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As we age we decline. We sag. We fall. We bend like gorgeous gnarled branches.

The youthful ego does not enjoy going down. That ego wants to be lifted and admired and respected and bejeweled. As we approach the last thirty, or forty yard line, we are used to a certain amount of visibility in the public domain. We have been known for our accomplishments, whatever heights we may have climbed and our roles as Nurturers, and Doers. We are measured by others in the outer world by how we act and how we look, and our place in the social order. We are seen by what we have done with our lives.

But as our bodies soften and our exterior grows creases and cracks we have a choice to make. Will we be pursuing the ever elusive phantom of public significance? Or will we reach more towards being intimately known by our very closest, and treasured people?

Chasing our youth and our outer personas becomes a race to nowhere. The more we run, the further we have to go, because the sands of time crumble underfoot the harder we run. There is one certainty in this case of holding on to our self image and youth- time is not on our side.

If we dare to embrace this wrinkling of our skins and the diminishing of our public significance as a call to our inner lives and inner circles, we may find the golden ring after all.

If instead of asking- Who is calling me back? Who is looking up to me? Who finds me attractive? We ask our dearest ” Where are those darn mermaid coasters?

(ready to pour a delicious drink or Perrier with lime) and what matters most to you in your life right now?

We might just find a depth of sheen incomprehensible to those still climbing the unending dunes of public recognition.

Older doesn’t have to mean duller. It doesn’t have to signal resigned or retired. It is an option to shift the headlights from pointing obsessively to the road ahead -to highlighting the passengers sitting closest to you on the ride. As we age we can become more active than ever in cherishing the people that have shared our triumphs and heartbreaks.

If we learn to love the riders, even more than the ride, older age will not shrink us.

We may ultimately die alone, but every inch of time up unto that doorway can be filled with companionable light.

The sunset is never more glorious than joined with a sparkling glint of affection.

A hug and a laugh with someone who listens raptly to our stories is priceless.

A timeless and aimless sharing of music, art, writing, movies, or memories can fill the bottomless cup.

It takes tremendous courage to turn the warp speed of ambitions to the amble of reflective and connected living, but what it really takes is becoming receptive.

Allowing ourselves to foster the people near and dear to us, and refracting their light.

Taking that extra moment with people we meet along the way to see their humanity and amplify it with our wonder.

This reversal requires resisting the compulsion to be seen, and turning towards taking others in more truly and becoming the validating and valuing seers of their authenticity.

This is not the invisibility we fear as we age. This is the transforming of ego from self interest to stewardship and gratitude. We learn to see others in their complex glow and let them know in words, endearments, and gentle embraces. This witnessing sews ours souls to the eternal spirit of generosity.

Getting old is inevitable if we are lucky. Becoming an elder is an art. Elders know how to bend time with a wizened presence. Elders possess a deepness of kindness that can heal in an instant. Elders have a worshipful laugh that can instantly break a trance of self pity. Elders have a touch of tenderness that melts our hearts. Elders wield words like sacred torches pointing to what really matters. Elders know the true value of time.

So I ask you “Where are those mermaid coasters?” and “What matters most to you right now?”

by Jennifer Freed PhD

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