Embracing our impermanence brings grace

Opinion: Columns

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By Marc Blesoff

CONSCIOUS AGING

Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. 

W. Somerset Maugham

Last week I was on a cattle ranch, pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, at a family reunion. Part of the bi-annual reunion was the 100-year anniversary of the family ranch, celebrating the two previous generations as well as the current three generations in attendance.

I was part of coffee at sunrise every morning, potluck dinners, circle discussions by the barn, gathering sage and treks up to the top of the caprock, where the entire 360-degree horizon is awesomely visible.

The present generation at the reunion knew their grandparents, who were probably born about 150 years ago. The 5-year-olds who were there frolicking might just live to be 90 or 100 years old. I was surrounded by a spread of about 250 years of possible relationships.

The land itself is a presence, ever shifting and changing, the creek sometimes dry and sometimes flooded. The cottonwood trees after being struck by lightning. Locusts emerging from their shells. Crumbling stone arrowheads. Mastadon bones from an archeological dig on the property. It's never difficult for me to visualize this land sitting under a prehistoric ocean.

At the men's gathering, I realized I'm the third oldest in the circle of roughly 20 males. "How did this happen?" I silently ask myself. Being one of the few graying olders does not quite fit my self-image. It seems just a few years ago when I was looking up at the older generation.

Frank Ostaseski, author of The Five Invitations, writes, "When we embrace impermanence, a certain grace enters our lives. We can treasure experiences; we can feel deeply — all without clinging. We are free to savor life, to touch the texture of each passing moment completely, whether the moment is one of sadness or joy. When we understand on a deep level that impermanence is in the life of all things, we learn to tolerate change better. We become more appreciative and resilient."

Last week's family reunion on the ranch brought home a further awareness of impermanence — the impermanence of relationships, of the land, and of myself.

On a more local note, I am excited and honored to announce the upcoming arrival of The Changing Aging Tour on Oct. 10.

Dr. Bill Thomas is a Harvard-trained geriatrician, a "nursing home" innovator, inventor of the Minka House and a visionary about aging in America. His Changing Aging Tour travels city to city on a bus, providing a life-changing experience for many in each audience. In the next few months you will learn more details about The Changing Aging Tour. Visit www.changingaging.org/tour for a glimpse of what is coming to our community.

Please mark Wednesday, Oct. 10 on your calendar. This event will be a memorable community happening in Oak Park. The afternoon event is titled, "Disrupt Dementia", and the evening drama, music, nonfiction theater presentation is about "Life's Most Dangerous Game." Be there or be square.

Marc Blesoff is a former Oak Park village trustee, co-founder of the Windmills softball organization, co-creator of Sunday Night Dinner, a retired criminal defense attorney, and a novice beekeeper. He currently facilitates Conscious Aging Workshops and Wise Aging Workshops in the Chicago area.

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