(photo used with permission by Jennifer Arlin)
A Children’s Song of the 1880’s
Come, said the wind to
the leaves one day,
Come o’er the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses
scarlet and gold,
For summer is gone
and the days grow cold.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. The rich colors of the leaves, the light chill in the air, the geese calling from their overhead flights, even the pine needles covering my yard – what a wonderful time to savor nature’s changing delights. Autumn has long been a metaphor for aging as well. Our bodies, our activities, our pleasures – they all change during our retirement years.
Yesterday, I visited a hand surgeon. We talked about the increasing throbbing pain at the base of my right thumb – a pain that gets worse when I cook, type, or knit. My research on the internet convinced me that I had tendonitis. As it turns out, I have something less exotic but still unwelcome – thumb arthritis. Thumb arthritis is common with aging, and occurs when cartilage wears away from the ends of the bones that form your thumb joint — also known as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. The doctor, smiling, said, “I’m not supposed to profile but this is very common for post-menopausal women over sixty.” Great! He advised me to stop knitting, at least for a while, and wear splints on both hands (I also have carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands) as a basic, first intervention. The hand splints certainly don’t make a fashion statement, not to mention the associated clumsiness. As the nurse was showing me how to use the splints, we laughed about what new jewelry I should buy to “coordinate” with my new splints. Hey, it helps to have a sense of humor and at least I don’t have to have surgery.
Some people focus on what they are losing in retirement. We may be losing our peak health and vitality, as well as a meaningful career. But, in the autumn of our lives, we have a wonderful opportunity to write a new script for our lives. We can focus inward on our spiritual journey. Living a mindful life opens the door to things we never had the time or focus for before– the beauty of the changing seasons, the connections we have to every other living being, the gratitude we realize for what we have, and the understanding of what really matters in life.
In an effort to rewrite my own life script, I’ve come up with a few goals for my mindful retirement journey. I hope they inspire you to embrace the autumn of your life and find fulfillment in aging. Following each goal, I list one action I’ve taken to “step into” mindfulness over the last week.
- Be present – to what is happening around me every day. Notice sounds, sights, smells, taste, and touch. Every day make it a point to be present to nature and the environment. Action: Jim and I spent time this week outside at night, gazing at the spectacular October supermoon – it was awesome!
- Be present – to what is happening inside me every day. Notice how my body feels, what thoughts I have, and what my heart tells me. Every day make it a point to be patient with myself, engage in healthy behaviors and be open to new ways of thinking and acting. Action: I have meditated every day this week, and focused on letting go of distracting thoughts.
- Be present – to what other sentient beings experience and feel. Be compassionate in all that I do. Every day make it a point to show patience and love to my family and to all animals around me. Action: I noticed my impatience with my dog, Titan’s, worsening incontinence and I focused on how little time it took me to clean up after him.
- Be present – to the community. Support and encourage other people’s life journeys. Every day be authentic and fearless in all of my endeavors. Action: I agreed to present a public class on mindfulness and meditation at my local library.
If you’re in the autumn season of your life, write an inspiring script for your everyday life journey. As Dr. Phyllis Rich said, “…then live into it, starting now, knowing that you won’t have control over everything that happens between here and there. But so what? Even though life has its own script, your job is to step right up to it, face it, and then choose. If not now, when?”
Autumn of Our Lives
by Bob Gibson
Its Autumn now and its the season
I’m getting old and there’s a reason
Were casting off our summers bloom,
Amongst falling leaves I feel in tune
Leaves are falling, disrobing the tree
My hair turning silver, in sympathy
Winds of change are in the air
Stripping us of our summer flare
A gunmetal sky at mornings half light
Heralds the winters darkest night
No birds sing to welcome the day
Migrations begun they’re on their way
Second year branches they start breaking
Like my old bones they start aching
We both are rooted to this place
Together the winter we will face