A fellow over sixty and I were talking recently about how clear our memories are getting to be. Not about the stuff that happened yesterday or why I opened the refrigerator door just now. No, that seems to be getting murkier by the day. But what happened thirty or forty years ago is increasing in clarity. Both of us were fascinated by this. Who would have expected the older we get the younger we would remember?
It’s called life review: revisiting times past, people left or gone, feelings, events, occasions and everyday memories of a long, full life. This processing is an integral part of defining who we are by understanding what we have done. Often, for the first time, we begin to comprehend why we did something and how that impacted our lives and the lives of others.
In younger days, we traveled far, took risks, enjoyed rewards and incurred the costs of the choices we made. It all seemed to be happened so quickly. We were already off to the new job or love before we had really processed the why or what if’s. There seemed to be no time to pause. Events drove us ever onward. Like Alice’s White Rabbit, our mantra was, “I’m late. I’m late.”
Now, we have become the person who came through it all. We are not at the end, but we are certainly a lot further from the start than the finish of this life. Something in us clicks in and there we are, watching scenes from our youth playing out like a movie in the mind. We have the time to revisit incidents in our lives both profound and mundane. Freed from the passions of the moment, we can finally understand, appreciate and become reconciled with the person we were. There is room for acceptance and forgiveness of ourselves and of others.
Life review isn’t just loosing oneself in nostalgia. It is an important part of life’s course. It grants order to a life that didn’t seem to have a theme as we were living it. Ideally, we are discovering balance in our existence. At the best and highest level, we are finding peace and understanding before our life ends.
For those with us now, there is an opportunity to appreciate more fully who we are. Those lucky enough to be with a life-long partner can find new richness and depth. We may become sharers and want to teach. Perhaps we become listeners because we have found a new patience. Joys are simpler; sorrows, less searing. Our perspective becomes a long one. Perhaps this is why so many societies honored and valued their elders.
So, sit back and enjoy the reruns.
Aging in Place, it’s no accident.