I really love each new year. Because it is, well... NEW!! Like a blank slate. I get to fill it with something that I hope is meaningful, fun and purposeful. I don't always receive what I expected is always insightful. With that, here is something I have been thinking about for a while.
To age intentionally we must first be courageous enough to let our true self out in to the world. To do this requires that we are willing to take certain risks. Possible risk of humiliation or perhaps retaliation for being our self, or NOT conforming, is a normal reaction in our culture. We want to be liked and maybe loved by those around us. To be authentically "real" could put these desires at risk which might be painful. Or even more ominous, we might lose a job or be ostracized from our community for being different or going against the grain.
The sixty-four thousand dollar question is if there are so many risks to aging authentically, why even try? What is the benefit of taking the risk to live intentionally? Where do we get the strength? I ask myself these questions almost every day and although I can't really say I have the definitive answer I do have some thoughts.
What does seem to be true is that as we get older we have a strong desire to "become whole" and to feel connected in new and intimate ways to family, community and the world around us. By whole I am refering to our inner self driven by a set of beliefs and values and our outer self or the self we share with the world which can be driven more by the culture. This desire to be whole, I think, bears a strong resemblance to when we were children with our wonderful penchant for being ourselves, all the time.
I am also coming to believe that when we separate our inner self from the outer self (or what Parker Palmer calls the "Backstage Life" from the "On-stage Life") we suffer spiritual and maybe emotional pain. And I think a desire to be more "pain free" or whole is one of the major tasks of aging. Speaking for myself, I want my deepest values that direct my inner self to be the guiding principles of my external self. I find that I am driven to merge what has been my separate inner and outer lives in to one authentic personality. I am also discovering that I don't care as much about what others think.
To live and age intentionally requires a "wholeness" with no differences between our backstage lives and our on-stage lives; just our true self shining for all to see. My New Year's wish is that each of us find the courage to let our personal truths guide more of our lives in 2011.