Life’s a challenge at any age. We’re shrieking from the moment we draw our first breath as we’re thrust from warm, safe suspension to the stark coldness of our new world. And the struggles only snowball as we progress through life, until they reach their peak in our senior years if we are lucky enough to live to see our senior years.
Think about it. We spend so much of our early lives mastering survival skills, and then in later life, gradually lose the ground we’d fought so hard to gain. Remember the seemingly boundless energy of youth, the flexibility and strength that allowed our bodies to cartwheel, flip off the diving board, sprint to the finish line?
My mother told me that she felt the hardest part of growing older was losing loved ones, as gradually, and then with gaining speed, disease, illness or accidents reclaimed the lives once lived so exuberantly, the relationships so carefully crafted and tended to over the years.
And yet. While from a bird’s eye view, our later years may seem somewhat frightening, fraught with ongoing loss and frailty, the closer I draw to those older years, the more my eyes are opened to the sheer beauty they include that can only be experienced through the wisdom gained and life lessons learned in the years leading up to them. You can only appreciate the view from the mountaintop after the arduous climb, but then – that first breathtaking glimpse from the peak is unlike anything you could have imagined from below.
Life, at any age, is comprised of a series of defeats and successes. We strive, we fail, we learn, we overcome. Boiled down to this simplicity, it really doesn’t matter if we’re taking our first step, performing in our first dance recital, raising our first child, or relearning to walk after a stroke. Humans are innately gifted with resilience, with the desire to keep going in spite of any obstacles that may hinder our progress, and with an inner strength and determination to continue on.
Aging doesn’t change that. If anything, it enhances it. Because the view from the mountaintop is worth every rugged step it took to get there.
In the words of the late, great Maya Angelou: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”