(response to a writing prompt, L.H. in N.M.)
I have entered the doors of Aging with great suspicion and trepidation. Suddenly, my body has started a slow and painful process of breaking down, on the way to its eventual disintegration. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been educated my entire life that this would happen.
Once, I had sharp memory and only occasionally forgot the location of my keys. Now, I forget what I was saying mid-sentence, mid-morning, mid-day, all day, oh, mid-dear! (my-dear) Where was I?
Oh yes, forgetting. The aging, the contracting of my brain’s capacity for memory. But also the loss of steadiness on my feet. I miss and grieve the loss of balance and agility; the jumping, leaping, climbing, bending, twisting, skipping of my youth in which I took joy and pride. The absence of lasting physical pain.
But none of that is the thing I never saw coming. As my pride falls away, as I am forced to accept help with simple things I used to do for others, something new emerges. A gentle humility. Something new expands, though my body contracts. Something beautiful increases while memory and agility decrease.
What I did not see coming was this sudden expansion of my spirit. A constantly growing capacity for love, understanding, compassion, and humility. An ever-deepening appreciation for every second I still have my breath, my beating heart, my senses, and my consciousness, with which to be ever increasingly present to the beauty of this weird and precious living – to feel the expansiveness of the wide open New Mexico sky, to be able to see her colors and feel them all in the core of my heart, to be able to meet each new moment, each new person, each new place, each old friend, every experience, with this new breath, this new heartbeat, this ever-expanding consciousness.
This is how I accept with grace and love each new pain, each new suffering, each new loss.
This beauty, this, is what I never saw coming.