Washington Post Op-Ed: At 33, I Knew Everything. At 69, I Know Something Much More Important., by Anne Lamott (Author, Somehow: Thoughts on Love (2024)):
Today I woke up old and awful in every way. I simultaneously cannot bear the news and cannot turn it off: It’s cobra hypnosis — Gaza, Israel, the shootings in Maine. The world is as dark as a scarab. I have two memorial services on my calendar this week. ...
My body hurt quite a lot when I got out of bed this morning, and I limped around like Granny Clampett for the first hour, until it unseized. Worse, my mind hurt, my heart hurt and I hated almost everyone, except my husband, my grandson and one of the dogs.
I don’t think I could have borne up under all this 20 years ago when I thought I knew so much about life. That was not nearly as much as I knew at 33, which is when we know more than we ever will again. But age has given me the ability to hang out without predicting how things will sort out this time (mostly — depending on how I’ve slept). ...
My white-haired husband said on our first date seven years ago that “I don’t know” is the portal to the richness inside us. This insight was one reason I agreed to a second date (along with his beautiful hands). It was a game-changer. Twenty years earlier, when my brothers and I were trying to take care of our mother in her apartment when she first had Alzheimer’s, we cried out to her gerontology nurse, “We don’t know if she can stay here, how to help her take her meds, how to get her to eat better since she forgets.” And the nurse said gently, “How could you know?”
This literally had not crossed our minds. We just thought we were incompetent. In the shadow of the mountain of our mother’s decline, we hardly knew where to begin. So we started where we were, in the not knowing. ...
In my younger days when the news was too awful, I sought meaning in it. Now, not so much. The meaning is that we have come through so much, and we take care of each other and, against all odds, heal, imperfectly. We still dance, but in certain weather, it hurts. (Okay, always.)
The portals of age also lead to the profound (indeed earthshaking) understanding that people are going to do what people are going to do: They do not want my always-good ideas on how to have easier lives and possibly become slightly less annoying.
Now there is some acceptance (partly born of tiredness) that I can’t rescue or fix anyone, not even me. Sometimes this affords me a kind of plonky peace, fascination and even wonder at people and life as they tromp on by.
The price of aging is high: constant aches, real pain and barely survivable losses. But each time my hip unseizes, it reminds me that this life is not going to go on forever, and that is what makes it so frigging precious.
Another gift of aging is the precipitous decline in melodrama. Enjoying how unremarkable life is takes practice and time, and then the little things start to shine and delight. Life gets smaller and in its smallness it starts winking at you.
Other op-ed by Anne Lamott:
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