The Circle Game of Life.
I have officially been an older person for some time.
I still remember the shock of seeing the senior citizen discount on the Denny’s menu and the ads on TV for AARP, realizing I was eligible for both.
I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, sadly a body that isn’t the one I had when I was 40, much less 50.
Those forgiving pants that writer Anne Lamott talks about aren’t as forgiving anymore, and I ask myself: How did this happen, even though I exercise and eat right?
But as I get older, I find I have to work extra hard at it with less energy. And wasn’t it just the other day I was a gawky beanpole, going to a Beatles concert, or a greenhorn working at my first newspaper job, terrified I would fail at this writing thing? Um. Nope. Happened decades ago.
So here’s the truth of it, kiddos: Time flies as you grow older. Really. To some of you it may not seem that way, but believe me, I think there’s some kind of Divine accelerator button that gets pushed after each decade. It could also be a quantum physics thing, but I’m not sure.
And that’s also part of the aging process. You learn. If you’re open, you do learn. I used to laugh when older folks would say, “If only I knew then what I know now.” Truth.
You learn that life gets messy; people can be loving or cruel; your bank account ebbs and flows; some nights dread and anxiety will drown your soul because you feel you haven’t done a danged thing with your life that amounts to anything.
And then life will turn around and gobsmack you with the birth of a child, the perfumed scent of earth after a summer’s rain, an unexpected $5 you dig out of your jeans pocket.
If you’re a spiritual being — and I believe we all are — you learn that God is in everything and everywhere. Even in that politician or dictator or serial killer you despise.
God doesn’t play favorites, and loves each person with this kind of cosmic abandon I will never fathom.
It’s such a relief to know that this love is totally accepting, always available, and beckoning me, even though I screw up a lot and don’t always tap into it.
And as to that word God? We seem to have really created messes over that one.
In whatever ways you term that Divine source of love — and how can you define something so ineffable — that Supreme Being starts to become more visible to you as you age, in all creation, from that speck of a spider to raging waterfalls to that person sitting next to you on the evening train from work, sound asleep and snoring.
As you approach the end of your timeline, you find that life starts taking more and more things and people away.
You’ve lost those you love or you look at those you love who are dying and you weep in anticipation of that, knowing it is part of the process and you will grieve and have bad days and then go on again. And you realize your turn is getting closer and you wonder — what will that feel like?
After all, you’ve never had this particular death experience before, and yes, fear creeps in, as well as wonder and awe at approaching another stage of life that is probably pretty amazing.
So here are two stories to end.
A friend of mine lost her mother a few years ago. She was having a bad time of it, and woke one morning to find the most unusual, magnificent sunrise streaked across the skies. Then she heard her mother’s voice: “This is only a small portion of what it’s like here, to be in the presence of God. The face of God is so beautiful I don’t want to miss a single second of it.”
And then there’s Sam, a neighbor who is 95. Lanky and tall, he walks twice a day, if not more, puffing away at his cigar. I asked him once about the secret to a long life.
He told me: “I smoke my cigar, I take a nap, then I take my medicine.” He paused and winked. “And you know what my medicine is, don’t you? A shot of whiskey.”
As I head into another year of my life, I hold on to one of my favorite quotes by spiritual teacher Ram Dass:
“We are all just walking each other home.”
So, here’s to that shot of whiskey, to the insanities and joys of the human experience — and to walking each other home.
Marielena Zuniga is growing older each day and admits it. Her 40-year career as a retired journalist and creative writer has been a tapestry of words, allowing her to explore the stories behind the story and interview exceptional souls on the planet, from the homeless to celebrities. In that process, she has been proud to write about women’s issues as well as matters of faith and spirituality. Her writing has earned prestigious journalism awards and her inspirational writing has placed in the top 100 of the annual Writers Digest Magazine contest. She writes a hope-filled blog Stories for the Journey: Reflections on Life and the Spirit and she is in the process of writing her second novel, not without angst. Marielena resides in Bucks County, PA, home to Pearl Buck and James Michener, and she prays their creative energies visit her often.