There are always two opposite truths to embody, two polar ideas to integrate. Life would be so-o-o much simpler if only one side of the spectrum were true. We have to be just and merciful, powerful and gentle. As we ripen and mature, we have to hold on and let go at the same time.

First the Hold On part, something a lot of us are good at

One joy for those aging at this time in history in well-funded later life stages is that we can carry so many things forward from midlife that earlier generations could not. With some luck and discipline, and good habits started soon enough, we may well be among the many who can extend our careers and physical vitality at length into the later decades. With high tech medicine and lower tech nutrition and exercise, we can prolong our energy and the activities that go with it, from biking to romance, from travel to the arts, from fun time with the kids to fun time with the grandkids.

This is the “70 is the new 50” stuff that always sounds so good to the age-fearing ears of our time. It is Goldie Hawn and Kevin Costner on the cover of AARP magazine lookin’ so good. And indeed it is good news for many of us because we built a life that we like in large measure.

The Holding On strategy takes different levels of effort. With some cunning, and that good fortune piece again, we may be able to prune away the drudgery parts of work (spread sheets on billable hours) and keep the juicy parts (working with clients we love to be around). This is one of the joys of aging that is possible—keeping the essence and getting rid of the marginalia.

Of course, Holding On is not always that easy. The list of unpleasant hold-ons you have to attend to, so you can get the good things, can be extensive. Getting up early, keeping the hair looking youthful when gray is what your body now produces, pretending you care about new unbecoming fashions, keeping up with the admin and techno crap you cannot jettison, marketing your services on LinkedIn—all this takes effort that is not as readily available as it used to be. Still, the pay-off may be big enough that the Hold On strategy still serves your life.

Letting Go as Strategy Two

This is where the polar opposite strategy comes in, one we may not like very much or be very good at. We spend our years being additive in mid-life—bigger jobs and increased skills and bigger salaries (and college funds) and community responsibility—and now we have to let go more regularly. One important trick here is to even let go of some of the stuff that you still enjoy in order to make room for what is coming next. This can be oh so bittersweet (my last snowboarding trip, a beloved activity, occasioned this thought on letting parts of yourself move on.

This leads to leaving on top, letting go before you are pushed out. If you don’t play this side of the curve, bad things happen on the other side. Paul Simon sang this truth—”Slip Sliding Away.” One client described her career as being like a cat clinging to a screen door, slowing sliding down the surface with the claws still clinging for dear life. Such is my series of images on overdue good-byes. What comes to mind for you? More importantly, what are some aspects of your life that you have let go of well, and what do you need to start letting go of because it no longer serves you?  It is time: leave it while you still enjoy it, don’t wait and get crispy around the edges with burn out or worse, kicked out.

Author Kathleen Singh reminds us there is an opportunity in the Let Go for some beautiful inner growth into self-knowledge, not available earlier.

Those structures from which we are now released – alarm clocks and lunch breaks and the weekday/weekend rhythm (the push hard all week followed by weekend rest-up/catch-up maneuvers) – in many ways shaped the habits of our young adulthood and midlives…With less frenzy to obscure our mindfulness, we are left with a more naked view of ourselves. (Now) we have slowed down enough for some keen observation. It’s time, if we so choose, to fully make our own acquaintance, without the overlay of younger urges and midlife constraints and demands and schedules.

And One More Strategy

And the good news is this. There is one more strategy—Take On. In the spirit of renewing your life, what new attitudes, practices and interests are drawing you into them, soulful things that may be surprising—“who knew I liked Italian cooking?” said one lady to me at a workshop—surprising or predicted, but either way, that you can bring into your lif?. My life in year 70 is full of these. The question is—what new and unusual thing is popping up that you had no idea you wanted to put energy into? (This Take On strategy will get its own post later. For now, back to the first big two—Hold On and Let Go.)

If you can master two things:

  • knowing what to extend as long as you can with as little effort as possible, maintaining the essence of your soulful activities,
  • and balance that with elegant tactics for saying goodbye to what you need to, because you need room in your life for new passions and getting acquainted with you in new ways

you will have figured out a big key to life in the later years.

