Yikes! Forgot to add my own musings to Rabbi Dayle Friedman’s eye- & spirit-opening Sanctuary in Time –Spending Our Precious Time Mindfully! Where WAS my brain yesterday – also misplaced my daily journal! At least I can make amends by tagging my favorite bits & pieces from Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older’s Chapter 13. Better late than never!
Reb Zalman was vivid and eloquent, intellectually brilliant, but physically somewhat frail. He had survived cancer, he lived with the chronic illnesses typical of a person in his ninth decade. … He felt a tension about this time in his life. … (He felt) impelled to do more of the teaching and creative redefinition of Judaism that had been his life work, … (yet) he was also feeling what he called “mitochondrial tiredness”; he recognized that his energy was more and more limited. In the couple of years before his death at nearly ninety years old, he felt drawn to confine his involvement to what was most essential. – – As one of the countless who revered Reb Zalman, I was well aware of his physical condition & clear mind at the time Rabbi Friedman describes. He was so much like my mother, not wasting time thinking about how he HAD been, focused on what he could do in the present moment. And, like Mom did unexpectedly in her Mindwalker1910 shares, leaving what was passed along as a torch for younger others to take up. ~ ~ I was blessed to have in my mother someone who embodied what Rabbi Friedman describes as feeling “drawn to confine his involvement to what was most essential.” In her closing years, Mom was drawn to consider something she’d ignored all of her life – “Who is ME?” That question became an adventure, a quest she stook from the comfy confines of the big chair that Brenda describes as “in the Stickley style.”
He allowed his students to carry his work forward to the future. … He said the key question we must all answer as we move forward to the future is … have we made sure that we have passed on the wisdom, learning, love, and memories we wish to out live us? – – This is a challenge in today’s culture, at least in the USA. It seems that having both parents working has become the norm, as has crazy busy schedules for kids – especially in middle & upper middle class families. When is there the time for olders elders ancients to pass “on the wisdom, learning, love, and memories” they wish to out life them? Saddest of all, I’ve experienced olders who brush aside giving those very things any value, so they make no effort to share them. And when would they? How many grandfathers teach grandchildren how to work a lathe or hook a worm? How many grandmothers have the opportunity to pass along sewing or gardening skills, love of learning or old movies? It’s no small thing to make chocolate chip cookies with grandchildren, to teach them how to make & fly a kite. We need, as a society, to figure out how to restore the intergenerational connections that have been increasingly lost over the past 50+ years. Their value might be underrated & their importance shrugged off, but I fear the loss will have unexpected, dire consequences.
As we grow older, we are more and more acutely aware of the finitude of our life. We know that this present moment will not come again. … Every day offers a special purpose for each person; there is cosmic repair that can only be done by this individual, and only on this day. – – Sadly, it feels like most people experience this reality as ominous rather than as a priceless opportunity. How to get others to embrace that every day offers a “limited time” opportunity to make daily cosmic repairs?
We must be aware of what draws us, and to clear space to make it possible for us to respond. … How do we manage this discernment? Personally, I struggle with this constantly. … So, I prune … (and) swear I will never become overprogrammed again. But then … new commitments crop up. … I, like so many of us, suffer from geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas calls in his book Second Wind, “time poverty and hurry sickness.” – – How does American society cure itself of the “time poverty & hurry sickness” that seems to becoming epidemic?
Another common struggle is the sense that time is too empty, what author Florida Scott-Maxwell called, “a desert of time.” Some of us find it difficult to think of what it is we want to be doing. Or we have physical limitations that get in the way of our desires. – – People who have a purpose are less affected by empty time – their capabilities might lessen in one area, but their purpose (not goal) adapts. Too many people have goals that aren’t rooted in purpose. The concept of purpose typically came out of a spiritual grounding, or at least an ethical one. “What are we doing that’s useful to others?” is very different from just asking “What’s a useful thing to do?” I don’t know of a major faith that doesn’t give great value to being of service, to serving a purpose.
Alas, some have the whacked out idea that our sense of purpose dwindles as we age ever upward. My personal experience is it intensifies. Having a sense of purpose deflects the deleterious (love to get to use that word!) effects of growing significantly older – it is like a river that finds a way to flow around boulders, taking fresh energy from the challenges.
We need to be mindful of what is central to us at all times so that we will choose activities and projects that are harmonious with this moment’s core call. – – see above
Perhaps this time of life is an opportunity for discovering new ways to inhabit time. … Perhaps we need… a “shomer” (keeper) – a friend or colleague who will remind us of the call we have committed to answering, perhaps gently challenging us if we have become distracted or too busy to attend or if we seem to be having difficulty mobilizing ourselves. – – I think of “Aunt” Benita Odhner, of Hubert Synnestvedt, Sarah Headsten & so many other “up there” olders in my life who were as vibrant & engaging in elderhood as earlier, in spite of being confined by health or the vicissitudes (another fun word!) of old age. Each discovered new ways to inhabit time, had loved ones & friends who kept them amped up.
What may have drawn us last year or last month may not be the thing for today or tomorrow. – – Some people have a HARD time with this reality. The people I mentioned & others who were like Mom didn’t. Each shared the common trait of curiosity, freeing them to let go of what was & to keep a beady eye out for the new, the fresh, the waiting-to-be-discovered.
“Time is perpetual presence, perpetual novelty. Every moment is a new arrival, a new bestowal. Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy. The moment is the marvel.” ~ Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1961 White House Conference on Aging This brings to mind a posting Mom wrote on 05/09/01, as we geared up to celebrate her 91st birthday. Energized is filled with moments of joy – a ramble home with Peter after an eye doctor’s appointment, phone calls from Mike & Kerry & from Mim, her delight at Whitney & Chad moving into their first home, bidding adieu to one online discussion group & joining a new one, looking forward to her birthday party which she is glad is in the afternoon (“more restful for my ancient bones”). Mom’s openness to setting aside what she WAS drawn to & embracing the new – leaving one online discussion group as she joined a new one – was what let her fit so much into her day & life.
“Time is perpetual presence, perpetual novelty. Every moment is a new arrival, a new bestowal. Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy. The moment is the marvel.” To which Mom, “Aunt” Benita, Hubert Synnestvedt, Sarah Headsten & so many of my mentors & role models for flourishing whatever your age, would say, “Amen & hallelujah!”