Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shifting Gears

Well, I'm back.  Have been traveling.  Nothing as romantic as a tour across Europe on the Orient Express. Or as altruistic as volunteering at a hospital  in a Third World nation.  I haven't even left St. George.

My journey has been an internal one, in retrospect similar to others I've taken every six or seven years of  my adult life, a journey marked by introspection, contemplation and reflection.  Marked by  reading marathons, and notebooks filled with lists and quotes and questions I didn't know I had.  Marked by a flurry of decluttering and reorganizing shelves and drawers  Marked by a sense that whatever the final destination, it would be different than I anticipated when setting out.

Years ago, Deborah Tannen labelled these journeys "passages" and her book of that title was particularly helpful during the aftermath of my divorce - and in the subsequent passages initiated by job changes, remarriage, moves, new careers, disease and the death of loved ones.  The external events that have been catalysts for the major shifts in my life.  This time, however, this passage crept up on me.  No significant external event.  

I didn't even recognize I was on the road again until I realized I wasn't journaling with my typical long hand prose, something I'd done faithfully for over 35 years.  I hadn't been blogging because I wasn't sure what I wanted to blog about.  Although healthy and busy with several interesting activities, generally satisfied, I also was vaguely discontented, aware that something was missing. This time, I decided to let things unfold, to idle in neutral so to speak, to just hang out with whatever was going on and trust that I would know when it was time to shift gears and get going again.  Not my usual style!

Then last week, during one of my decluttering binges, in the midst of culling through a box of old journals, I came upon a special volume I put together years ago on the heels of my 50th birthday, a volume of pictures and photos, of dreams and desires for what I hoped would be the future that is today.  And discovered an interesting essay, a description of how I wanted to age.  Clear, detailed, optimistic, validating - and revealing.

What has been missing has been a venue for continuing to make a difference, a contribution.  One that resonates with my values, my experience, my skills.  One that calls for stretching, for learning, for creating. That addresses something I am passionate about.  

The contribution I want to make is to generate a meaningful conversation about aging - a conversation that is realistic without becoming whiny and fearful, optimistic without being pollyanish.  I want to examine with others the challenges inherent in getting older in a society that is obsessed with youth, to raise questions and concerns that we too often avoid, and to consider alternatives with others who also want a meaningful conversation. The venue, this blog. I hope you will join me in the coming weeks.

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