As doctors discover more ways for us to live longer and longer, old age can become an even more significant part of our lives, but does it have to define us? Passion does not have to disappear as we grow older. In fact, it’s only when we have the experiences of life—especially the hard ones—that we’re able to understand what is truly important. Caregiving is one of those opportunities of hardship that can accelerate the discovery process.
Caregiving can last as long as 15 years depending on the condition or disease. And yes, while caregiving may be a hardship, it can also be an important means through which we find deeper meaning and transform our lives. At no other time are we so vulnerable and potentially alone to face the raw emotions of grief and even fear. How will you survive…emotionally, financially even physically? Who will you be after caregiving?
Now perhaps in your 50s, you may be discovering a whole new life and way of thinking. Caregiving forces you to reevaluate what’s important, what you stand for and what you’re actively doing about it on a daily basis. Putting your own life on hold allows you to slowly reach a clarity in which you may realize the need to make a more significant difference. In fact, the first stage of this transformation is coming to the realization that your life is also finite.
You can view being out of commission, so to speak, as a horrible torture or as an important opportunity to prune, refocus, develop and flourish in a way you never dreamed. The word “still” has many interesting meanings…stagnant, immobile. And yet it also means quiet and tranquil. Being still can actually be the stimulus to simplify the most important aspects of life. When it may seem like life is passing us by, we could be discovering our life’s purpose. We find we can no longer do a job we hate following someone else’s lead while keeping our own creative passion in the background.
As one ages and we become less motivated by outward approval and realize that finding our own purpose is the only thing that makes life really valuable. Some may see caregiving as losing time that can never be gotten back. I see caregiving as an opportunity to see how to live life in a more meaningful way, saving us from wasting any more of it.
Age brings with it outward changes but also inner realizations. Age brings new choices, new discoveries. Age can bring freedom and peace. Age is a gift of new perspective, not fewer options. In fact, with the right perspective, options can become more limitless for perhaps the first time.
No, you are not just your age; you are the choices you make, the love you give, you are the principles you live by, the actions you take. You are the wisdom you gain throughout your life and use to help others while realizing who you are.
Caregiving contains both sadness and opportunity. It’s in this cocoon that we can feel a creative force well up inside, searching for expression. It’s in fact the pain of grief that draws this clarity and passion to the surface. The only question is: How will it manifest?
How old are we is not the question! The question is: What’s next?
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