I was out walking this morning, a cold harsh wind blowing snow in my face. It could easily be February, except that daffodils, tulips and the young buds on the trees are curling up under the weight and stress of the snow and cold. Odd for mid April.
And this got me to thinking (uh-oh…) about how our own lives are often likened to seasons. (I am not referring to the 1980s fashion trend which assigned everyone a season based on the optimal colors for their skin tone – a topic that would be better suited to a blog on fashion, or 1980s mindlessness.)
“She’s in the spring of her life,” people say.
It is usually older people who say this – those in the “autumn” and “winter” of their lives. I suppose it’s not an entirely inaccurate analogy. Our lives, like the seasons, are highly unpredictable. But where one experiences a particular season throws a wrench into the analogy.
For example, if I were still in the spring of my life and it was defined by, let’s say, spring in the northern stretches of the Yukon Territory, I wouldn’t be frolicking through the fields picking flowers as much as picking ice off my snowmobile (which I’d totally have because to not have one would be impractical and make me a total hoser.) I’d be more likely to experience the smell of skunks waking from hibernation in
the air than love.
But I digress in the name of being obtuse and flippant. I know the analogy is a statement on aging. And many interpret this analogy to equate all things warm and bright with youth, while being old is equated with things cold and dark.
This speaks volumes for how we view aging and the elderly in this society.
What’s so great about spring anyhow? That the world is just crawling with baby animals? That the bright colors of flowers and other plants are finally popping after a season of relative monochrome? That the whole “miracle of life” thing is in all its glory? Yeah, okay. That’s impressive Broadway size showiness.
But does that make it better than the other seasons? Sunlight in spring is life-giving and full of hope. In summer, it extends well into the evening allowing for frivolity. In fall, it is warming and highlights the bright colors that ironically herald the beginning of death. And to sit in a bright sunny window on a winter’s day is one of the most peaceful experiences I know.
I’m not sure at what point the collective whole stopped “respecting its elders” in exchange for glorifying its young.
Smooth skin, clear eyes and ridiculous amounts of energy does not amount to enlightenment. Far from it. These are no feat when you’re in the spring of your life. And it’s easy to believe that it will last forever. But it doesn’t. How nice it would be if everyone could accept this realization without such ceremonious rapping of the fists and gnashing of the teeth.
Aging with dignity, grace and mindfulness means embracing both the merits and challenges of each season as it arrives.
The sickening lengths people go to in an effort to maintain the illusion of youth – spending thousands of dollars on energy drinks, age-defying creams and surgeries that, at BEST, give the recipient the not-at-all-youthful glow of a Saran wrapped face – is as logical as a Möbius strip.
In my own life, I’m at that transition of late summer to early autumn. Let’s say the week of September 18th. Spring has long since passed. Summer is becoming a memory. As the trees are changing to red, orange and yellow, my hair is turning to grey. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. And it’s okay.
Just because winter is forthcoming, it does not mean I will be resigned to an existence of cane-waving crankiness, Metamucil and ribbon candy.
Of course, there’s no guarantee I’ll even make it to winter. But if I do, I‘ll seek out the light of that sunny window as much as I’m able.
Steph Ruopp is a freelance blogger/writer, yoga instructor, care giver and educator- (relatively) peaceful in the “autumn” of her life.