthood is to find the youthfulness at each stage of aging so that we grow younger again. “The radical edge is available to us, but it just looks different at each stage”.

   It’s getting dark so early now, and I’ve had to adjust my nightly routine in the barn to begin an hour sooner than I’d like it to be. As I walked back through the yard from the barn last night, wishing I had a flashlight, stepping carefully on the slippery fallen leaves and uneven ground, I was eager to reach the warm glow of the house. Whyte wrote a beautiful poem called “House of Belonging”, and he says, ”This is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to love.” Right here, right now, that is my mission. I’ll have to be patient and see where it leads.

9 comments:

Raining Iguanas said...

Absolutely enlightening post. I have been traveling this road for almost 15 years now between parents and reinvention. The people such as yourself that I have met in the last few years have made this a wonderful journey so far. I am looking forward to the future without hesitation or reserve. Keep writing, you do a superb job.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thank you, John - I love your writing too - who knows where this journey will take us....

billie said...

Such lovely thoughts for all of us, but particularly those of us in the middle years. I have finally gotten back to riding Keil Bay and after obsessing a year or so ago about getting ON I find myself now obsessing about getting OFF. A tight hip makes it scarier than I thought possible but I realized I can just do it or let go and give up something I dearly love. Thankfully, Keil Bay (25 in April) is good about standing quietly while I figure out the best way to dismount. He's so big - to pop off the regular way that I always have is do-able but not as easy as it used to be. So now I am using the mounting block to get off and it works great. :) Mind-boggling that I am in this stage of life already. My mom is 80 now and I see her slowing down. I hope I can remain active and think young like your mom is doing for many many years to come!!

Oak in the Seed said...

Once again, your beautiful writing hits a nerve as I negotiate those choices between staying in a stultifying job to maintain a mortgage/health insurance, etc or take a chance to follow a dream.

I am glad to have a mom like yours who is ever young at heart, as we are, always.

C-ingspots said...

So true. We all need to be grateful for whatever stage of live we're in. I'm really enjoying this time of life, soon to be 54 and no longer a girl. :) But, I find many aspects of this age, far more enjoyable because I'm a more confident person, more comfortable in my own skin and genuinely like the person I've become. Insecurities are much dominant than they once were. However...my hubby and I went wood cutting yesterday, and I have to admit that today I'm feeling quite old. There are some changes that are simply too glaring to overlook. But, I can still pitch wood with the best of 'em, for a little while anyway!

Victoria Cummings said...

Billie - I'm so happy that you are riding the Big Bay! And that's what mounting blocks are made for. Silk is having an "off" day, so I've been out with her, making sure that she's drinking water since it is unusually warm and the girls are getting their winter coats. I'm hoping it's just that and nothing more.

D- Thanks - that job may be stagnating, but I'm never one to knock a steady paycheck. I'm sure that you'll know when the time is right to fly.

C- We've got to get at our wood too, but we still have so much from Hurricane Sandy that we are getting a reprieve this year. I think getting out and doing that kind of thing, or horse chores, is much better than going to the gym - it's good for your soul too.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Love that your mom is still young at heart at 99. I wish my mom was still here with me. She passed at 68 so many years ago but I still miss her and the fun we had.

I can't say that physically I like this time of life but mentally it's wonderful. The aches and pains are annoying but feeling free to do what I want each day is a pleasure.

My philosophy,if you can call it that, is to stay active each day and think you can do whatever you want. I refuse to give in to thinking old. I feel if you think you can you will find a way and if you think you can't you will also find a way not to do something.

Victoria Cummings said...

Arlene - I completely agree with your philosophy - as usual. Looking forward to Thursday!

Callie said...

You are a beautiful writer! Thinking young is a good philosophy for any age, because youth is a time of learning, trying new things, and being open-minded!