As I age, gratitude is more present and possible. When I turned eighty, I was nervous about the future, how to live my life fully as an Octogenarian. I met the challenge of that birthday by committing to a daily gratitude diary. It compelled me to practice, to call to mind and appreciate the what, wherefore and how of a gratitude practice.
I’m not one for gratitude lists. A list, in its very form, is brief, shorthand. I needed to widen the context, to assess and ponder the meaning of my choices. The diary, all those lines on the page, cried out for descriptive language, mined from the senses, the story of my encounters. At the end of a year, I had amassed 8 notebooks of gratitude writing. Some notations took the form of short essays. Some explored definitions, where I searched for truth of a word, of language chosen. I followed what fascinated me, the usual and unusual, reflections in the moment, from memory.
At the end of a year, trusting my ability to “show up,” I turned the daily practice into a weekly blog— a commitment to friends and potential readers to write and share 500 words about the experience of gratitude.
Now, in this era of Trump, I write bi-weekly—sadly, a necessity so as to distill all the political and emotional input and pull out a meaningful kernel or two to explore and amplify. I am grateful to subscribers and followers on Facebook.
As I write, I keep my readers in mind. I feel supported, less alone. It’s curious how, as I age, I am far more able to discern, take notice and note grateful encounters. By putting pen to paper, I am challenged to shape the story of each encounter.
Earlier, this past week, a childhood friend who suffered a mild stroke remarked on her experience in rehabilitation. As she began to learn to use a walker to regain strength and balance, she assessed her good fortune at being on her feet and moving on her own. She was not wheelchair bound nor was she bedridden. She was able to read, talk, recall, laugh and complain.
I have learned that gratitude accrues as one ages. It’s inherent in the landscape of the odds as Carl Reiner, age 95, explains in HBO’s documentary If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast . “ I pick up my newspaper, get the obituary section and see if I’m listed,” he jokes in the film,
I am privileged to have many younger writer friends, the result of having graduated from Pine Manor’s Solstice MFA program in my mid-seventies. During the course of two years, I worked with three different mentors on creating and crafting long personal essays, mostly memoir of family and my professional work. Ageism was nowhere in sight. I was an aspiring writer among other aspiring writers. This past weekend, I attended my 12th Solstice residency as an auditor in several classes where I was again a student—learning and refreshing my dedication to the craft of writing. I am ever grateful for the generosity of a program that invites return and renewal.
Was so glad to be able to join you at the Solstice Residency and share in the joy of friendship, shop talk, and gratitude. Love you, Faye!
Kat, I so appreciate our connection and the conversation about our shared interests at the residency. I look forward to many more spontaneous occasions! I think of you and your dedication to “THE BOOK” often. Onward!!
Thank you and congratulations Faye. Your wise , spiritual and creative perspective is a gift and a blessing
on these uncharted older waters.. It can be quite overwhelming herding all the memories, experiences
and new thoughts and learning together. Despite the political despair we are surrounded by the knowledge
that everything , everyone is connected. scientifically. That is a huge quantum leap. I am white knuckling on to all of this…at the moment.
I miss hearing your wonderful spontaneous giggle- laugh. Loved the picture.
From beautiful Central N.Y.
How wonderful to read your comments. Yes, it’s all in the connections and how we rise to the level of awareness.
Hope that the white knuckling will ease as you wrap yourself into beautiful Central New York which I know nourishes your spirit and artistry. Speaking of giggle, it takes two, my friend. Let me know when you are back. xo
Every once in a while I think of how you’ve stressed gratitude in these later years.
I find it a antidote to kvetching and complaining.
So I am grateful to you for reminding me of its importance.
Hy, Writing brief gratitude notes and shaping this blog helps me remain mindful. Raising the question, for what have I been grateful, is truly an antidote that with practice and time balances the darker moments. I’m grateful for your validation.
Faye…you so aptly describe how aging presents many challenges and therefore opportunities for gratitude. It is clearly not so challenging when life is “good”, but when life throws a curve ball…not so easy! it seems important to keep gratitude front and center at all times.
Pat, so good to hear from you and yes, being mindful of gratitude, like the practice of yoga, can become a resource to amplify the good times and help cushion the curve balls.
I just returned from spending two glorious weeks in Camden, Maine and its nearby towns of Rockland and Belfast. I can’t wait to return to its rugged landscape of huge rocks and boulders, mountains, and the beautiful sea. I am so grateful, Faye, that I was able to make arrangements to find
a colorful and artsy dwelling walking distance from town. But most of all, I am grateful to have the chance to enjoy this spectacular beauty! There’s something about the distribution of mountains and sea in mid-coast Maine that is like no other!
Bev, thank you for sharing your gratitude post highlighting the awe and wonder of the beauty of mid-coast Maine. I’m so happy for your delight in the mountains and sea!
I’m taken with the simple premises that emerge in this piece, and what they say not only to writers, but to a wider: for example, the notion of “trusting [her] ability to ‘show up.'” That phrase seems to gently lay down a useful starting point–how to grow older, how to write (or create), how, in general, to greet life.
“Rosemary, in considering your words, I realize how simple yet complex “showing up” can be. For myself, the challenge with aging is how to greet life and continue to learn and find meaning. Writing (and reading), with its multifaceted possibility, seems to offer a viable path.