One question I’ve been asking myself as I write about aging is what my goals are. In part, I hope that reflecting on my final years will help me to better understand my own maturing process and deepen it. In sharing this progression, my readers will make their own discoveries, as has been true for me whenever I’ve read about someone else’s journey.
But I believe that aging offers its own mysteries for us to explore, and that also is part of my quest in this book I’ve written, Dreaming Myself into Old Age: One Woman’s Search for Meaning. It can be our richest psychological stage because it forces us to examine more closely our life’s meaning and to seek answers. In these pages, I take the reader behind the scenes of my late-life Jungian analysis where, during some of my weekly sessions, my nightly dreams become a focus. Dreams, like poetry and other art forms, employ a special image language that we can understand more deeply if we spend time with them. They also offer insights into us and our world that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
During our younger years, we’re caught up in work, raising kids, and establishing ourselves in the world. The focus is outward and not so much on our inner life. Living in our outer-oriented culture, with our focus on the daily minutiae, the inner life gets even less respect than old age and elders do! However, once we’ve moved past those demands, we have opportunities to do something different. Aging thoughtfully, then, includes opening more to our fantasies and dreams, our memories and reveries, especially as the outer world closes down and we gradually must withdraw from activities that once came easily to us.
I’m not famous, so I represent a kind of aging everywoman who also happens to be a published writer. For those who might not find the time or inclination to reflect on or write about their aging process, I’m hoping that mine will give some readers a different perspective. But I also want to expand our attitudes about aging because I see it as one of our richest stages: it can encourage us to examine ourselves more closely and to seek answers to complex questions about living and dying. I’m in the midst of that process with no idea, of course, how much time I have left. I could live to 101 as my mother did, or I could drop tomorrow. But reaching old age grounds us in ways adolescence or adulthood didn’t. Without having many years ahead of me before I must grapple with my end, I’m nudged to think about it now.
In some sections of the book, I show how dreams, like poetry, employ a special image language that we can penetrate if we spend time with them. I also look at the spiritual dimension by investigating esoteric knowledge. I hope it will shed light on what my purpose on earth might be and help me meet my end more creatively.
For those who are interested in joining me on this quest, Shanti Arts will be publishing Dreaming Myself into Old Age: One Woman’s Search for Meaning, within the next two years. Stay tuned!