The Gifts of Being in the Autumn of My Life

The Gifts of Being in the Autumn of My Life

Middle age has its compensations.  You feel no need to do what you do not like. You are no longer ashamed of yourself; you are reconciled to being what you are, and you do not much mind what people think of you

Selina Hastings

Autumn brings cooler weather and a welcomed respite from the long days of summer.  It’s the time of year when the trees with their bright and colorful foliage remind me of giant flowers.  A friend once compared “middle age” to the season of autumn.  This idea intrigued me because autumn is my favorite season of the year. By accepting being in the autumn of my life, I am recognizing some of the gifts of middle age.  I have discovered an appreciation of the offerings of ordinary moments along with the ability to follow my curiosity without the constraints of judgment.   

We are bombarded daily with messages in media about all the benefits of youth.  But what if you are not young?  Are you doomed? What comes next?  I am no longer young and contrary to popular belief (and with the assistance of my friend’s metaphor), I am grateful to be middle aged. Maybe that is the first gift of middle age – gratitude.  When I was young, I was too busy striving for the next thing I wanted to accomplish to be able to sit in gratitude for very long. 

Since my life has slowed down a bit, I have the gift of more free time.  My children are out of school; my parents have both passed and no longer need my care. The pace of life no longer feels so accelerated.  I find myself slowing down and stopping to take in the beauty of people and nature around me.  I have witnessed and experienced enough challenges that I am grateful for days without challenges and times without strife. I have the opportunity to use my time for reflecting on big questions like… What is the point of life?  What is my purpose?  How can I make my life more meaningful?

I still feel compelled to continue to learn and grow, as I did when I was young, but my goals are more intangible.  My new found freedom has allowed me to explore new hobbies, like Tai Chi. I am very much enjoying the exploration of the connection between my mind, body and spirit, which is derived from Tai Chi. It has compelled me to slow me down and encouraged me to “listen” to my body.  Tai Chi has certainly been an unforeseen form of self-discovery for me.

Last fall, I took a class with my daughter to learn how to crochet a scarf.  It was wonderful to explore our curiosity together.  Although I enjoyed spending time with my daughter, I realized I liked the “idea” of crocheting more than actually crocheting.   At the same time, I learned to ride a motorcycle.  Instead of riding on the back of my husband’s bike, I am enjoying our rides together with the freedom and challenge of riding my own bike.  Some people feel riding a motorcycle is “crazy” and have told me as much, but I no longer feel the need to live my life by other people’s opinions.   Just as autumn is a season of letting go, so is middle age a time of letting go of other people’s expectations.  Middle age has allowed me to be more willing to be myself, even if it is seen as “crazy” or other people “don’t get it”.  I’m okay with, and even like being, my authentic self.

Equally important, reaching middle age has helped me to find my voice.  Now when I get an invitation for some event, or an offer to join another group or committee, I am much more likely to say, “No, thank you”.  In the past, I would have begrudgingly said yes then devoted too much time and energy doing something that I didn’t care a lot about.  I think this comes from realizing that life is too short to be spending time doing things that you don’t find interesting or helpful. 

In summary, middle age has given me the wisdom to more greatly appreciate the small moments.  By committing the time to gather up and examine my thoughts on the blessings of aging, and amplify my gratitude. When I try new things, like writing a blog, I embody the curiosity of a child and the butterflies of a beginner.  Exploring and recognizing the gifts of middle age has led to self-knowledge which I found leads to self-empowerment.  So join me on my journey of self-discovery where I hope to distill my disorganized thoughts, spotlight some of the joys of life and in the process understand my true nature.

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