Old age takes away from us what we have inherited and gives us what we have earned – Gerald Brenan
I do not remember ever seeing this quote yet it came from last year’s desk calendar. It speaks to me today because I was pondering yesterday on whether I would jump at the chance of living a human life again.
No life is untouched by want, need, joy, tragedy, love, work and sacrifice, among other things. If I look back on the days when I had 3 kids under the age of 4 at once and the sleepless nights and helplessness I felt as a parent in the face of their tears at times, I might wonder if I wouldn’t mind missing those years out, no matter how adorable it all looks now in the photos. If I look back on these days, where I am a single parent, working full time, trying to pay the bills, manage the house, garden and pool with elbow grease, 3 teenagers and a low budget, I might wonder if I could miss these years out instead. If I look back on when I was waiting to see if I could emigrate to Australia and couldn’t get my life started, I might want to skip that year instead.
But the list goes on and on, and each phase of life has its moments – merry, marvellous and tough. Of course I wouldn’t miss out a moment. There are trying and horrible events, and deaths and testing people and depression but these particular tribulations are behind me now, and I came out the other side, brave enough to see what transpires next.
Anyway I digress. Gerald is saying, I believe, that we are born with physical attributes and personality traits and hopefully at least one parent to love and take care of us as we grow into adults. As we leave the nest and find our own way in the world we ‘earn’ a second family, jobs, friends, money, status, lifestyle, health and happiness.
Old age, while stealing our looks and youthful health, replaces it with a sense of accomplishment and wisdom if we have chosen to grab it, an understanding of how things will likely play out, a sense of our own strengths in the face of adversity and hopefully less reactivity to everything around us. We may have lost our ancestors and parents by then but we will have replaced it with the next generations, or great friends and community bound to us by all we have done for each other.
With any luck we have replaced uncertainty with happiness, angst with confidence borne of the years.
Can I take my current knowledge to my next life? Would you replace youth for all you know now? I value what I’ve been through to get here. I hope you do too.