Our Autumnal Years: Coming Back Home
During our Autumnal years, we have the opportunity to acknowledge and assure continuation of that which remains good and relevant from our past, while preparing for that which is changing. In the midst of our Autumnal years, we must balance challenge with support. We can relish the rich moments in our live that remind us of that which is best and most distinctive in our past life. These relishing moments and simple actions and gradual progressions that follow are elements of a meditative process. Simple acts and gradual progressions in building a new home are just as much a vehicle to the soul as our more dramatic grieving of that which we have lost or abandoned.
What might these simple actions and gradual progressions from past to present and future look like. We might choose at times to do things in the old time-honoured way. We might choose to get rid of those shrubs that pose a fire hazard or block our view. Do we delegate tree pruning at our home to a professional in the field or do it our self? Do we pick up our grandchildren from day care in order to save our very busy daughter the hassle of completing one more chore? What about that meal that we want to cook for that neighbour who is now alone (after her husband passed away)? Should we still tend to the dishes in the sink, waiting to be washed?
None of this is a waste of time. These mundane activities may be the “royal road” to new insights and soul work. Grieving and rebirth take time and energy. They might best be done when we are trimming trees or chopping away the brush, picking up our grandchild and listening to their recounting of a day at school and after school care, cooking that simple dish our neighbour loves. For some of us, our soulful work might be done while we are playing house with our grandchildren; when we are washing the dishes; or when we sit by the fireplace with a loved one during a quiet winter eve or strolling along the beach.
Grieving is paradoxical. It is a source of joy as well as sorrow. We all know the bittersweet experience of reminiscence. We must honour (and grieve for) that which we have left behind–before we move on to something new. Bill Bridges (1980) describes the “neutral zone” as a place in our life through which we must pass during a major life transition. While living in this neutral zone we must honour what remains from the old, especially the common places where the soul lives. We must often look backward before we can be enthusiastic about new parts of our lives. This is a mature form of retaining a transitional object. Bridges strongly asserts that we will never leave the neutral zone until we have celebrated the past. As mature women and men we often best appreciate our past and prepare for our future by doing simple things and finding new insights within the mundane. In this way, we are not over-attached to the past nor over-fear the future. It is in this present moment that Spring re-enters our Soul and refreshes our Spirit.
Freud, Sigmund (1917) Mourning and Melancholia. In Collected Works. London: Hogarth Press, v. XIV, pp. 243-258.
Le Doux, Joseph (1998) The Emotional Brain. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Persig, Robert (2009) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. New York: HarperCollins.
Sapolsky, Robert (2017) Behavior. New York: Penguin.
Vaillant, George (2012) Triumphs of Experience. Cambridge MA: Belknap.