Parker Palmer writes about “withering into the truth” as he ages. That phrase captures both a hope and hopelessness for me. I have never felt so depleted before. Childbirth was a breeze compared to this new age and stage. At seventy-five, and recently recovering both from a bout with the flu and a bad fall, I am experiencing a kind of weariness and dysphoria that is new to me. I can’t seem to get my legs under me to move back into my life.
Whatever worn, tight, cracked and broken shell surrounds me is refusing to let me go. I feel ready to transform into a different shape with a new voice and eyes that can see beyond the limits of my old space. No, I’m not talking about dying. I’m talking about rebirth and renewal, even in the autumn of my life, even in the winter.
The bruising that has bloomed on my wrist and my knees reminds me that it takes some good time to heal from the inside out. Even though the pain is mostly gone, the visuals are still quite remarkably there and will be for some days. I realize that there are other wounds from long ago that have not completely healed, as well. These wounds are from emotional blows and some of them are clearly hits I took as a child. We all have them, it’s inevitable from the moment we enter this world. We are vulnerable to so much and so many. How we learn to dodge the bullets or prevent them from going too deep is a skill we learn before we can talk. Survival is what matters, and for some the effort is so great that the only thing to do is to keep moving, dodging, fending off and finding protection. Illness and recovery can give too much time for reflection, for me. With depleted energy, both psychic and physical, I trap myself and keep rerunning old tapes, old phrases, old parental pronouncements about who I am, what I am, what I’ve done, what I haven’t done. It’s a lousy way to spend time. Books distract a bit, but energy for that is low. And in truth, distraction is not what I need. Focus on the reality of my condition and capabilities is essential before I can plan an escape into a new configuration of myself. Now my task is to look for a new, flexible shell that will allow for comfortable growth yet provide enough protection to facilitate the process without damage to any tender shoot of experimentation and wonder. A magic chrysalis is called for here. Like any life that transforms itself, I will have to create my own, on my own.