Especially in these years, the Let Go strategy becomes more and more important. It makes room for the new versions of you waiting to emerge. The additive years are gone, the subtractive years are upon us. But oh, the essence that is left can be sweeter than we have ever known.

Image “She couldn’t let go of chaos” by Crystal
Licensed under CC-BY 2.0
Original source via Flickr


Aging Helps Things Get Clear

by evoker on February 1, 2018

in 70th Year

Maybe we get wiser. Maybe it is having less time. Whatever it is, lots of us in later years report some deeper, clearer understandings of what matters.

One great little book, one that pulls no punches on both the hard and good side of the journey, also beautifully captures what to look forward to in aging. The book is The Measure of My Years by Florida Maxwell Scott, which was written when she was in her early 80s. It captures the ups and the downs and the paradox of the later years. She calls the wisdom that comes with aging “the later clarities,” and she writes of how to harvest them through some regular reflection. (Warning, it is not a normal self-help book; it is more like journaling and essays).

Scott, and this blog, are about how all the best in life is not behind you, if you spend some time savoring the right things, but, that said, the clarity we achieve comes through an ability to handle paradox and lots of both/ands and ambiguity, the kinds we did not need as much of in mid-life. Roles may have more defined and longer lasting when younger. Now we have to make it up as we go. A “day a time” helps with sore knees and energy that may come and go, and with fewer roles like parenting or career management to pour ourselves into, except the ones of our own making. We have to endure the ambiguity of loving more deeply than ever before and yet saying final good-byes to friends. We have to accept that our kids may have more say in our lives than they used to, and we rely on them instead of the other way around.

And we need to learn now to be ready for new bests. Of course, your best running times and career productivity are behind you, but friendships and capacity for wisdom, and emotional maturity… all these and more are reported regularly as new highs by those in their later years. But they do not show up if you don’t look for them, or cultivate them in the ways that work best for you.

And for those of us lucky enough to be still married, the love experience here can get better as time goes on—no guarantees of course. An email note from a good friend said yesterday, as he cares for his wife during her last round of chemotherapy for cancer, “all this is bringing us even closer as we get ready for our 60th anniversary this summer.” Wow to that!!

Here is author Scott talking about the paradox of still working on self-improvement while at the same time “letting yourself go” and ending the striving that has been dominant in earlier times.

“One can improve one’s character to the very end and ‘the later clarities’ will be put down to our credit I feel sure. (but the opposite is also true) the comfortable number of things about which we need no longer bother.”

~ The Measure of My Years , page 119

The latter years matter the most for a number of things—this theme runs throughout the blog year—but the middle age performance bias of our times has little knowledge of this. We can keep this as our little secret though… .no need to try to explain to the younger folks who rarely imagine this, nor is it their job to. They have other tasks to attend to. While we work on those later clarities.



Image above: “Clear waterby U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region,
Licensed under CC-BY 2.0
Original source via Flickr


Aging as an Art Form

January 18, 2018

We must not forget that very few people are artistic in life: that the art of life is the most distinguished and rarest of all the arts. Whoever succeeded at draining the whole cup with grace?  ~CG Jung I have woman friend, 87, who resisted going into a tiered living arrangement. But she relented. The […]

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The Wisdom Podcast

January 8, 2018

Here is the link to my new podcast, Stories for the Ages: celebrating aging with vitality and purpose debuting in January 2018 in collaboration with WOSU, Columbus Ohio’s public radio, station. Our species-wide primal urge to learn takes endless forms. Podcasts is one of the newer forms, so it was time to go for it. I think you […]

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John’s New Podcast on Aging Launches January 5

December 18, 2017

Witty Podcast Series Demonstrates Healthy Aging and Offers Wellness Tips for Life’s Universal Transition COLUMBUS, OHIO, December 18, 2017 – Aging – everybody’s doing it – and Columbus author, coach and educator John Schuster wants to help you approach the process in a productive and healthy way. Stories for the Ages, a new podcast series produced by WOSU Public […]

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