Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Happily Ever Aftering

Originally posted on August 13, 2010

What a sweet idea, part of the lyrics to the title song in the 1960s Broadway Musical, “Camelot.” How appreciative I am that I seem to have settled into this condition with my soulmate-wife, Allee, and our wonderful home and community. Yet happiness is by no means complacency or stasis: There is work to be done, to be done!—another bit of verse from “Strike up the Band”—and yet one of those things to do is to find balance so that one doesn’t stress out or drive oneself. Activity, purpose, mission, mellowness, enjoyment of the moment, and what occurs to me for my birthday in my early 70s is that the number of life challenges continue, though different in quality from the challenges in early life or mid-life.

My dear mother-in-law says that she makes a game out of figuring out how best to get around to do what she needs to do to stay semi-independent at 95. It’s not easy. And as I see friends not just dying—that part is easy—but having to live on when dear ones have died; or struggling with various disabilities and pains and symptoms from one’s own body or one’s beloved—the mottos I realize for this era is “courage” and “discipline.”

What ever happened to getting “over the hill” and “coasting”? Illusions of youth, stereotypes of a time of achievement, as if once having achieved, one doesn’t fall into not only other challenges, but also requests or the awareness that more yet is needed to sustain one’s community, extended family, closer family, personal and financial health, home maintenance, and on and on.

The challenges of elderhood are intriguing: I see a successful early life as developing a firm-stemmed growing plant, to blossom in love and family, and begin to give fruit and seeds. But in later life the flower itself becomes the fruit—or in my case, a fruity-nut, or a nutty-fruit—but juicy, rich in nutrients. It takes all our wisdom, faith, responsibility, love, and stuff like that to generate the best fruity-nuts, and the process can go for years. In some trees, the tenth year fruit is definitely better than the first or second-year fruit.

In other words, the last psycho-social stage described by the psychoanalyst-thinker Erik H. Erikson extended not only depth psychology to way past childhood and early adulthood to include the full life cycle, but also Erikson wove in the interplay with social influences and involvements. He said that the last stage was “integration,” but I don’t know if he realized how many sub-stages and aspects that dynamic involves. I foresee further maturation through many sub-stages for the next thirty years, though I can’t tell you yet all about these.

Partly, I think, this reflects my simple ignorance, and partly it reflects the changes that are happening in technology, politics, the culture, the advance of history, etc. Kids today! What will they come up with next!?! I suspect I’ll say this in twenty years if I live that long, but I hope the mild annoyance will be overbalanced by a smile of philosophical amusement. Another part recognizes that we continue to differentiate, which means our special interests and preferences continue to unfold, and old preferences become dulled with the “been there, done that” dynamic. The trajectory for vital involvement in the elder years becomes more individuated.

In a way, I’m witnessing to a positive future to imagine for those of you who are younger and wonder what elderhood might be about. It’s a protest against the prevalence of subtle age-ism. We need not to say, “young at heart,” (although I do love the lyrics of that song) but rather, simply, “vital.” As I grow older I may become less able to do some things, but perhaps more able to do other things few younger people attempt.

The main challenge is what I used to downplay in the past: Spiritual development. This may or not be associated with a particular denomination or religion, but it does involve varying degrees of awareness that certain involvements are more or less in harmony with the Great Creative Advance. This journey becomes ever more subtle and multi-faceted in proportion to the levels of development reached. It’s sort of like one of those video games that keep stretching the frontiers of your skll level, presenting you with ever-more interesting challenges in proportion to your skill at mastering the responses to that level’s challenges.

In my faith system, though, it’s okay. I get to serve the Great Becoming-ness with more consciousness! 99.9999…% of the cosmos doesn’t have a choice, nor is it able to reflect on the grand emergence. So I feel very privileged and grateful and if I can give back a bit and help the world be a better place (according to many different criteria for “better”), well, then, all the better. (Ha ha!)

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