Ageing with grace – embracing the changes that mid-life affords

An article from BeliefNet came through to me the other day.

The author, Marianne Williamson, is an ex-minister, so she has beliefs that I don’t share. Nevertheless, we are clearly both trying to understand how you make your place in the world in the second half of your life as opposed to the first.

She has some very valuable things to say about spirituality and you can read the full article here.

Among them are that when you think to yourself that if only you were younger X or Y would be better, it’s an illusion.

"When I was younger," she says, "I was thinking, "If only I had another job, it would better. If I only lived in another place, it would be better. If only I was in a different relationship, it would be better." But the real issue, she says she came to realise, was not her age, or her circumstances. "The real issue was the mind struggling against itself."

By the time we’re 45 or 40 life has given us some hard knocks, she adds. Few people are unscathed, and stress, grief, pain and suffering are all ageing. But, she says: "We all fall down. The issue is not who falls down, it’s who gets back up and how." She urges people to capitalise on their experiences and mistakes to become wiser, more compassionate human beings.

Being a woman, she also doesn’t escape that feeling that we all get at this stage – of looking in the mirror and knowing that you’ve looked your best, and that it was about 10 years ago. "Who wishes we didn’t have the same thighs that we had twenty years ago, or the same rear end or that our breasts were in the same place?" she says.

"Who doesn’t think wistfully about all that? You can’t just pretend that you don’t. You have to grieve it." But then, she adds, a wonderful thing happens and you learn that you can be as good as you can be for the person you are now, even if you’ll never lift your leg so high in aerobics any more.

She also makes one point that I think is very true – that the decisions you make once you hit 40 result in more instant karma. "That which you get right bears even greater fruit, and that which you get wrong bears harsher consequences," she says. Williamson means in terms of both mind and spirit – such as your ability to forgive, your ability to let go – and to your physical self in terms of doing exercise or yoga etc.

Finally, says Williamson, "Once you’ve lived enough, it’s not about getting more. It’s learning to just be in joy with what you have."

Well, I couldn’t agree more with that.

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