“365 Days of Mindfulness” [Day 45] The Grace and Elegance of Aging Mindfully…

I am moving into a time in my life that fits me better than any age before. I will be 60 in a few months and I am heaving a sigh of relief to be entering this time when things soften, slow down, when one can appreciate the smallest things because they are not racing fast and faster to get somewhere. We are already here.

Of course the women that I admire most, who have aged like a fine wine or a good cheese, neither of which can be rushed, are in their 80’s. There is grace. I don’t believe it is possible to fully embrace and live mindfulness with every fiber of your being until you begin to grow older because those who are  younger are always working so hard to get where they are going that they rush past many of the most exquisite moments of the day ~ watching a single leaf fall through the air from the tree to the ground, watching, in awe, a tiny chickadee at the feeder, or the rising and falling of the soft silken chest of the sweet dog in their lap, and so many other tender moments throughout the day.

This does not mean that as you grow older you don’t still have dreams, work you want to do, plans for the days ahead, but there is not so much the sense of hurry, one breathes and walks slowly toward their destination, pausing to treasure each tiny miracle before them.

As I was preparing to write this entry today it came to me, what I wanted to share. I have shared this often in my writings over the years because it is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It is Colette writing about her mother Sido who wrote a letter to one of her husbands about why she couldn’t come for a visit, and is the epitome of the beautiful dance of mindfulness that only someone growing toward the latter part of their long life can know or understand…

“Sir,

You ask me to come and spend a week with you, which means I would be near my daughter, whom I adore. You who live with her know how rarely I see her, how much her presence delights me, and I’m touched that you should ask me to come and see her. All the same I’m not going to accept your kind invitation, for the time being at any rate. The reason is that my pink cactus is probably going to flower. It’s a very rare plant I’ve been given, and I’m told that in our climate it flowers only once every four years. Now, I am already a very old woman, and if I went away when my pink cactus is about to flower, I am certain I shouldn’t see it flower again.

So I beg of you, sir, to accept my sincere thanks and my regrets, together with my kind regards.”

“This note, signed ‘Sidonie Colette, née Landoy,’ was written by my mother to one of my husbands, the second. A year later she died, at the age of seventy-seven.

“Whenever I feel myself inferior to everything about me, threatened by my own mediocrity, frightened by the discovery that a muscle is losing it’s strength, a desire its power, or a pain the keen edge of its bite, I can still hold up my head and say to myself: ‘I am the daughter of the woman who wrote that letter — that letter and so many more that I have kept. This one tells me in ten lines that at the age of seventy-six she was planning journeys and undertaking them, but that waiting for the possible bursting into bloom of a tropical flower held everything up and silenced even her heart, made for love. I am the daughter of a woman who, in a mean, close-fisted, confined little place, opened her village home to stray cats, tramps, and pregnant servant girls. I am the daughter of a woman who, many a time, when she was in despair at not having enough money for others, ran through the wind-whipped snow to cry from door to door, at the houses of the rich, that a child had just been born in a poverty-stricken home to parents whose feeble, empty hands had no swaddling clothes for it. Let me not forget that I am the daughter of a woman who bent her head, trembling, between the blades of a cactus, her wrinkled face full of ecstasy over the promise of a flower, a woman who herself never ceased to flower, untiringly, during three quarters of a century.”

~ Colette, Earthly Paradise ~

It is just so. Even now as I work on building a business to support myself, care for my animals, and send money to the charities that are in my heart, as well as do work that will help others, I have let go of the frenetic pace that I have often tried to hold onto to my detriment. Aging suits me, my bi polar disorder is more easily managed at a slower pace. I am making decisions I would not have made before, more and more all the time, and each one moves me further along the path that will lead me to my deepest heart where I will discover and live out my soul’s purpose. This is only possible when we let go of the layers and layers of long-held expectations of others that we have tried to live up to, always falling short, trying to live a life to please others. Even when I tried I did not succeed, and the harder I tried and the more I fell short the deeper I felt the pain — you simply cannot live the lie of trying to wear a “suit of clothes” that you think will finally enable you to fit in with others. You will not fit, it doesn’t work that way. I have been peeling the layers for a very long time and now I am ready to walk naked through my life, living only the inner imperative to love and give and do and be all that I am, to the best of my ability, all the days of my life. It is so like what Yeats expressed in his beautiful poem, one of my favorites, A Coat

“I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.”

I have no desire to cover myself with old mythologies, no customs, or traditions, celebrated by the world around me. To that end this very day I decided not to have a Christmas tree this year. This will shock many people and one or two in particular will all but insist that they bring me a tree but I don’t want or need it. They are beautiful, and I enjoy them, but the beautiful twinkling lights all over the cottage, the fire I will light tonight for my friend and I when she comes over to watch my favorite Christmas movie, a tradition since I was young, and in fact the movie came out the year I was born, 1954, White Christmas. We will have special snacks and a drink, laugh and hug and talk about our children and grandchildren and how our life and days are going, and I will walk her out through the beautiful white and blue Christmas lights that cover the cottage. There is the magic that I need, my outward manifestation of the holiday, the thing that says “I believe in magic!” and I revel in it’s beauty, filled with glee like a small child every time I see it. No, I will not have a tree this year. There is more enterprise in walking naked. I will not do anything, any longer, because it is the thing to do. I will live my life with joy, that is enough.

I would feel very much like Sido, I would not miss the blooming of the cactus, nor will I miss a Christmas tree this year. I am happy. I am at peace. That is all I need.

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