Every time I've heard or said: "This too shall pass", I was not thinking it would one day refer to my waist, my memory, my energy and my appetite. But here I am, pushed an inch shorter by gravity, with legs that have enough veins showing and liver spots to look like road maps. Now comes hearing aids and cataract removal. This is impermanence up close and personal--literally in your face. Without even trying, I've become the poster girl for primate change.
I guess you could say I am now running life's marathon in the breakdown lane. Bravery, mega doses of bravery are required daily. It's galling to realize I have a shelf life, tough to accept the use-by and expiration date, scary to live through the daunting inconvenience of them often being very different. Last year waist, this year ears... I feel like I am taking a final for that Dharma practice where you ask yourself: am I my eyes? If i lose my left little finger, I am still I? Is my hair me? Am I not me without hair? Thank Buddha I know that practice. Using it has been like putting aloe on a burn.
Lots of people, all way younger, would say I've also lost touch. They consider my considerable experience worthless in their bright, new shiny new world so do not hire me. I'm losing it. Right? Age has become my handicap.
Sometimes I tell myself I'm being shunned because the kids don't want to be reminded there is other knowledge, another way, another age to become. They're short term and I've gone long. I might have something to add-- say, perspective -- but they can't bear to think they don't know everything already. They're strictly DIY. The famous disrupters are evidently not allowed to be disrupted.
What's funny about this is how addicted these young'uns are to speed, to hurry up, to having it now bigger and better and faster than ever. Except when it comes to aging. Given how fast it happens, you'd think they'd be all for it. But they want slo-mo and lots of instant replay. Magazines keep trying to convince everyone 70 is the new 40 and 80 the new 60. Well, even though most people are amazed that I am at least 25 years older than I look, reality has me convinced these are the same old, same old. Life is not easily fooled, especially by the glitzy rhetoric of corporations with products to push. Have they never seen the sag of a lifted faced? Are those wrinkles me? If I lose my hearing, am I still fully me?
These days I find myself explaining, particularly to doctors, I can't tell if what's happening is perfectly normal--wear and tear, or a crisis I can't bear to recognize. Should I panic about stomach cancer because I don't eat the large portions I used to? Are these brown polka dots decorating my skin signs of melanoma or just age? I've never been where I am, so how can I know what to expect? Every year has become a new city never visited, a place I haven't explored before to get bearings and comfort level. Then just when I start to know the territory, I'm in some place totally new having to get acquainted with different terrain. I feel like a perpetual tourist: asking directions, clutching at maps, wandering wondering when I get to go home to the familiar.
The only part of me still in the passing lane, no where near as close to the off ramp as the rest of me, the one piece of my pie not noticeably deteriorating or diminishing is that ineffable, intangible, secret "voice" that keeps on noticing everything and gossiping about it. My mind is still teenage peppy even though my body is anything but. It sees what's happening to the rest of me while it is going nowhere. This energy that some call the spirit or soul is living proof the Rinpoches are right: one part of me will survive because it is indestructible. It will go on and on--where it goes depends on how I have trained, or tamed, it. Is the mind me? What does it mean to lose your mind?
Demise is the most inconvenient truth. Life is a conveyor belt we don't control. We have taken to barricading ourselves in stone mansions, tenured jobs, Kryptite and Botox to paralyze forward momentum, yet time still turns us into nomads who move from one pasture to another. Although we won't admit it, we are all migrants. We immigrate from 20 to 50 to 75 and onward. We migrate from peaks to plains to canyons, from oases to deserts, or maybe the other way around. We do not stay put. There is no holding steady. And no security line to guarantee safety. There is only getting used to those ideas.
Go to your 50th college reunion as I just did and you can't escape this truth. All those good looking hunks now had paunches, blotches, wrinkles, glasses and gray hair. And so triage. There's nothing left to do but save the only thing I now know I can. All this physical deterioration has begun to feel like a dirty trick the gurus are playing to force me to finally get what they've been trying so hard to say: give up the losing battle of the flesh and focus on the mind, the only part of you guaranteed to live forever. Get over into the break out lane.
~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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