Who Am I?

​Our generation’s short time is falling away. We’re moving into new terrain. There is a measure of effort involved in coming to some equanimity with the implications of our own aging.

There are the aches and the sags, as we are no longer at the peak of our physical strength and agility. We need, also, to find peace in the new landscape of superfluity, as we no longer are at the peak of our engagement in the world.

Adjusting our views of ourselves can take some time. Adjusting our views of our place in the world and of our further direction can also take some time. The contemplation of these necessary adjustments is meaningful. Our views determine our experience.

New questions emerge, often clamoring for attention. Who am I beyond the functions I’ve served? Who am I when the habits of a lifetime are stripped away? Who am I beyond the persona I’ve presented to the world and to myself? Who am I, bare?

It can be a bit sobering, sometimes even stunning, to realize that there is far less time before us than time behind us. There are fewer full moons whose light we can sit in than full moons whose light we have sat in before. There are fewer pale green springs and autumn’s falling leaves, fewer quiet blanketings of snow, fewer ion-charged moments before a fierce summer storm unleashes itself.

Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Aging

The other night I awoke, overwhelmed by losses. I was suddenly aware not just of the loss of so many dear friends and more from sometimes years back, people who in some sense are always with me, but of the loss of “the functions I’ve served”, the things I’ve done, or meant to others. I use the word “overwhelmed” thoughtfully: the sensation was like being flattened by a wave, the same sense of one minute being safely swimming, and the next of being beneath tons of salty green, seemingly from nowhere, with all breath gone and the power of the undertow dragging at your back…

The next day I was cravenly tempted to try and claw back something from the passing years, to recover something from the outgoing tide. It took Susan’s insight and courage to bring me back, unwillingly, to some sense of the truth, to begin to see where the steady light of time has taken me.

All that is needed, really, is to let the tide do what tides do. The sea is faithful, and the open ground of the long waves beneath that steady light will hold the swimmer who will only float. We are frail and temporary things, appearances only, even to ourselves; it is the light that goes on, and our practice is only to dissolve in light.

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