TAKING ADVANTAGE OF AGING: OR THE JOYS OF IDLENESS


It seems to me that there is a phase in our lives, when we are approaching old age, have intimations of it, but aren’t there yet, and may not be there for a while, of which we must take full advantage. It is a wonderful phase because we can contemplate it (the word means ‘being in the temple with) and make choices that enhance and deepen the quality of our lives. The first thing we need to take advantage of is Time. We all have different conceptions of how to use time — earlier, it meant ‘productivity’ to me, and ‘productivity’ always meant the making of a product: in my case, a book. Though this continues to be a goal, I have broadened it to include, at the very basic, being out of bed and puttering about! There are days of low energy ( I always have many of these after a very busy period, which I have had for the last three months with the release and publicity of THE SINGING GURU, packing for several trips, and travel to India) when I congratulate myself for bathing, brushing my teeth and hair, changing my clothes and going downstairs for breakfast. From this basic level to sitting down at my desk and producing there is a whole spectrum of activities that I have begun to see as productive, the most fruitful of which I consider Idleness.

There are a lot of injunctions against this in our society which we have internalized. Our ‘productive’ selves balk at it, at the minimum, and go crazy when we find ourselves approaching it at the worst. But I have, after years and years of not giving myself permission to be idle, found a sweetness here that I cannot name or describe. Or, perhaps, I can name it: space. Yes, that describes it best. There is a spaciousness in my life now, a vast unwinding of time that is not pushed or pulled. A simple being in the temple with Time. Simply sitting in bed and chewing the fat with P for hours in the morning over tea and biscuits; watching the light come up outside the many windows of this bedroom, looking out and allowing my eyes to graze for hours on the different shades of green with different luminosities; the leisurely getting out of bed with no agendas for the day other than being restful and letting activity unfold in its own time; allowing myself to savor myself as I move through the day.

It is a wonderful phase, past the anxiety and striving of youth, and not yet debility or illness. Oh I will suck some marrow here! Chew the fat of this earth! Muck about in joy!

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