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Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Our barns are full!"

© Imelda Maurer, cdp

A brief continuation of yesterday's conversation refuting the belief that later life is circumscribed by "letting go".

We are all familiar with the images comparing the life cycle to the four seasons of the year. Autumn comes, the leaves fall, the trees are bare. We wait for the next season, a stark barren winter, which brings death.

An important initial message from Gene Cohen in his book, "The Mature Mind" is that we must change every idea we have about aging.  This "problem" of aging, Cohen tells his readers, originated with the beginnings of aging studies research.  The studies were always focused on deficits and decline.  The aging process was always and only seen as a problem. Indeed that was brought home to me a few years ago. An area university library was thinning its shelves and the lobby of the library on one of my visits was filled with books from their school of nursing for sale to the public.  As I panned the titles on these old, sometimes worn books, one has stayed with me: "The Aging Problem".  
Cohen says we must look at research which only recently has looked at the positive aspects of aging. We must turn upside down - flip - every belief we have had in the past about aging.

Let's flip one concept here: The season of autumn as symbolic of later life.  

Traditional concept: Time when trees lose their leaves - a kind of decline and approaching death.

Flip concept: Autumn brings the beauty of leaves "turning" to magnificent colors of yellow, orange and red that draw multitudes of us to parks and to the countryside, awestruck with this beauty.  In fact, these colors have always existed in these now-brilliant autumn leaves. When the hours of sunlight lessen, the chlorophyll (green) becomes colorless. Only then can the brilliants colors that have always been present in the leaves become visible. Beauty, continued growth and development becomes possible and visible precisely because of our aging.

Another flipped concept of fall as a season of life was brought home to me at a prayer service sometime ago that was part of a meeting focusing on aging.

This one line has stayed with me and I smile every time I think of it:

"It is fall. Our barns are full."

I hope you smile too and cherish every moment, every 'stage' of life, wherever you are in it, as a time filled with potential for growth and development of your whole person.

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