When the veneer is peeled back to reveal the reality of it, blogging---pretending to offer one’s own insight or wisdom---is like most human activities. It usually says more about the blogger than the world he or she claims to understand.
That was one of those personal insights that bubbled to the surface as I began a deeper look at ‘Becoming,’ especially late-life ‘Becoming.’ For a dozen years or more my stories and blogs have endorsed the virtues of using the gifts we have received and the time we have been given.
Yet rarely have I paused to wonder where that ‘Becoming’ obsession came from, or what it says about me. Then, somewhere in the course of this return to ‘Becoming,’ it began to sink in. For some reason I have developed an aversion to ‘wasting’ the God-given years I have left. I am not sure if that is normal, or even healthy, and I don’t pretend to know why that is, but I am sure that reality will color what follows.
Allow me to introduce Brene Brown, Ph.D. (www.brenebrown.com), an author and research professor at the University of Houston. As I noted in an earlier post, her emphasis on “growing into our gifts” strikes me as another way to frame the notion of 'Becoming.' I happen to believe that her closing remark ---”it’s time to show up and be seen” applies to us October and November types as much as it does to the midlife folks she is addressing.
Here is what she has to say.
I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hand upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
“I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing - these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt - has to go.
“Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.
“Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”
With that, let’s move on to ‘Becoming.’ As I explained a while back I am devoting a few posts to the in-depth exploration of some of the ideas and concepts I have addressed over the years in my writing about seniors, and the daunting world they face. Today’s post, about ‘Becoming,’ deals with a reality I have addressed in both novels and blog posts.
Perhaps I have returned to the notion of late-life ‘Becoming’ because so many of my peers seem to have settled for the status-quo, as if at their age they have nothing more to give? --- Disclaimer #1 - If that is my reason, it is far too presumptuous of me. How could I possibly know their degree of ‘settling?’ Besides, who am I to judge how they live their lives? I have trouble enough with my own.
On the other hand perhaps this ‘Becoming’ obsession of mine is a purely defensive mechanism, sparked by my own weakness---fueled by the guilt of having wasted so many opportunities, and having left so much of my own life undone. Or could it be that my extended exposure to Wayne Dyer’s mind-bending wisdom has tilted my brain in that direction.
Anyway, no matter the ‘why’ of it, ‘Becoming’ --- making the most of late-life in our own unique way --- has become an important focus of my stories and blogging---including today’s post. There is even a novel, of which I am rather proud, titled Becoming. The series of blogs I posted last summer, and the resulting book---Living With Dying---turned a spotlight on my efforts to continue ‘Becoming’ in the face of a serious medical diagnosis.
Along the way I have learned that in late-life, when the need to chase the almighty dollar is hopefully less urgent, there are many other satisfying reasons to keep ‘Becoming.’ Best of all there are few rules and no ‘right’ way to do that, beyond what you find fulfilling.
It was that thinking which had me subtitling these pages ‘Thriving in late life.’ True, at the time I was referring to our 60s and 70s. Now in my 80s here I am again, back for another bite of the apple.
So, first things first. Whatever our age and whatever our goal, ‘Becoming’ is a matter of change---of moving our thoughts and actions from Point A to Point B. To be clear, that minimal understanding makes no judgment about whether tomorrow’s Point B, the result of our change, is better or worse than today’s Point A. In the same way ‘Becoming,’ as a process, which does not imply any particular outcome, positive or negative.
There are other things we know about ‘Change.’ To begin with, it is a given---we are always changing. That is easiest to see over time. Take a moment to recall the person you were five or ten years ago. Can you identify some of the ways that you, the person you know best of all, have changed in that time. Now, take a peek into your crystal ball. Will the ‘you’ that appears four or five years from now look and feel like like today’s ‘you?’ (I realize, of course, that at 81 it is an act of faith to believe I will be here in five years.)
