A fellow blogger has just written a post called “So what now moment”. She is in her late 20’s traveling the world to discover what the future for her is to be, to find out what else is there besides what is in store for most young people in the west. She is very articulate and very fascinating. Check her out on http://tobefreejourney.com
This got me thinking. Not all of us are young, looking ahead to a productive life of family, career, and personal achievements. Some of us, in fact a lot of us are old and have left behind such concerns. Our families are grown up and our careers are behind us and we have mostly achieved or not achieved what we wanted out of life. Sometimes it gets too late to plunge once again into the maelstrom. we ourselves are faced with the same question as the lady of the blog. It is our “So what now moment”. But we face it from the other end of the spectrum. We have not the same needs, desires, dreams as she. The problem arises because we are healthier and live longer and have to show cause why we are alive today. Time was when people retired and sat by the fire waiting for the end. Couples looked after each other in their old age and sometimes died within months of each other. Things were tidy then. We try to be useful, look after our grandchildren, do some gardening, grow our own vegetables in our allotments, try a bit of sustainable living and do a little voluntary work. I must say voluntary work has undergone a corporate takeover where we have to clear security, show cause, do reports, be performance rated etc and that is not much of a pleasure anymore. So what now, we ask.
Sitting by the fire is no longer an option because we are the generation that has vibrant health, have the time and the knowledge and experience to do stuff that our children wrapped up in their daily work/family routines have not the time or luxury to do. If you have any social conscience you have this feeling of guilt that you are not contributing enough towards a productive society. But the fact is, we are locked out of most useful areas by age restrictions, by health requirements and let me say it, by sheer discrimination against older people. We are expected to put on our slippers and stay out of sight.
So what now, we ask ourselves! The yoga halls are full of older women bending and stretching their arthritic limbs. In my group there are people as old as 85 working out on the mat. Middle aged and older people have also taken to the road as much as the young ones. In the airport I met two men one 80 years old and the other 86, who travel regularly to Africa to haunt their boyhood hangouts. The Far East is full of the new version of the Dharma Bums seeking enlightenment. These are not new hippies. These are retired lawyers, professors, surgeons, judges and ambassadors. Their home culture no longer fuels their needs. They set out in search of “wider existences”, as Henry James calls it in his The Portrait of a Lady.
So. We are all now in the “so what now movement” as “tobefree” calls it in her blog. Is there an end or a solution for this dilemma among us older ones? Obviously there is no collective solution. We have to arrive at individual solutions suited to our needs and in accordance with our social situation. I can only speak for myself. I have done my own lot of traveling since I retired form full-time work and I discovered that it takes an awful lot of introspection. I had to get away from the constant media buzz…
(news, folks, is no longer news; it it is a constant self generating buzz that exists to keep the subsidised channels open; whether we watch it or not makes not one iota of difference)
…and the social pressures of living. I spent a lot of time away alone, writing my journals and reading like minded people.
Here are my conclusions. Stay alive and stay healthy. Enrich your personal life so you get a richness out of your existence. Yoga, meditation, social interaction, further learning are all part of this process. Stay moderate in your opinions. You are too old to get into a fight and get stressed. Ponder on your life and seek out some wisdom from the experiences you have gone through. Try to impart some of this wisdom to the younger generation and to anyone who will listen so they do not have to make the same mistakes you have made. If there are any personal achievements you want to get under your belt, go ahead, but don’t overstretch yourself. Remember you have nothing to prove! That is I think, the ultimate wisdom of old age.