Expanding with Love into Our Elder Years
Being Visible, Vivacious and Valued in Maturity
Post-Christmas and New Year, in the northern hemisphere the season can feel like an anti-climax where the warming love and joie de vivre drain out of life. The third Monday in January has even been named ‘Blue Monday’, when people are reputed to feel down and depressed at the prospect of more winter still to come.
I find there is a fine paradox here: between stepping expansively into the early New Year with enthusiasm, vivacious plans, a spirit of engaging in fresh activities and self-betterment – then, later, finding oneself contracting, languishing glumly in the cold, gloomy torpor of après-festivity, with spring and summer, growth and gilded brightness seeming still distant and out of reach. This paradox can apply to a bigger cycle, beyond the seasons of the year, to that of our ‘season’ or time of life, our elder years when visibility and value might appear dimmed rather than expanding with love.
As we mature into the later stages of our lives, when the clichéd ‘golden years’ arrive, are we more likely to visibly expand, loving and valuing ourselves and our life, embracing change and opportunity, engaging in new, stimulating activities and pastimes? Or do we contract into a more limited, low visibility, less interesting and lethargic life of familiarity and repetition? I have been pondering this recently, when a persistent cold sapped my vitality and enthusiasm into a hampering cloudy grey cloak of temporary colour blindness. Raising the energy to do anything seemed a challenge. Although I had several interesting and rewarding projects in progress, I was feeling tempted to abandon all but essentials and ‘retire’ or ‘contract’ myself into a quieter life.
After time for reflection and recovery, some deep self-care and rest, it occurred to me that I had forgotten the basic fact that winter is the time for lying fallow, a perfectly natural state. I only needed to take a look at my gardens and the forest surrounding us to be reminded that the land is dull, grey and – ostensibly – lifeless. It is resting and replenishing for its springtime and summer burgeoning.
Yet, on careful examination, it is teeming with life, just a subtler shade of life than the more vibrant, warm seasons offer. There remain many birds; robins, jays, woodpeckers, coal tits, great tits and blue tits, hawks, egrets, blackbirds, thrushes, crows, magpies; moles, even a wall lizard emerging the moment the sun shone in the courtyard, plus the evident activities of the deer, consuming the hedges as usual, and the wild boar, providing uninvited agricultural tractor services in demolishing the lawns. The red squirrels are still racing to retrieve their hoards of nuts, the winter jasmine and hellebore are flowering, and I can see buds forming on the camellias and magnolias. Allowing temporary contraction and rest in order to emerge, blossoming, after a period of quietude.
It is these cyclical periods of contraction which facilitate emergence. But unlike the natural and brief seasonal cycles of Nature’s annual growth, we cannot allow ourselves to treat our entire autumn or winter years as a period of contraction. We may need to allow more frequent rest periods and fallow times, adjusting to our conditions, but our precious elder years can be an increase, an explosion of creativity and new discoveries.
Our 6,000-plus Silver Tent Facebook community is an exemplar of many fascinating, lively and gifted women over 50, who are extracting juiciness and joy in abundance from loving their lives. Since the whole ethos behind The Silver Tent is based on founder Francesca Cassini’s desire to reposition and reframe post-fifty women, and their value, as vital to society as a whole, it is unsurprising that we enjoy the exploits, enterprise and energy of a dazzling array of characterful people. And equally, that we bear loving witness to the loss, sadness and frustration that is also a natural part of all life, of being whole; and that we offer, unconditionally, love, support, compassion, listening, and understanding.
When our energy is low, or we experience loss, when ill-health, incapacity or injury appears – and even when it is simply cold and damp and our bones and muscles let us know we are no longer 25 years old! – we can contract, slipping into a self-deprecating sense of being too old, past our prime, doubting our value. We cannot access our sense of possibility and we withdraw. If, unsupported, we lose our self-love, our positive self-regard, and our bigger vision, we can start to think we do not have the right to be fully-participating members of society or in our own lives; that we should be on the side-lines, spectating in the audience, rather than metaphorically (and in reality) participating, dancing on the stage or coursing magically around the track of life.
Spirits on a Human Journey
Whilst respecting and allowing all the natural processes of grieving, healing and recovery, we can still retain our integrity as whole beings, as spirits currently having a human journey, as Teilhard de Chardin described it. This is when we will be enlivened by remembering to expand and extend, to reflect, to allow ourselves scope to love ourselves and our lives, to be spirited, to connect with and relish others and Nature, to try something new.
Zest in Elder Years
Holding this idea of expanding helps us to experience the continuing pulse of warmth and zest that is our undeniable birth right as an elder sister of humanity. Accepting the signs of ageing, with grace, we will not deny our badges of maturity, our wrinkles, our aches and pains; instead we will learn to love and welcome them, lightly, as precious symbols of our wisdom and courage to live and flourish as spirited Sisters, in the golden glow burnishing our elder years.
A passionate advocate for Love at Work in our lives, for creativity, human potential and global transformation, I have a rich leadership and transformation ethos, absorbed and refined from my research and unrivalled time spent with some of the world’s greatest thinkers including HH Dalai Lama.
With a varied and successful career across a variety of roles and sectors – board director, publisher, author, poet, psychologist, executive coach, speaker, mentor – I now focus mainly on developing resourceful growth, spirit and leadership potential in self, others and organisations.
My recent conversations with over 60 global leaders have explored the meaning and practice of Love, trust and caring in organisations. The research results are in preparation for publication as a series of books, and for active sharing in retreats, workshops, consultations and training designed to create an upsurge in inspiration and innovation, bring more values-based approaches to the workplace, with compassion, collaboration and love as fundamental principles.
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