November marks 20 years I have been writing columns for The Durango Herald. I approached Bill Roberts, then opinion editor, with ideas for writing about children. He had me submit three sample columns for an introduction. “Everyone needs quiet time including parents, children,” and “As children grow so does their command of language,” and “In play, men model behavior for babies.” Alas, Patient Parenting was born!
In 2014, after retiring from my early education career, I lost interest in the development of children. I became much more fascinated in the aging process since that’s what I was doing. I write to explore ideas, to learn more about them. So, in 2014 I wrote “Jumping from early childhood to aging adulthood,” and Authentic Aging was born.
“Authentic” because I didn’t want to write about how to stay young, or how to sign up for Medicare. I wanted to write about the realities of aging, the acceptance of it, the joys, the losses. The grace in accepting our old bodies and souls and doing what we can. The fears around illness and death. This is the real stuff of getting old.
Lots has changed since those early years for both children and elders. Children are growing up in an entirely different world than when we raised our own. And we are experiencing nothing like our parents did in their later years.
The speed of things, the advance of technology, climate change, mental health issues, disease, loss of nature in our everyday lives, violence/crime/guns, the cost of everything, so many people everywhere, environmental destruction and pollution in our waters and air, more noise, lights, the need for instant gratification. I think these things affect both generations and all generations quite a lot.
In critiquing the movie “Oppenheimer,” my son said I sounded like an old person. I am an old person, but does that discount a movie review? Or an analysis of life now? Perhaps our long years give us a different perspective, a larger look at the changes in life.
There are a lot of encouraging things happening also. Massive amounts of climate change actions by people regarding oceans, air, water, the automotive industry. There are huge local farm-to-table movements for better nutrition. We have access to immediate information, there is less smoking, the gender gap is narrowing, child mortality rates have declined, cancer death rates have fallen, there are more women in public office, space exploration has accelerated, there’s a resurgence of the American buffalo and much more awareness of diversity.
The world is now both better and worse than we imagined 20 years ago. Better, because of grassroots campaigns, populous movements and Indigenous uprisings. We are truly living through a profound moment in history.
Change is inevitable – everything changes, all the time. We are in a constant state of flux, but it’s difficult for us to accept it. In Buddhism, it’s believed that the resistance to change is what causes suffering. That’s what meditation is all about, the practice of just being with whatever is happening, recognizing it, and accepting it in the moment, and then letting it go without clinging to it. The now, because in a moment, it will all change.
So it is with our lives. At our age, we have gone through many changes. Now, being flexible to these changes is what I feel is important. I may grumble about the past 20 years, but I recognize them and see how they do affect both children and adults. I try not to cling to the more peaceful times in our lives, the slower pace, the quieter rhythms. We did have them, and for that I am grateful. Am I loosening my attachment to the world?
There is so much beauty all around us, and especially now with the fall weather, leaves, air and sky. This is where I rest my heart when I feel I’m losing hope.
Twenty years from now, things will all be entirely different, again. I will no longer be writing columns, and many of us will no longer be here ... maybe we’ll have world peace ... imagine.
Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.