That look into a future we can’t actually see is apt to produce an obvious question. What is it we want to ‘Become?’ As I’ve said, the word itself denotes ‘change.’ And no matter where we are headed we will continue to change. We will not be the same next week as we were last week. That is a given. But can we influence the course and direction of that change? Can we choose the change we want, using our ‘Becoming’ to accomplish or avoid a particular result?
Many of us know how October and November can sneak up on a person. By now our ‘status-quo’ has certainly deteriorated a notch or two. Some of what we could once do, we no longer can. It probably feels like we are decelerating---sometimes slowly, sometimes not so slowly. And there are bound to be times when we believe the opportunity to become more than we are has passed us by.
I don’t want to sound like I spend my waking hours dwelling on nothing but ‘Becoming.’ Truth be told, it was the Living With Dying series I mentioned earlier that renewed my interest in how I could make better use of the time I have left, be it weeks or years. From that point of view, what options do we have?
On one hand, we can accept that we are too old and too set in our ways to become something more---whatever that means to us. In that case we can settle for what we have, and remember the good old days, while bemoaning the sad fact that those days are gone forever.
Or instead we can draw on a lifetime of hard-learned lessons to steer us toward a modestly-optimistic use of the gifts we still have in our quiver. Of course, our notions of what amounts to a worthwhile result have changed over the years. In my own hopeful moments I like to believe that my understanding of what makes me ‘whole’ and ‘complete’ has matured with time.
On the plus side, however, I believe that everything we need to create such change is close at hand. Actually, it has always been with us. If I am going to ‘Become’ something more than the person I am now the implied change, however modest it might be, must begin with me. There is no one else who can do that for me.
We are already familiar with the seeds that create change. They are called thoughts, and most of us have them every day---by the thousands. It is our thoughts about a desired result that trigger change, promoting the urge for something more or different---first as a wish, then as a willingness to imagine how a desired change might feel, and finally as a determination to follow through.
Of course our dreams of change must be realistic, as well as age-appropriate. In the end, however, achieving those dreams, whatever they may be, is not nearly as important as knowing in our hearts that we have done our best in that pursuit.
When all is said and done the choice---whether or not to keep moving ahead in our own way, at our own pace---is ours to make. The Divine Life Force I accept as real does not judge how far or how high our Becoming takes us. But rather, the test is how well we live out the Source’s love-based expectations.
To become more than we are today and expend our life energy, however limited it may be, on what we perceive to be a higher purpose---that is my idea of a worthy goal, something to strive for. That is especially true when those energies are pursued in the name of love, kindness, and caring, as opposed to meeting our need for ego-gratification.
You remember, don’t you---those dated images of late-life as ‘rocking chair’ time? I believe we are called to make it more than that. What form of ‘more’ works for us is our choice to make. No matter what we have in mind it will always begins with the same first step---a thoughtful decision to change, to keep Becoming.
It is not often I can include such graphic evidence to support my rambling logic. But when it comes to ‘late-life Becoming,’ and making the most of our senior years there is convincing proof close at hand, in the form of the recently published The New Senior Man, a companion volume to the earlier The New Senior Woman, by my friend Thelma Reese and her late collaborator, Barbara Fleisher.
Each of these books is devoted to contemporary examples of ‘Becoming’ in action---profiling dozens of men and women who have found their own very personal way of dealing with late-life. I recently checked out the following reviews for Senior Man, the latest of the two. I encourage you to click on the links below to read what the professionals think.
I have read the Senior Man volume from beginning to end. It is an amazing collection of stories that show how ‘Becoming’ can be lived out in many unique and different ways. Disclaimer #2 -- As I noted a couple months ago Thelma and Barbara, the ‘Elderchicks,’ were kind enough to include my October adventure in their assortment of New Senior Men stories.
With that you have heard my pitch for ‘Becoming.’ I happen to believe it should be an important fact of late-life. At any age we are on the way to somewhere. Why not chart that course ourselves, rather than trust some random fate to take us somewhere?