Small and Aging

While friends struggled with major complaints—heart and circulation problems, joint replacements–and minor inconveniences—loss of their youthful acute memory, aches and pains–aging didn’t bother me. Until my last birthday. After joking for years that I didn’t feel the least bit old because I’d always been immature, on that very particular date, I began suddenly to feel old. Very old. It wasn’t so much about the noticeable physical signs that I was aging, a new crop of wrinkles, hip pain, minor balance issues. I could mostly ignore those. It was more about my future not looking all that bright, with the prospect of losing friends, lifelong and recent; realizing that I had no more adventures ahead of me, that my life was going to become smaller and smaller.

These realizations slammed into me the days and weeks following my birthday. I began to wonder which of my friends would be struck next, which I would lose first, what suffering lay ahead for loved ones. I felt imprisoned in old age and decrepitude. How do people do this, I wondered. How do I live with only sadness and loss to look forward to?

Of course, I wasn’t completely consumed by my fears and sadness. I still loved life and enjoyed being with friends. I still adored my grandchildren and looked forward to seeing them. But the fact that I was old—and growing older—was never far from my consciousness. “How much longer will I be able to romp with Lucien and the twins?” I asked myself. “Will Amelie and Poppy want to spend time with me when I become infirm?”

I still practiced seeing small, and whenever I did, I renewed the gift of discovering beauty in unexpected places. But always, the joy and beauty were tinged with the regret that I was already old and was going to continue growing older. Yes, the world offered me beauty, but I was no longer part of it.

Luckily, I found a way to help myself move into the future more gracefully. I understood that I needed to take small to the next level. And to help myself do this, I decided to offer workshops on small at senior centers and retirement communities. If I had any doubt about my decision, responses to my queries tell me I’m headed in the right direction. “Perfect for old people,” one director responded to me. “Our people will love this,” another said.

Already the dark cloud of old age is drifting off to another part of my sky. I now have something important to look forward to. A new adventure ahead of me. And as I see small these days, I’m discovering new benefits of my practice, which means that seeing small is becoming much larger than I ever imagined!

French Lichen


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