In the aging place on this Wednesday after the Tuesday of Nov. 6

“It is a place of fierce energy,” Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote about being old (in her 1968 book The Measure of My Days). It was a place she had no idea existed until she arrived. Perhaps “passion would be a better word than energy,” she continued, for she was in her 80s and putting her “vivid life” into action meant she was soon “spent.”

I was reminded of these words on the passion of the aging place when I found myself in a conversation about immigrants and asylum seekers in Canada. There I was, arguing passionately — full throttle really — against the politics of resentment and fear I saw in the battle of the U.S. midterm elections but see in this country as well and heard reflected in the conversation.

Obviously a kind of ferocity still inhabits this place of my aging. Should I regret this? Had I imagined that serenity or tranquility or whatever quiet moderation “wisdom” implies would have no room for passion of this sort? I think I can say that a kind of serenity is slowly being won in the place of my aging, but certain lines of opinion remain passionate. I want these to be the lines for love, justice, big tent theology, big tent politics. I had actually come to believe, over my particular lifetime, that the world was heading (struggle notwithstanding) in a more generous direction. I’ve lost optimism on that. I’m not out of hope, but hope itself seems, today at least, necessarily fierce and bristly.

Two articles

Today, since my daughter and I are off to Seattle for two days, in a very-mini-substitute for a holiday we’d planned for Ireland last May*, I’m simply sharing two articles that nourished me this week.

First, “Courage through Small Things” by Carol Howard Merritt which follows perfectly on thoughts I shared last Wednesday about watching the news. In the comments to my post, Susan Meredith Fish asked about “strategies” I was trying to be “watchful” (not just “watch”) in the current news environment. I replied that I may take a meditation break to regain calm, “pray” the news, or make myself read for a long stretch (which is wonderful once I get past the early temptation to interrupt myself and check what’s new). And I love Merritt’s advice to find courage through small things. I read her piece on another heavy news day in the Judge Kavanaugh saga. But I did some small and ordinary things that day: made soup for supper, also made bread, and put in a solid couple of hours of writing.

I also liked a post at ChangingAging.org called “What’s Your ‘And’?” by Jeanette Leardi. She draws on a basic principle of improvisation drama to suggest a simple technique for positively improvising our way through our aging stage. Whatever life throws us, finding an “and” to it will help.

 

*Update note. The May trip was cancelled because of my husband’s cancer diagnosis. I’m glad to say that radiation treatments have done him a lot of good, alleviating pain and currently holding the cancer at bay, though we’re not quite ready to re-schedule the special Ireland adventure.

Watching the news

I’ve always been a news junkie. I credit my upbringing. In our family, the daily news was almost sacrosanct.

Today’s news environment, constantly looping, constantly available on internet feeds and cable networks, feels quite different from a once-a-day newscast and/or newspaper, however. What’s also different is that I’m older, thus more flexible time-wise, so when a president’s speech to the U.N. is carried live, or there’s a public hearing involving a Supreme Court nominee and his accuser, I can watch. And usually, I do.

And then, of course, it’s possible to keep checking the endless subsequent punditry and chatter. (I write at the computer.) Because an answer is continuously available, my mind continuously begs “Has anything else happened?”

Trouble is, the news may rivet, but in a week like this one, it affects me too. Disturbs, that is, not reassures.

The obvious solution, which some people seem to manage, is:  turn off completely, just live your “other” life. I’ve been thinking about that. But I’ve concluded that withdrawal is not where I land. I want to keep up. In fact, being older, I feel it something of a duty. I want to keep up because I’m still alive, and because of my grandchildren (since I have enough span by now to evaluate the word “historic” when tossed about for current affairs).

But how does a person live the calm of “watchful” instead of the anxious compulsion of “watching”? I have some strategies on the go but I have to confess, at this point it’s a big challenge.