Gifts of Age ( Part One): I Can See the Door from Here.
I’ve never been a person who lives in the present moment. I have always been mentally rushing pell mell into the future. I’m either worrying about running late, planning ahead to avoid a possible problem, or dreaming hopefully about a future project or stage of life. Hitting Medicare age definitely presents a challenge for people like me. We have to face that we may be running out of future.
In my early sixties I developed some health problems. Though not life threatening, they were time consuming. Suddenly, I was spending a lot of time in Doctors’ waiting rooms. People who live with one foot in the next minute, day, or year are not naturally patient people. Sitting for hours in small rooms listening to people in more advanced states of physical decay is a definite stressor for us. Although I have the domestic talents of a Gabor sister (though unfortunately not the physical endowments), a friend suggested that I take up crocheting to help me stay calm. It was stretching my limits to learn how to simply make straight rows of approximately equal width and of whatever length that the time in a waiting room allowed. This was amazingly soothing, an experience of grace. However, it began to cause others frustration, when they asked me what I was making and I replied, “Nothing.”
It would seem that for many people, making nothing challenges the very foundations of their value systems. It is at the very least unpatriotic, if not ungodly. So, I found myself getting much unsought advice on useful things I could be making. I finally realized that I was actually, though accidentally, accumulating a collection of what appeared to be winter scarves. Admittedly, some were long enough to come to the knees of NBA basketball players, but still it gave me an answer for the Martha Stewarts of the waiting rooms. And as I ran out of family members with birthdays about the time cold weather arrived, I was inspired to begin donating them to a homeless shelter. Now, I was not only calm, domestic, and productive, I was altruistic.
This period of difficulty along with its gratuitous side effects brought alive a sermon I had heard back when I lived in the land of denial. A many seasoned Minister had passed on these gems, “Life is hard.” and “For every goodie, there’s a baddie and for every baddie, there’s a goodie.” It seems impossible that I lived to sixty without admitting to myself that life really is hard. But since, I always focused on the wonderful untarnished possibilities of the future, it happened kind of naturally. For dreamers, running out of future means slamming into a brick wall called reality.
We’re like the joke about the two little boys, one a complete pessimist and the other an incorrigible optimist. The pessimist was put in a room with all the toys imaginable for a boy his age. After a few moments he began to sit dejectedly ignoring them all. When asked what the problem was, he replied, “I just know they’ll break, if I play with them. Or my mom will put a lot of them away for later, so I don’t want to like them and have to give them up.” Meanwhile, the optimist had been put in a room full of horse manure, where he was cheerfully singing and excitedly digging his way toward the bottom of the pile. When asked why he was so cheerful, he replied, “With this much manure, there’s bound to be a pony in here somewhere!”
Actually, both worrying about worst case scenarios and dreaming impossible dreams are attempts to avoid reality.
Since we are only given grace for the trouble at hand, not for those we imagine for tomorrow, my biggest challenge is learning to live in the present moment. Sometimes the brick walls of reality are themselves the agent of grace. There’s nothing like running out of future for providing motivation for living in the present. So the upside of hitting Medicare age is that it can open up a whole new way of being in the world.
There is always enough grace for the moment even for a dreamer/ worrier like me. With the grace of God I can learn to “seize the day!”