Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Winter of Life


“The pine stays green in winter……..wisdom in hardship.”
                                                                                         -Norman Douglas

Seasons embody the flow and unfolding of life. Spring is about birth and our young years. Summer is about youth. Fall is about our adulthood, and winter is about our senior years, and the years in the Grove of Elders.

I have had a marvelous opportunity to spend a lot of time with my father in his grove of elders and also in his last years as his powers are fading. This is a very rich time; filled with times of great sweetness, great sadness, great loss, and great times where I can support him.

I have had the honor and the pain of helping my father, as much as he can let anyone help him, in this last stage of his life. He is an example of someone who never was able to let either of his parents in. One of the results is that he is not able to let others help him and he is not able to see who is trustworthy or not. He tends to trust those who don’t really know him, and who abuse him. He has been scammed and frauded by those who take advantage of the elderly. They befriend him and make him feel like they see him and really care for him. Then they continue to string him along with stories, taking bits of money weekly; and he believes them. It is easier for him to let them in because he can’t tell who is trustworthy.

When we are able to find a way to have some kind of relationship with those who brought us into life; we are much less susceptible to those who really don’t care.  We know what love and caring really feels like.

Although this isn’t an inspirational story, this is a true story and a cautionary tale, if you will, as we see how what is left undone in our lives affects us more and more as we age.

Ideally, in childhood we have the experience that we are taken care of. We can figuratively lean back into our parents and they take care of us. That is a very wonderful feeling. Even those of us who didn’t really get that experience because of events that happened in their lives can appreciate how valuable being able to be taken care of is. We even yearn for that experience.

When we are not able to connect with one or both of our parents in some real way, even if that way is to love them at a distance or to find a way to accept them as they are, as we age we become less instead of more. In other words, in the winter of life, if we haven’t been able to yearn for or love our parents in some way, we aren’t able to let other’s help us, and we aren’t able to discern well who is trustworthy and who is not trustworthy.

The winter of our lives can be one of completeness and a time of wanting and needing to share and give back to our community with the wisdom we have gained in our lives. What we have and haven’t completed in our own growth influences how we live out our lives in this crucial winter, this grove of elders, phase of our lives.

The winter of our lives is a reflection of how we have lived our lives. That is why it is so important, if we want to get better and better as we age, for us to see our truths and do the difficult things daily of making peace with ourselves, our lives, and those who have shaped us in our lives. Then as we age we can truly sage.

Recommended Resources:

As the theme for this year’s blogs is entwined with the seasons, and I am talking about the winter of our lives and our years, a wonderful book I heartily recommend is: Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World, by Bill Plotkin.

This book talks about the stages of our lives from a community and soul point of view. It gives us a slightly different perspective on what we go through and the things we can look for and experience in the different stages in our lives.