This is the second “breadcrumb” we’re leaving along the path that we call “Toward the Light” of aging. 

Let’s face it, no one is exempt from growing older. Some changes may be subtle, while others are more drastic and obvious. This series of posts called “Breadcrumbs” is an attempt to find our way in and through the aging process, while continuing to mature and develop further. So, as we meander and stumble along this trail, we’ll drop as many breadcrumbs as we can. Perhaps, as we follow the clues left by other wise Souls, we too can find our way “Home.”

David Bowie

David Bowie left us all too soon, but certainly seems to have poured his heart and Soul into living Life to the fullest. He created countless moments of meaning, whether through music, film/video, performance, or painting that continue, beyond his physical presence. As we hike our trail, our path, one of Bowie’s clues about life resonates with us. 

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”

For us, that short quote carries an extremely important message, basically turning Life upside-down. Rather than feeling as though we are losing cherished pieces of ourselves (disintegrating), he’s suggesting that we are intentionally and painstakingly examining what remains. He suggests that our true Essence is the Pearl we seek. We open and shed that which is unnecessary or no longer needed—eventually letting go of anything and everything that isn’t our “Essential Self.”

Mark Nepo

The poet/philosopher Mark Nepo speaks about this pursuit, this process of life-long “Pearl-essence” in a different, but poignant way when he says, “Like a comet worn to its center by the time it reaches Earth, the gravity of our journey leaves us bare and unadorned as we reach the simple, enduring center where all souls meet.”

However we choose to envision and articulate this life, the process remains the same. We simply consider it the never-ending work of the Soul—the journey of a lifetime. 

Thank you David and Mark! 

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This is the first “breadcrumb” we’re leaving along the path “Toward the Light” of aging.

Rumi speaks to us across seven centuries, as a wise old friend joining us in the shade of the porch on a warm summer afternoon. Perhaps he has come to stay for a few days, or even longer. Wonderful! We sit entranced by his soothing voice as he recites a poem written especially for us. He calls it “The Guest House,” to honor our openness, hospitality, willingness to listen and our love of Life. We absolutely adore his visits—always gentle, kind and gracious. We heed every carefully selected word and subtle inflection in his voice as he begins:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

What a beautiful poem to start our journey into the “final stage of life.” We took our first step by cracking open “The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s guide to growing older.” The co-authors invite readers to take a new perspective, a new vision toward aging—with a veil of spirituality. Count us in!

Rumi, our first guest

As we all know, in order to begin any new endeavor, we must first be open to listen and then to actually hear. Lao Tsu said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Hmm. Ahh. We are ready, and Rumi arrives as our first guest and guide. We lean forward to hear his message. Shhh!

Poetry by Rumi, from “The Essential Rumi,” translated by Coleman Barks.
The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s guide to growing older,” by Robert L. Weber Ph.D. and Carol Orsborn, Ph.D.

The first post of this series is called “From Wind-Down to Wisdom,” and can be found with a simple click. To find all of the stories that will follow, just enter the word “Breadcrumbs” into the Stories “Secret Search” box,” on the site’s front page and they will all magically appear for you.

Turning toward the Light.

Cheryl’s mom had a funny saying, “One day, we’re all going to wake-up dead.” This may sound like a contradiction, but it’s actually a humorous nod to an inevitable reality. 

Kane Tanaka

Hey folks, that’s the truth of the matter. We all WILL die, even though some people seem to defy that reality. For example, the oldest person living (as of Jan 12, 2021) is Kane Tanaka in Fukuoka, Japan—born the same year as the Wright brothers’ first powered flight. Imagine that! For some of us, the earthly end will arrive much sooner than it will for others, but eventually, even Kane will take flight. But at 118 years, she wants to delay her own “take-off.” She thinks she’ll be ready when she’s 120. Why is that any better than 118, you might ask? Only Kane knows?

So, what’s her secret to longevity? She says it’s all about “Eating delicious food and studying,” Okay, we can do that, but frankly, there must be a bit more to consider!

Living well is one desire that many of us surely share. However, for some, the topic of mortality has rapidly moved to the top of the list. We represent just two Baby-Boomers, two septuagenarians. But let’s face it, In order to even consider a powerful “lift-off” from this earthly adventure, it makes sense to examine our pasts—which may then require a little clean-up work. We’ve always tried to “keep house” as we go, checking in with the expertise and wisdom of select therapists along the way. But, over the past several years we’ve decided to “up our game,” deliberately and methodically digging into lingering issues or limiting perspectives. We feel that this deeper dive will help better prepare the Way. Now, together, we are ready to design a “grand finale” for this human experiment. Here we go!

Erik Erikson

We first shifted our gaze to the future when our wonderful therapist Dr. Jody Saltzman referenced the work of the German-American psychologist Erik Erikson. He authored the now famous “Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development”—of which the last and final stage is “Maturity” (from ages 65 to death). Ooff! That last hurrah has also been referred to as the phase of “disintegration.” YIKES! That doesn’t sound good! However, upon further study, the “virtue” of that stage, according to Erikson, is “wisdom.” Hmm. We became intrigued and decided to check that out!

We are stardust

We began our own little research project to uncover the possibilities that lay ahead. We strongly preferred the word “transformation” rather than the ooky term, “disintegration.” Oh, sure, we know about the “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” thing, but disintegration sort of signals a painful “falling apart.” No, thanks. So, our mission is to turn this time in our life from “the beginning of the end” to just “the beginning.” With thoughtful enthusiasm, we jumped right in. 

Once we decided to explore the topic, we found ourselves sorting through some amazing information. It will definitely take some time, determination and patience, but early indications suggest that irresistible clues are scattered all around us. Transformation is not only possible, but appears to be the preferable “calling” at this juncture.

Finding our Way

Mind you, our interest is certainly not about “staying young,” (too late for that) but rather about making the most of this truly once-in-a-lifetime chance to “grow old and get wise.” We also suspect there might be others who are approaching similar crossroads. So, as we meander and stumble our way along this trail, we will drop as many breadcrumbs as we can. Perhaps, as we follow the clues left by those before us, we too can find our Way “Home.”

We’ll keep you posted!
Cheryl and Emerson—fellow travelers

This initial post will be followed by an ongoing series called “Breadcrumbs.” To find the complete list of entries to date, just enter “Breadcrumbs” into the Stories “Secret Search” box, and they will all magically appear.

You might also check out our related music and story from 2008 called “Toward the Light.”