I got to meet up with a beloved friend of mine this week and every time we re-connect I remember how alike we are in how we move in the world. We are both very comfortable in our own company, away from the noise of the world. Today, though, it also became clear that this preference isn’t always healthy (actually, I’ve noticed this many times before…) In fact, so much aloneness can become isolation. Particularly if we choose aloneness as a way of un-burdening the pack, the way other animals seem to as they prepare to die.
There are people in the world who’ve been blessed with the easy ability to ask for help when they need it and feel they belong even before being invited. I have rarely been one of these people. I’ve often wondered what it must be like to walk in the world this way and I’ve admired this ability, but I’ve been in the other camp. Those of us who have usually felt safest in our own company, except on those dark, dark nights of soul stirring, not quite sure others want us around and often pretty sure (incorrectly) that we aren’t wanted around. It isn’t that we feel personally excluded or outcast, it’s that we don’t see and welcome our own value.
This is what I saw today with my friend. This woman has taught me so much about what it can be to have a curiosity and energy for life well into elder hood. She has taught me about graceful contemplation. She is the person I turn to in my mind when I feel as though I’m running out of time in life. When I worry that I haven’t added enough, of meaning, to the lives around me. “There is always room for growth, at whatever age.” This is what comes to mind as I think of my friend and I become at ease with wherever it is I happen to be with life in that moment.
We have a habit of pulling back from life when we lose sight of our value in the bigger picture. So often, we are told how small and insignificant we are “in the big picture.” This is also true, I guess. But, it’s also true that our tiny, insignificant lives leave deep and lasting impressions on the life around us, whether it is rooted life, winged life, watery life, eight or six or four or two legged life (and even one leggeds). We mean something to each other. And our culture is no longer set up with ceremony and ritual to reflect that very precious information back to the carriers’ of the gifts we receive, by being in their presence.
My friend forgot her goodness. Her goodness in my life and her goodness in the lives of those she knows. I told her how I felt about her. What she has meant to me. We are kindred, in this lone wolf way, and there are others in the world, that pull back from life, as we forget our role in it, as members of a collective, each with precious gifts to share (regardless of how powerful, impressive and sparkly, others’ gifts seem to be) up until the moment of death. And even then, some of us will still be offering gifts.
Our culture could use naming ceremonies that recognize and call forward the gifts in each individual as we mature into them. Our names might change throughout our lifetimes and how beautiful is that to mark the evolution of our growth.
I think a lot of our elders could use naming ceremonies, as a way to stayed anchored through the lonely transition of aging. Each stage of aging comes as an initiation. And, it used to be, that, with initiations, came ceremony. This is the recognition, and formal ushering in of the New. We need to reclaim this practice. We need to bring ourselves back into community and hold and celebrate our members and be held and celebrated ourselves.
And this reclaiming probably starts simply by saying to someone you know, ” you give this/are this gift of _______ in my life.”