Rolling-and-coasting 12 Jan 2018


Uphill, downhill, and up again and down again we go through the lengths of our lives. But particularly, or so it seems, in earlier and later life. During our middle years, generally speaking, things are more level, stable and predictable.

But following entry into this world squeezed through our mothers’ birth canals and before we leave it again, squeezed once more, but this time out, by the narrowing down and unstoppable diminishment of our capacities and abilities in preparation for departure, it can sometimes feel unbearably difficult.

As babies, unless we are orphaned, we have the help of our mothers and fathers to develop and mature, but as old people, our children not having done it yet, often all we have is ourselves, especially perhaps if we are women with our demographically slightly longer lifespans than those of men.

But the grim, slow, sometimes and eventually, rapid slide downhill into oblivion and death, hard though it is as we become more and more physically compromised and socially marginalised, is also wonderfully reassuring!

What???!!!   I must be mad to say such a thing! A hypocrite too with my aching bones and tired oversensitive lungs and the increasing number of doctor’s appointments I make now that I am becoming ancient.

But here’s why I mean it:

With the narrowing of what we can do comes an expansion of our depth of appreciation of what is involved in, and what it means to be, alive.

With the squeeze on living friends and contemporaries as they die off one by one, comes a wonderful expansion of the feelings attached to our memories and experience of them and of all of life.

With the ongoing arrival of new persons on the planet facing the same issues as we did, but hopefully managing them better, it is so reassuring to see our children and our children’s children dealing with the fantastic breadth and scope of time continuously doing its thing on their development as it is still doing on ours till we’re gone.

With all the dead before us deep within our biological memories and our dreams, and all those before them deep within theirs, and so on, back to the beginning of time, it is so reassuring too to know that we have all played our part in the development of human consciousness across the millennia.

With all this and more besides who is not to say that whilst all the wrapping of our lives unravels in old age and blows away into the mists of history when we die, that it wasn’t all – all of it, perhaps especially in the dying – just the most fabulous thing to feel, to experience, to perceive and to love?

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

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