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I Never Saw it Coming Until it Was Here

Charlie Ivermee

It is only in recent years that I have been in close relationship with an old person. My father died in early middle-age and although my mother lived into her eighties we were not close and my grandparents died while I was a young child. But now I am close to an old man and I rather like him. I have known him for a very long time and I can attest to the fact that he has been a difficult sod in the past, not so good at intimacy, low in self-esteem, lacking in emotional honesty and an avoider of reality. Like many of us he has hurt and been hurt, has damaged and been damaged. And I am that old man.

Society tries to order our lives in a linear fashion, birth, infancy, school, work, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, followed by a slow decent towards death. We tend not to think about our later years and if we do the encouragement is basically economic, work like the devil to pay off the mortgage, pay vast sums into a pension that may or may not support you into your ‘declining’ years. Meanwhile you have imbibed all the ageism that permeates our culture, we can think we are useless and have no identity or place in society once we cease going to the workplace five days a week.

Nobody tells us at, say, aged 30, that being an elder person brings immense freedom and joy, how life’s lessons can engender wisdom and compassion. How one’s acceptance of earlier mistakes and damaging behaviour can lead to real forgiveness and a letting go of guilt and of shame leading to an inner spaciousness into which can come joy and a determination to be of service.

Looking back over my life I cannot yet, in all honesty, see an overall narrative. No sense of how this thing led to this or because of that I am the person I am today. I can see that certain qualities have been with me all of my life, some good and some not so good. Some qualities appear to be innate, others are due hard work and honesty. A number of things came together a couple of years ago that flipped my view of myself and the world and here I am at seventy four years of age full of energy to be active and to serve, to be an example of how great elderhood can be, a love of an expanding life experienced at a slower pace. And quite liking myself!

What ageing seems to ask of us is to be willing to let go of many of the external aspects of how we have lived and invites us to go on an inner journey. I think that this takes courage as it means swimming against the stream. There is the opportunity to engage is a process of integration that might be said to be the real purpose of later life, what Jung called individuation, a coming to wholeness. Ageing also invites us to slow down (we are gradually forced to anyway) and in the slowing down can come a vast expansion of our awareness of the inner and outer world. To see the beauty of our world, the beauty of all beings and to experience the beauty within.

About the Author

The Joy of Ageing Picture of Charlie Ivermee

 Charlie Ivermee is seventy-four years old and active  in his local community which most recently at a  Buddhist based retreat centre on the Sharpham  Estate near Totnes in Devon where he was a  residential voluntary co-ordinator and part of a team  that lead retreats. Charlie has a regular mediation  practice and helps facilitate various on-line  meditation sitting groups. He says, “I am excited by  how curiosity, reflection and a mindful approach to  our ageing can lead to a wisdom and joy that  enhances daily lives.”

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