Something to consider is the top item on the short list of big benefits to getting older. It is said most often that with age, “You just don’t care so much what others think about you.”
Never one to follow the usual prescribed path, Rachel is currently developing her rural property, fifteen miles beyond the closest town, with the intention of creating a healing center. When I asked if her sons back in St Louis approved of how she lives her life, her response was, “I don’t care what they think. Yes, they worry about me living out in the wilderness, and they are probably concerned I am spending all my money and leaving no inheritance. But I tell them, ‘I am doing just what I want to do. I am 92 years old, and I can do as I please. I am having fun’ and besides”, she tells me, “neither they nor my grandkids really need my money when I finally die.
This bold and unusual pronouncement made me wonder if we, in fact, must wait until that advanced age to do what we are called to do? Can we follow our true nature, whatever we may discover that to be? Or, do we live our lives to make others happy, which then become the primary source of our own happiness. Self-sacrifice is the choice for some. I think of my one friend Susan who has spent much of her life caring for other family members, moving from one physical crises to another, while putting her own life “on hold.” There is a slight sense of martyrdom I hear from her on occasion, but her complaints are small. I conclude her choices of putting everyone else first must be working for her, although I could never describe Susan as joyful and light-hearted.
Most but not entirely all of those who sacrifice their happiness to others are (no surprise) women. Caregiving seems to be part of our genetic make-up. Selflessness is a quality much more admired than selfishness, however it seems at some point our own Self needs to become our number one priority. After the kids are grown and flown and the parents are no longer with us, we probably need to look inside and then reassess. The start of a new year is traditionally the time to do a bit of self-examination. The Greek philosopher, Socrates said it best ,
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Especially while moving toward or into the “elder years”, there is great value in removing avoidance and denial, while really looking at what is working for us and what needs some alteration. If we choose to do this self-examination and assessment we might ask. some of the following questions....
... If my caregiving days are over, for the most part, what else am I meant to do while here on this earth?
...What is my true purpose and what steps can I take to better develop myself?
...Which of my close relationships need to be worked on?
...Am I living too much in the past?
... Is my body getting the attention it needs?
... Can I better accept things as they are, right here, right now, and yet continue to reach even higher?
... How can I make 2015 the best year yet?