Aging: The complex patterns of personal change

In this month’s ATTRACTOR, Glenda shares a personal story of how bridging the gaps between generations might not be what you would expect. Learn some insight into the complex patterns of personal change. 

Aging Hands

I attended my grandson’s wedding last weekend. I would hurry to say that I’m too young to have a grandson getting married (which is true), but more on that later.  In the glorious autumn sunshine of Los Angeles, we came together to celebrate the joining of a pair of lives, and all pairs and all lives.  I expected to see gaping holes between the old and the young—a bridgeless gorge to separate generations. What I found was something quite different.

A teenager was recovering from a car accident and was confined to a wheelchair, while a ninety-year-old physician bounded up the stairs.

The bridal couple reflected faith and fidelity of their great, great grandparents, while closer generations wondered how it would be possible to “save oneself for marriage.”

The children and youth spoke with Spanish accents and quoted ancient poetry.  The elders checked their email and Twitter feeds as soon as the vows were done.

We all ate and drank and danced and laughed and played with the babies because some differences make no difference regardless of age.

Over the afternoon, I realized that age, like all other biases, is baseless.  Differences that make a difference don’t fit any group as a whole.  They apply to individuals, each of whom is a complex combination of habits you expect, and surprises you don’t. Every individual wanted to be, and deserved to be, treated as a unique and precious gift.   On the other hand . . .

I am not as I was when I was young. I am slower to judgement, to anger, and to the top of the stairs. My laughter is tinged with sadness as I remember the people who were here and are now gone.  The stories that were bizarre yesterday are mundane today, and some of the mundane ones are remarkable now. People who were irritating, passing acquaintances forty years ago become charming dinner companions, and dear friends disengage.  In the midst of the happy family hullabaloo, I had a great conversation with the parking attendant about the weather and the place he plans to retire.  For a moment, we were closer than many of those who shared wedding cake or Thanksgiving turkey. 

What I learned again this weekend, and hope never to forget, is that all generalizations (including this one) are false.

In my life, each moment, every sensation, very conversation is unique. The health I enjoy today or remember from yesterday exists only in the moment and in comparison to other moments I’ve known. Each moment carries with it the richness of the past and the possibilities of the future.  All I have to do is to be awake for it. To connect within myself and with others to recognize in this moment the differences that make a difference and the connections that co-create my future. 

It was a great wedding.  I cried as I always do at weddings, especially my own when I married the groom’s grandfather in my youth and his middle age. In some ways I knew even then that some differences simply don’t make a difference. 

What differences make a difference for you today?  Yesterday? Tomorrow?

Glenda Eoyang 

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