When I first met Rick, at the 2016 Positive Aging Conference in Washington DC, we had a short yet insight-filled conversation; I had NO idea of his POWerful impact on moving America’s cultural expectations of aging from perversely passive toward engagement energy empowerment.
Among the many papers he’s written is one on The Gifts of Age: Fulfilling Our Dreams, published by PSS Circle of Care. In it he notes, “The gifts reserved for age include something that youth cannot understand: the possibility of detachment with joy.”
Detachment with joy. In a nutshell he captures what I’ve found to be perhaps the greatest gift of even early old age. At 65, I have a greater ability to detach from a situation, to do so with joy. It’s a quality of mind heart spirit that as recently as earlier this year was unimaginable. Rick talks about “detachment with joy”; may I add “detachment with humor,” “detachment with amazement.”
One of the benefits of “detachment with joy humor amazement” is how many things become clear that were obscure before, how many battles are clearly just not worth fighting & how much the few are.
As recently as a year ago, it would have been impossible to make real the dreams within me. Praise be, I was given the insight to know that, to know that all that came before in my life has been preparation, with the last few years seized with intensely taking stock of of intellectual mental emotional deficits. After taking stock, I believed enough in my dreams to seek ways to learn what I lacked, build on my strengths & improve my weaknesses.
right now, at this very moment, I have a wretched, nasty cold. Have been snugged all day with plenty of warm soft blankets, a couple of chest-sitting, ankle-draping cats keeping me company, a husband to tenderly fuss over me, and a bunch of Christmas movies playing on my laptop, the video equivalent of a cozy quilt.
I was watching the movies as medicated eye candy, a distraction from my wretchedess, but one of them delivered much more. Two lines, one near the beginning & the other at the end, leaped out at me. “Being raised with nothing, I wanted everything” ~and~ “Hold onto your dreams.”
The first surged through me like an electrical charge. It summed up my oldest brother, who felt he was raised in a family which had nothing; it felt that he spent his life going after the everything he’d never had. Unlike his baby sister. I experienced our family as having everything that mattered, so I didn’t feel compelled to find missing pieces of my self, pieces that could never be found because they’d never been lost.
My brother spent his life chasing phantoms of what he thought he wanted, unable to accomplish his quest because he wanted what he didn’t have instead of wanting something real, tangible, achievable. From my earliest days, I was blessed to know what I wanted & while it often felt just as impossible to achieve, I finally did reach some level of what had been my driving goal since forever – not popularity, not money, not influence or power, but healthier family relationships.
Even as a little girl, I was a high priestess of what Rabbi Richard Address describes as a theology of relationships. One of my greatest dreams, my mother coming to a sense of genuine peace with her self, happened – not because of what I did, but through my belief it was possible. Another great dream realized was encouraging nurturing establishing a relationship with my older sister; over the last few years of her life, we had a wondrous post office connection – we never saw each other, never even talked on the phone, but each took delight staying connected through cards notes letters. My current relationship with my oldest brother is another dream realized – it was just this time two years ago that we connected, thanks to take-out Chinese food. My dreams are not of things, but of relationship, of genuine connection & authentic caring.
As for that second clip from this evenings Christmas flick – at 65, things that were once hidden from my view are now clear BECAUSE of detachment through joy humor amazement. I not only hold onto my dreams, I hold to my resolve to make they happen, I hold faithfulness with what I can do rather than what is easy, I hold fast to being the hands of God in the world.
Rick’s article is about Helen Luke & dreamwork. He quotes Luke referring to a T.S. Elliot poem & he includes several lines:
We shall not cease exploring
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
We are able to arrive back where we started, knowing the place for the first time because of detachment with joy humor amazement. Something for youngers to look forward to feeling, because it can’t be rushed; like all good things, even in this hurry scurry time, it will arrive when it’s ready.