In the Jewish High Holidays, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are referred to as the Days of Awe. It is a reflective, introspective, transformative time.

This year during the High Holidays, I glimpsed a connection between the Days of Awe and our aging with intention:

  • Treating oneself with honesty and tenderness
  • A changed rhythm 
  • Self-reflection
  • Life review
  • Being a role model
  • Trust
  • Getting closer to being the person we’d like to be
  • Transformation

Both the Days of Awe and our intentional aging offer these possibilities.

Transformation is all around us at this time of year and at this time of life. On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, as I strolled through our gardens, I saw a yellow caterpillar with black stripes eating non-stop on a milkweed plant. This crawling larva is a future Monarch butterfly, a beautiful flying creature. The caterpillar exhausts its own capacity to consume. Its voracious appetite dissipates as a hard shell, a chrysalis, forms around it. The caterpillar tissue melts into a sloppy goo inside the chrysalis. The first phase of transformation — caterpillar soup, no structure, undifferentiated.

Does the caterpillar know what is occurring and what is about to happen? Does it trust? Do we know what is occurring and what is about to happen as we age? 

Inside the chrysalis in the caterpillar soup, there are imaginal discs that retain the image of what is to come, the image of the Monarch. The unstructured immune system of the caterpillar, now just part of the goo, attacks the discs and breaks them down, but imaginal cells remain. Another part of transformation.

The imaginal cells have an affinity for one another; they find one another in the goo. They come together to form the nervous system of the soon-to-emerge Monarch butterfly. 

Transformed.

It is natural for us to resist painful change as we age. Why do we fear and deny what is inevitable?

Trees are living at a different pace
The beautiful, elegant reach of their limbs
The heights they achieve
The colors, textures
Now, at the age I am 
I can see them growing and moving 
as they appear stationary
Grasping their rhythms helps me understand 
my own rhythms as I age

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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