Most of us on Orcas Island love our flowers. After our cold and wet rainy winters, the dreariness can do nothing but encourage hope for spring to come ASAP! When leaf and flower buds begin to emerge, our hearts well up with delight. We see the world as burgeoning perfection. All is good with the world.
Intrinsic beauty exists as much in the anticipation within our ecstatic hearts as it does in the bud itself. I have a Dogwood tree that brings me such joy. Every moment of it’s life cycle evokes sensations of rapture within me. It is a dance we do together. It is a dance I welcome into my life.
On the other hand, my body, over the years, has been unfolding through it’s own life cycle, always in a complete state of perfection, regardless of how I have chosen to judge that perfection. In my youth I wanted to grow into my fully mature self A.S.A.P. I was frustrated that I couldn’t hurry it up. I wanted to experience the sensations of a first kiss. I wanted to know what falling in love felt like. I wanted to know how it felt to experience a tiny growing baby within my belly as it move and kicked, and the experience of the bonding that takes place while nursing my babies at my breast.
When I blossomed into the woman I was, I was never satisfied. I worked at being fit because I wanted to look perfect and be perfect in my own mind. I imagined that I had the rest of my life to perfect me. I was right in some respects and not so right in others.
I remember the first signs of aging – the one that told me I was now officially in the declining years. I was 47 years old, and I saw that my skin was becoming crepe-like. At that moment, the bloom was off the rose for me – no pun intended.
Like so many people I speak to about aging, I too avoid looking in the mirror. When I see my reflection, what is looking back at me is not who I expect to see. Wrinkles, bags, sags, plumbs, with a little slouch for an added touch, glare back at me. I shut my eyes so as to pretend I can deny that I’m not the young one anymore. Why is it we don’t relish every wrinkle, every laugh line, every grey hair, every nuance of the humanness that this body – this being is experiencing? Why do we beat ourselves up? Why do we degrade the exceptional human experience that is occurring for the entirety of one’s life? We are such silly beings!
Since I’ve begun writing these articles and working in the Box Office at Orcas Center, I’ve shifted in the way I experience people – especially those I could consider old, not young. This begs the question – at least for me: Well, what were you experiencing before this shift, and, what actually shifted?
Before the shift, I experienced fear when I looked at aging people. I feared their differences. I feared the discomfort within me when I was in their presence. I feared the humiliation when I wouldn’t know how to talk with them in a respectful and kind way. I feared that my ignorance of the life of the elderly would have them feel isolated, ignored and unappreciated. I saw through the lens of imperfections, judgments; I was critical of every visible limitation. No wonder going to Senior Lunch was so difficult: Before the shift, I witnessed an environment of decline. The discomfort was unbearable. And it was only a reflection of my belief of what I would be evolving into.
Through the Aging-Who Me discussions at the Senior Center, through these articles, and through assisting people at the Box Office, the shifts that occurred have brought more reverence and compassion for all people. Like looking at a flower, regardless of its phase of life, I see the essential beauty and perfection that is within each individual. Where I used to assess and judge people in a matter of a nano-second, I now absorb the radiant beautify of who stands before me, or who is on the other end of the phone line.
Sometimes, I’m not so good at this. But I believe that the most valuable aspect of this shift I’m speaking of is that, I have become much aware of what drives my negative reactions to people in the world, and, I can catch myself more often than not when I experience within me that critical judge. I no longer enjoy feeling that feeling of judginess. I willingly desire and discipline myself to see everyone in the beauty of their essential nature. I like that feeling better.
The Illusion of moving from perfect to imperfect
Depending on the culture within which each of us has been raised, to one degree or another, we have learned to dismiss the elderly. And, those who are experiencing that dismissal are getting younger and younger – the corporate environment these days view people in their 40’s as over the hill and all washed up. The cosmetic companies make trillions of dollars training us to view the natural and beautiful aging process as a horrible affliction. We have learned to interpret every aspect of our being, whether we are men or women, not as perfectly perfect, but as embarrassing and humiliating. It is really sad, isn’t it?
The truth is, thought, that everyone of us is at choice to view the world through their preferred lenses. I just want to encourage people to choose to use the lenses which allow them to experience perfection evolving into perfection. It’s really not that hard, and it is actually an outrageously exquisite experience! Try it! You’ll like it!