Aging Out Loud:
Last night I watched the movie Wild with Reece Witherspoon portraying the true story of a young woman, Cheryl Strayed who walked the Pacific Coast Trail in search of her Self. I recognized my younger self in her.
I too went to physical extremes, lived in remote nature without conveniences, walked long distances carrying a heavy pack in order to unlearn the parts of my conditioning that felt inauthentic – and discover who I really am. A young woman’s journey.
From the vantage point of several decades later, I see how willing I was to take risks without thinking about consequences. Almost all my life choices at that time were made in an attempt to avoid complacency. I sought out the extremes in order to not get too comfortable. I was afraid if I did, I would fall asleep and miss out on living a full and meaningful life.
I too strayed from the beaten path and have no regrets. I am grateful for what I learned living close to nature, building a shelter, cutting my firewood, boiling my drinking water, growing and gathering food and raising a young child without the distractions of TV, carpools, computers and fast food. Would I do it again? No. Too much has changed. I am old enough to want my creature comforts. I won’t be carrying a 75 lb. pack or hauling firewood on my back anytime soon. And from the feedback my son has given me in recent years, I’d make different parenting choices now.
I raised a child in the woods. Until he was ten he roamed freely about and didn’t have a lot of structure. It was the way a lot of us were raising children in the seventies. We wanted our children to be self-regulating, self-determined, and free of the molding type of parenting we’d had as children. Moving away from cities and families and into wild nature allowed us to live a natural life, home school and live among people who valued a certain kind of freedom from society. It was a physically challenging pioneering life and I carry what I learn with me still even as I work as therapist live in a comfortable home and enjoy the privileges most people work to attain.
This morning I said to my husband, “I think I used to be run by a fear of growing complacent”. I used to be in pursuit of life. He knew full well what I meant. He’s lived his own version of living out on the skinny branches in his search of Self and a meaningful life.
Now, I am more interested in the Virtue of Enough: feeling like I am. The critic barely whispers to me these days. I feel no need to push to be more or make more of life than what it already is. I relish the emotional richness of my relationship rather than feeling limited by the sense of security and comfort we find in each other. I am excited by the tenderness and depth of our intimacy. It is richly nuanced, every expanding and contracting, a mystery of connection that delights and surprises. Our intimacy is as new and fresh as our ability to be present to it. I don’t often feel the old dark call of restlessness these days. Something has changed. The push to improve upon what is tempered by the call to be with the many textures of what is so.
It is a beautiful day in Northern California and the lilacs are giving off a heavenly scent.
Johanina Wikoff, mature and in love at seventy
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