It’s no secret that getting older has it own special set of challenges—from changes in hormonal levels, metabolism, to everything on our body heading south or haywire. We’re forgetting more and sleeping less. Some are losing their hair; everyone is acquiring more wrinkles. The facts are that in my sixties, I’m not as slim as before, my memory lapses happen more often. This aging ‘thing’ is moving into my life with such vigor that it sometimes feels as if I’m being possessed.
However, what has truly taken over my life is a need to know more about my true nature; to find the unique gifts and possibilities that are mine to use.
While redirecting and rethinking who I am and what I can do, I began to realize that the biggest thing I needed to do was learn to forgive myself, to accept that I’d missed a number of opportunities for growth and fulfillment in different ways. I’ll never have a Master’s degree. I won’t be trekking in the Himalayas. There are other things I won’t be or do. Exciting goals, I'd promised myself. For instance, while working in the movie business, I dreamed of heading up my own movie production company. A company that would make provocative beautiful films which would lead me to winning recognition and maybe even an Oscar. Now, I realize that being an executive, spending huge chunks of time without a personal life wasn’t something I really wanted. A single mom, I wanted to spend more time with my daughter; discovering who she was, watch her grow. However, at the time, I still felt ashamed and somewhat guilty for not attempting to achieve the ‘ideal’ image of top exec/super mom/woman. At that point, I felt like a ‘failure.’ Seeing the rich life my daughter now lives, it’s apparent that what I did was spot on. Remembering what we shared—the beauty and the challenges—reaffirms the vibrant livingness of my life.
I’ve been married twice; divorced twice. Two times when I felt like a failure. Looking back, I finally realized—duh—that there was truth to the old adage “it takes two to tango.” Those relationships were my education. For personal growth, I needed what they had to give. But I still have moments when I’m too self critical; sometimes for a little too long.
Finally, I found Charlie. He popped up while I was staying on a farm, helping a writer friend edit a book. It was snowing outside, the wood stove was burning when I spied some old video tapes featuring Charlie Chaplin as “The Little Tramp.” A man I later discovered had a childhood straight out of a Dickens novel, as an adult, his life was filled with drama, scandal, pain and loss. After reading about Charlie’s life, I was amazed that he’d continued to make people laugh, much less even create with the brilliance that he did. Then I read something he said: To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!
That dusty, shabby, fumbling little tramp was someone who endured. When knocked off his feet, or something went wrong, he picked himself up, shrugged, and started all over again. I loved the character’s sweetness.
Years have passed, and I still find myself reaching out to Charlie. I've become better at shrugging after inserting my foot in my mouth. Again! I’m human, I remind myself and the stress level drops into the basement. Doesn’t mean my blood pressure won’t rise again. It’s inevitable I’ll feel I’ve failed to do my best in some way or another again. It’s part of the process of ‘becoming’ which consists of losing my self to doubts and fears. If I can laugh, or even smile, I’m able to discern the seeds of opportunity that ‘failure’ holds at its heart.
So what if I’m in my sixties ... in many ways my life keeps getting better because Charlie reminds me that there's beauty in imperfection.