When I see elderly couples together it warms my heart. Whether they are husband and wife, or friends walking arm in arm offering support and comfort to one another, I am lifted up. Aging doesn’t have to be a lonely, miserable venture. It can be a time of building trust and lowering our defenses as we come face to face with our utter humanity.
Our culture is one that reveres independence. It heralds the valiant individualist. Women of our generation, in particular, fought hard to gain respect as individuals. We worked diligently to stand on our own two feet and not be depending on a man for our survival. We are a generation who is fiercely independent. Perhaps that is why we feel so threatened by the aging process.
We fear aging because we fear that sickness or frailty will rob us of the independence we fought so hard to achieve. We will become dependent on someone, or something other than ourselves. We will, in the end, somehow not be able to be there for ourselves.
Independence has its value, but what we really sought was the freedom to live up to our fullest potential as people, regardless of our gender. Independence, self-sufficiency was often a mask we wore to make sense of the surge of power with which we were not yet comfortable. We had to pretend we knew what we were doing because we didn’t. We were learning.
Perhaps the lesson to be learned as we age is how utterly interdependent we are as human beings, and how fortunate we are to be thus. Love and devotion, tolerance, sympathy, empathy, compassion are beautiful things to experience, both coming in and going out. It is our interdependence that provides the richness and texture to life. It’s not Hollywood perfect, but sharing life with another person in any given moment is rich, meaningful, and often even necessary.
As we age and lose our ability to maintain our independence we have the opportunity to learn humility, respect, gratitude and trust. What wonderful lessons to be learned.
© Dorothy Sander 2013