As we grow older, we need to learn new competencies particular to various eras in our life. For example, when we are very, very young, we need to learn the basics of taking care of ourselves, including personal safety, hygiene, dressing, etc. As adolescents, we put together a ‘persona’ that works for us, learn about having relationships, and perhaps begin to explore our sexuality. As we enter the workforce, we learn how to function in a political space, how to compete in productive ways, and, for some, how to succeed gracefully. Along the way, most of us learn how to relate in various contexts, determine what we value, and establish a variety of qualities that constitute our ‘character’ and our identity as a unique human being.
As I enter my mid-sixties, I am noticing there are a host of things I don’t know about growing older, things I need to learn in the coming years. Maybe my life might have been easier or richer if could have learned them earlier … or maybe in the big design of life, this is the way it is. Anyway, in this moment, I can see I still have many things to learn, including how to:
- Let go of many of the things I thought were terribly significant or important in years past, including dreams and ambitions that may no longer be realistic or that no longer motivate me
- Not compare my experience today with my memories or past experiences (or else I will be reliving the past rather than fully experiencing the rest of my life)
- Forgive anyone I haven’t yet forgiven
- Be complete with whatever victories or defeats I experienced along the way
- Be grateful for what I have
- Laugh at my changing body and love it the way I did in the past
- Say ‘Goodbye’ to friends and family as they pass away and appreciate what we shared without regrets
- Face and embrace feelings that I learned to avoid facing in earlier years through work, obligations or various distractions
- Accept that I am not going to be able to prevent the next generation from making the same mistakes I have made and to embrace them with compassion
Mostly I need to learn to die. By that I mean I need to learn to be fully alive beyond my ego-centered awareness. I need to learn who I am when I let go of everything.