As I reflect upon the improbability of my ripening, I often turn with delight and inspiration to the life and death of Nelson Mandela. Mandela taught us that giving the self, once it has ripened, is elder wisdom, and the apotheosis of maturation.
When I was a toddler, I used to sit for hours on the floor under my maternal grandmother’s frame of stretched cloth and look up to watch her sew beads and spangles onto fabrics that became wedding gowns, banners, flags, altar cloths, and other decorative pieces.
Our relationship with aging can remain as a loving friendship throughout our lives when we understand that it’s a cumulative experience that provides us with an ever-changing variety of psychological and spiritual gifts –– if we are open to anticipating and accepting them.
A great way to start this piece would be to say, “I haven’t much to say about this topic,” and leave it at that. But, I’m not that humble. I am, in that regard very much an elder-in-training.
The deterioration-decline meme that defines aging in our culture originates in a narrow perception of the lifespan that is blind to the priceless assets we accrue as we add years to our lives.
It seems that one of the tasks of we elders is to break through our culture’s collective mass blindness and to make ourselves visible. In doing so, we take care of ourselves, and we help awaken the human world to its own potential, which it cannot see right now.
As I’ve aged, and gotten a lot more experience under my belt, my attitude about reactivity has changed, but I still find this facet of being human difficult.
In the art of improvisational quilting, imperfection is essential in order to show that things are handmade, to show the soul in them. As in life, the imperfection is the beauty, the meaning, the uniqueness.