A Life Worth Living: Accepting Life’s Stages and Communing with OthersNov 30, 2022 10:00AM ● By Liz Jorgensen
“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~ Anais Nin
Something I have been calmly obsessed with is the recent understanding of how much I need both solitude and contemplation, both quiet and intense connection to community, to have a life worth living.
I need community to remind me of all the things I share below, but also most importantly to care for and celebrate, to sacrifice for and nurture. In quiet and solitude, I can read and walk my dog and be kind to myself, and with my group of trusted people, I can remember who I am and how I can help.
It’s cool in many ways to be growing old as well—it gives me an opportunity to give back to the younger generations, as I know they will soon very easily take my place. In most ways, I can honestly say I see myself and others in a warm light rather than the rapid fire judging of my past. Getting older and calmer is as it should be and always has been. I am finally good with the acceptance of my inevitable slow down; I am ready to be irrelevant in a way that makes me laugh out loud.
This is a big part of what makes life worth living: accepting each stage, and practicing being with each stage fully. Both knowing that my choices and actions make a very real difference in the lives of others and yet, I will fade out (or flame out) just as every human being does eventually, and this can take off a great deal of pressure to achieve anything. I’m choosing to embrace it and practice the wise pause. As Anais Nin wisely said, the acceptance of each stage, each state of life, is not just a wise way to live; it is the real road to peace and wonder.
It would be nice to tell you I have gracefully achieved this “wise mind” status, but that is just not my style. I learned to be with myself and be happy (most of the time) the way I was meant to learn it—denying truths, raging at pains and bumping up against reality. I bruised myself on too many expectations of self and others, by courting and chasing desires, grasping and reacting all along the way.
In these longer and slower days of my sixth decade, I realize my life is abundantly full and it’s mine, earned and honed earnestly from sorrows, false pride and wrong turns that led to where I found myself, as Cat Stevens said a few decades ago, “when I wasn’t even trying.”
What does make my life worth living? Acceptance of life as it is with all the momentary joys and connections, as well as the fallow seasons of pause, sadness, disconnects and aches and pains. The action that most makes my life gentle and easier is the art of letting go, clearing out and pausing in this moment to be present with whatever is my teacher today. My dog Mille is my favorite teacher; her daily lesson is to love everyone, live in the moment and that food is awesome.
All animals and most time in nature also teach me to just be present, just listen and breathe and see the cycles all around as the stages of all our lives. I also accept the lessons that are somewhat abrasive—the suffering of others that sometimes comes to me as anger and attack, the knowing that I am not responsible for all the suffering of others and the world, the deep sadness of death and loss.
These states of loss are becoming my companions, as I used to refuse them entry to my life if possible. Now, my sadness sometimes eats breakfast with me and then she gives me a break for the day. For this, I am grateful. When I let sadness back in when she shows up, she seems to mellow out sooner and leave me with wistfulness and lovely memories to hold.
What I didn’t know when I was younger was that I really could let go of so many things on my “have to have, have to do” mental list. So many things that occupied my mind as essential and worthy of time and effort have vanished. It was my commune of loving friends who have helped me most to achieve this state.
How can we let go of whatever questions and worries obsess us? There is, of course, not a simple answer to this human dilemma, but consider the importance of a small group of like-minded humans to help—and a commitment in turn for us to help others accept, feel and let go. I have found that my own advice to myself is almost always flawed, but my wisdom returns when I share my foibles with members of my small posse of trusted humans. With others, my pain can and does transmute from tears to rants to laughter in a relatively short time when I open all the way up and let it go.
During uncertainty, injustices and the random humiliations and pain that we all must face, sharing these with others is the only real answer. I would like to close with a gift of the wisdom of my late mentor Dr. Edward Khantzian: “It is not tragedy to suffer, it is part of the human condition. The tragic is to suffer alone.”
Liz Jorgensen, director of Insight Counseling, has over 30 years of experience with adult and adolescent psychotherapy and counseling. Connect at 203-431-9726, [email protected] or InsightCounselingLLC.com. See ad, page 13.
Liz Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, particularly in engaging resistant tee... Read More »