What is the Wabi-Sabi of Aging?

Wabi-Sabi: The Japanese phrase for the art of
beautiful impermanence and rustic decay.

TucumcariLock#2

Tucumcari Lock  Suzanne Lorenz©2015

When I turned 60 I started realizing I was at an age that some people labeled as old. I suddenly became a senior citizen, headed for the passive rocking chair, a crone. It started to sink in that there were less days ahead than the days left behind. I started to worry. Fear began to take over my life as I began to see all the perils that could occur without my control. I didn’t know what was going to become of me. I thought of my journey forward as a gauntlet that I had to run through and  hope I dodged the cancer-heart attacks-strokes-fatal falls that were the arrows thrown at me as I dashed towards an unknown death at an unknown age. I had dreams of driving blind down long dark tunnels and being trapped in the car with no way out. On top of that misery was the unknown about who would die first, me or Sam, and how would I live without the love of my life if it were him, and sorrow at him living a life without me if it were me.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. ” Anonymous

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Chico Wall 79 ©Suzanne Lorenz 2012

I started reading. First Carl Jung then Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and then other spiritual books. I remembered and looked up Erik Erikson’s stages of development for children and adults and realized I had lived through the 7th stage of his adulthood matrix; generativity versus self-absorption (Care). I realized my generativity had resulted in starting two successful businesses, employing multiple people, and co-writing two books. I was also active in my art, showing at galleries and art shows regularly. After many years of planning and recovery we were financially wealthy. I was in good health, physically fit, went to yoga 3 times a week and was engaged in my life. I finally had a supportive relationship with my adult children and was looking forward to being a grandmother for the first time. We were beginning the process of planning our next chapter of retirement and were confident it would happen gracefully. I said the Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous) every day to remind myself of my spiritual commitment to be connected in service to others.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” 
CS Louis

HeartWall

Heart Wall © Suzanne Lorenz 2013

In reading about Carl Jung’s life, I discovered he didn’t produce his best writings until after the age of 80. I discovered that my life was not shrinking, but had the potential for amazing expansion as I looked forward to more free time and a closer alignment with living out my values. And aging is real. It’s such a strange and odd trip, how the passing of time affects my mind, body and spirit. It’s really true that I have less short term memory and more long term memory. It’s true that my body’s metabolism is practically down to zero. It’s true that I have to fight every day to keep fear, regret, despair, isolation and self-consciousness from dominating my thoughts and actions. I now have a true sense of the last stage of Erik Erikson’s developmental stages; integrity versus despair (Wisdom).

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Luning, Nevada © Suzanne Lorenz 2013

“You get old and you realize there are no answers, just stories.” Garrison Keillor

Here’s my story:
A friend and I were having tea the other day in a coffee shop. We were speaking about his recent retirement and our aging process.
“I can’t hear, can’t see, can’t taste, can’t remember a thing, but I am having a helluva good time!” he said.
“So, in other words,” I said, “our senses are ebbing but we’re still able to have fun?”
“Well, many of my senses may be ebbing but two senses are growing: my sense of humor and sense of appreciation!”
“Okay, okay” I said.“I know! My sense of smell, which has never been good, is going. Same with my sense of taste. My sense of sight and hearing diminish as we speak and my sense of balance is for sure fading. Forget about my sense of time and direction— they’re gone completely. But guess what? My sense of humor, sense of gratitude, and sense of self are increasing every single day. My sense of life as a creator of art, and my sense of being a good partner are also increasing.” I stopped. We just looked at one another and smiled.

RPO

Post Office, Randsburg, California ©Suzanne Lorenz 2015

12 thoughts on “What is the Wabi-Sabi of Aging?”

  1. Here’s a hearty toast to “impermanence!” In his eighties my dad used to exclaim: “change? get used to it!” I trust my humor and joy will flourish as I embrace so many passages in my life.

  2. Oh Suzanne, what a lovely tribute to aging. Thanks for reminding me about the sense of appreciation. And if Carl Jung didn’t do his best writing until age 80+ then there’s great hope for the rest of us. Wahoo!

  3. I find myself enchanted by your photographs. I read your blog like i used to read Life Magazine, check out the photos and then go in for the info. i love the fact that what matters most as we age increases, and I could stand to not have as many distractions getting in my way. My dad used to say,” what noise? ah I don’t have to worry about that!” Write On!

  4. Suzanne, thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone in what I’ve been experiencing this past year.
    So instead of focusing on what I no longer can do, my goal is finding new experiences, that both Brian and I can share. The possibilities are endless!
    This blog is my favorite inspiration. Thanks so much❤️

  5. Well, I’m not quite there yet and have aways to go, 20+ years to get there, but I am in the Wednesday of my life and have an idea of what you mean. But also because of my health issues now, you’re more active than me at my age today, versus you at yours and you went to your first meeting when I was 7! But I have to say, I never feel an age difference except when you talk about a Joan Baez and say you WERE THERE when she first started playing. You and Sam are such “young” (for lack of a better term, timeless?) people and you’ve kept up with technology, and things that didn’t even exist most of your life. Not every does this, not everyone can, not everyone sees the importance, so from my perspective I think you have the ideal retirement life. Not that that takes away all the worries, fears, realities you’ve spelled out above, but how great to just be dealing with real reality and not everything else?

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