Opinion: Anne Lamott Reflects on How Aging Brings Gifts of Softness and Illumination

**Key Takeaways:**

1. Lifelong friendships enrich and evolve with us, offering comfort and understanding through all seasons of life.
2. The simple acts of kindness, practicality, and love are foundational to navigating life’s challenges and losses.
3. Nature and the passage of time offer profound lessons on acceptance, change, and the beauty found in the present moment.
4. Aging brings unique gifts of perspective, softness, and an appreciation for the light and shadows of life.

This morning, as the dawn broke, I found myself meandering beside the lively creek with Shelley Adams, my steadfast companion of 64 years. Shelley’s unwavering optimism, a trait I usually find grating in others, is something I’ve come to admire deeply in her. Our regular hikes along the creek, now a vibrant stream adorned with rocks, mint, and twigs, are a testament to our enduring bond.

Rainer Maria Rilke once mused that life cradles you securely, preventing any falls. However, Shelley and I, alongside others who’ve journeyed through many years, know all too well the feeling of being let go, only to be lifted again. In moments of loss or uncertainty, my friend Tom Weston, a Jesuit priest, would say, “We do what’s possible.” A notion I reluctantly accept.

So, what does “possible” look like? It’s the embodiment of practicality, simplicity, and kindness. Our lives are woven from the threads of work, love, assistance to others, marveling at nature, and rest. It seems that’s the essence of it all.

There’s a certain disappointment in this realization, yet with age comes the understanding that these simple, kind, and practical acts are sufficient, even amidst the gravest of experiences. A call from an aging, despondent friend to my friend Don prompted the question, “What’s the point of it all?” To which Don responded, “Mornings are nice.” Surprisingly, this was the balm needed for improvement.

My hip no longer allows for the uphill trails, so we adapt, walking four 10-minute laps along the creek. These walks are a mirror to the truths of aging.

During our first lap, Shelley and I dive into conversation, reminiscing and catching up. Our childhoods were intertwined, our families and homes extensions of each other. Despite the years and the distance that once separated us, we’ve reconvened in this chapter of life, slower yet filled with a sense of joy and goofiness.

By the second lap, we’ve settled into a comfortable silence, allowing nature to fill the spaces between us. The creek, where water and land converse endlessly, becomes our focus. Despite my blurred vision, I find beauty in the obscured details, appreciating the world in a different light.

The drizzle of the morning had us donning raincoats, sharing memories and laughter about old family sayings and cinematic moments that speak of sun shining through rain. These shared moments, light and profound, are the threads of our connection.

Our friendship, seasoned by time, knows the depths of each other’s souls and the shadows that lurk. We’ve navigated misunderstandings and moments of anger, yet always find our way back, understanding the comfort in reconciliation.

As we progress, my hip signals a desire to rest, yet we press on, discussing everything from the spiritual to the mundane. Our conversations are peppered with laughter and reflections on the quirks of aging.

By our final lap, the conversation turns to those we’ve lost, acknowledging the inevitability of our own departures. Yet, there’s a peace in this acceptance, a recognition of life’s cycle and the gentle transition that awaits.

Aging has bestowed upon me two invaluable gifts: a softening of heart and an illumination of spirit. These gifts, arriving in the twilight years, guide us through the complexities of life, offering a perspective rich with gratitude and acceptance.