Shortly after I founded Fierce with Age, an early susbscriber asked me: Why do you call your work “fierce with age” rather than “serene with age?”
Here’s what I replied. Serenity is something for which we all strive. But the mystics of many traditions have a broader understanding of what it means to walk the spiritual path. Most conceptions of spiritual development equate spiritual progress with letting go of the illusion of control and putting our faith into a power greater than ourselves.
Of course, most of us prefer the notion that we are calling the shots in our lives, applying ourselves to making things turn out the way we want, and feeling that we have mastery over our circumstances. But, the daunting part about aging is this: some and eventually all of our old tricks no longer work. We realize how much of our sense of mastery over our fates had always been limited, at best. At last, we are forced to loosen up our grip on the wheel of our lives, and led to confront our fears.
This psychologically and spiritually healthy vision of aging does not always look like serenity. While we may be quiet and peaceful sometimes, we may be rabble-rousing and making trouble, other times. Sometimes we are faced with external challenges, such as job loss and illness. Other times our challenges are internal: anxiety about the future, for instance or feelings of personal failure. The truth is, as long as we keep growing through life, there will be anxious moments, regrets and self-doubt. But there will be transiting, transforming and overcoming, too.
As I sit here typing, many months after this exchange with a subscriber, I am humbled and excited to be putting my own philosophy to the test. In a nutshell, Dan and I have succumbed to the irresistible call of our 3-year-old grandson Mason, my son and daughter-in-law to leave our beloved cottage in a canyon in Los Angeles to move thousands of miles across the country to Nashville, Tennessee. We did not come by this decision easily, but it feels right. Right for the time, for our situation, for our family, and so, I write this blog surrounded by boxes, waiting for the moving van to arrive.
I have alternately been ecstatic about what is to come, overwhelmed by the transition and grief-stricken about the loss of the life Dan and I have built for ourselves in our canyon home, a mood that one would never begin to categorize as “serene.” “Fierce” as in living life to the full is a much more apt description, and so it is I am not only moving, but deeply moved. I was deeply moved when our neighbor threw us a goodbye party and stood up to declare that “you are loved by us all”. I was deeply moved when we took little Lucky to play with her favorite dogs for the last time. We rubbed the terrycloth squeaky ball she’d been given against her friends’ fur in order to bring her favorite scents with her to our new home. I was deeply moved when I hugged my favorite tree in the backyard goodbye. I raised my family here. I transited the heat of my life in this canyon. It is hard to leave.
I will be simply happy again soon enough, as soon as those little arms reach around my neck and the siren’s voice shouts (probably too loud!) in my ear: “Grandma!” But meanwhile, I am reminded that in all of our life transitions, how important it is we not gloss over the losses….that we take time to mourn. In a moment, I will share with you a poem by my favorite memoirist and poet May Sarton that says it for me—and for all of us who have made difficult but right choices. But first, rest assured that Fierce with Age: The Digest of Boomer Wisdom, Inspiration and Spirituality will be out just about on schedule from our new digs in Nashville, Tennessee in a couple of weeks, and life will go on. We’ll resume our daily digests on Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In. We’ll have good times and challenges as before—just in a new time and place. Farewell, Los Angeles. You were good to me and I will miss you fiercely. And now the poem by Sarton.
Riches Made of Loss
Partaking wisdom, I have been given
The sum of many difficult acts of grace,
A vital fervor disciplined to patience.
This cup holds grief and balm in equal measure.
Light, darkness. Who drinks from it must change.
Yet I am lavish in riches made of loss.
–Carol Orsborn, Editor-in-Chief, Fierce with Age, Nashville, Tennessee