This month, both Eleanor and Liz share their thoughts on turning eighty.
By Eleanor Jaffe
At first, you are placed into a mold: baby girl, Then, you fit yourself into the mold; it’s good. Puzzled, you find the mold changes as your body changes And you begin to become a woman. The changes are not easy.
Later, you grow to become wife and mother, lover, nurturer. Then another mold: the professional. It sits on top of all the others – somehow. Time passes; you begin to break out of that complexity. It no longer fits; the children have left. Parts feel empty, meaning gone. Confused, like being a lost teenager again.
Later, you move toward new roles within a fluid mold: Trying them on: writer, artist, leader, teacher, risk taker. You become more confident. This direction seems right, good.
In older age, there’s a refitting of some earlier molds, The roles of nurturer, giving and receiving love— Grandmother, daughter/caretaker for an aged mother, Critical thinker, teacher, writer, Protector, comforter to the grieving.
I know myself.
I’m stepping up to become a wiser older woman Sometimes too outspoken, but what the hell! Grateful for my loving family, husband, and friends. For my still strong body. Blessed.
But no more molds.
Liz, when considering 80, chose to do so in a spiritual way, drawing upon her own religious tradition in the process. No matter what our personal religious backgrounds might be, we can all certainly relate.
She says that…
To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, when it comes time for me to die, I do not want to discover that I have not lived.
By Liz David
So, Hineni, here I am God,
Approaching eighty, amazed–awestruck, full of your Presence–
Still here, striving to live my life with the wonderment of childhood and the wisdom of age,
Still here, striving to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way,
Because you, God, were there when I was born,
And I’m still striving to fulfill the promise of all those years ago when the seed that was me, Elisheva, was planted–
Elisheva, Oath of God.
Hineni, have I lived up to my name?
Approaching eighty, I look back and remember that there have been times when I thought, if I die now, it would be enough–toda raba, I am grateful for the full life You have given me
I still believe that, even as time passes and I have much less time ahead than behind. And yet, I ask, is there ever enough? Is it ever Dayenu?
The words “we are led where we choose to go” speak to me, or was it You speaking to me, Holy One of Being, all along?
Was it You pulling the strings of my cosmos, pushing, pulling, cajoling as I made the life choices that brought me to this moment?
Hineni, God, here I am, still here, waiting for the next tug, and the one after that, and the one after that until You sever the thread that binds me to this earth
And set my soul free to join eternity with You—awestruck.
Dayenu–and that will be enough!