Have you ever thought about your relationship with time?
Do you ever wonder how it will feel to be 50 years older, or say 80 years older?
Do you ever think about who will love you then, or what will change? What will feel exciting to you and what you’ll even care for? Who will be beside you or who will love you until then? How will your relationships change, blossom, or end? How will you change, what will you feel?
What is there to experience that you haven’t yet or that is so far in the future you can’t even imagine its essence?
True magic? Madness?
Things you’ve never even thought about experiencing? Beauty greater than you could imagine?
Age has always bewildered me. As a child, I was always hyper-aware of my youth. As if I was looking at my smallness through an older perspective. As if I knew the mysterious nature of time. My for-you page makes me feel like I’m not alone in this notion…
Five years ago, when I turned sixteen I began a job at a high-end nursing home, (more like a country club). You couldn’t imagine the contrast of our lives, (their world at one-hundred and two; my world at sixteen).
I remember my best friend’s father saying to me “you don’t know it yet, but this is changing you”.
I went from this tirelessly vibrant life of activity and newness and screaming and playing, to this place that was so slow and so soulful, a place filled with wisdom of all kinds.
I felt it bury me in romance and depth, principle and perspective as I entered it’s walls.
My young mind was dazzled by its deep meaning and history as if it were a look into another world. Even at sixteen I couldn’t help but feel the magnitude of our ages and the things I could never know, that they experienced first hand. I felt the magnitude of the gold-framed paintings that surrounded me and the lives that existed in this finite place.
Only now do I fully understand the power of being in a place like that. I found old age to be so delicate and so real, and especially honest, it was very honest. These people lived this way but to me, I figured after seeing the spectrum of life that it ought to be the only way.
The conversations I’ve had with residents at this place are the deepest and most carefully picked words. Words that I let carve flowers on my young soul.
I remember this one man, he lost his wife, his second wife, and he said losing her made him fall apart. He says to me after a long conversation about who my lover is and where he is and why he isn’t. I told him I said to Mr. B, “I don’t quite know how love works yet”. And he said to me, “There is always a bit of pain in love. Well worth it, but there’s always a bit of pain”. His voice, his presence, his perspective for some reason has this capacity to engrave ideas in my mind like the poetry of truth. His words feel so real and they leave his lips with raspiness and honesty. Him saying anything at all to me other than the truth of his battered and resiliently created mind seems inconsiderable.
I knew being with people of older age so drastically far away from mine would place direction in my heart and perspective in my mind. A Stanford study that observed the relationships between older and younger generations found that an increased sense of purpose and emotional satisfaction due to intergenerational interaction extended both ways. I felt this in my core.
It shows up in little ways littered around the building. Decorated with high ceilings and chandeliers, old paintings with thick globs of real paint hang on the great big walls. It feels as if the Titanic were placed on the land.
It’s the 104-year-old woman who recites her husband’s birthday and keeps his love crumpled up in her clenched hands. Being there, that place, with all those people makes me feel a real understanding of the fleeting nature of life. It makes me feel relentlessly inclined to ignore all ideas but my own. It makes me want to wake up and wear the craziest pair of pants that I own because it makes my heart feel alive.
It’s women who understand the worth of their husbands and the immeasurable meaning of the strings of their sweaters, of their jewelry, of the experiences they had together. To grow old with somebody is to watch each other bleed into a greater truth of life; it’s to feel the earth age with you in its hands. To watch one another become, and remain holding hands through this inevitable and unanimous uncontrolled time warp. From being everything at one time to being what you are now.
It sounds like a piano playing and it’s quiet and slow. The love that I’ve witnessed inside these homes. It’s so much time and it’s so much change and it’s such deep emotion. It makes me feel so much a part of something greater. Something so big and overwhelming and something so honest about our humanity. It makes me recognize the depth that can live within your entire lifetime and how captivating and powerful your whole life is as it begins and begins again not just at 20 years old, or 30 years old but the whole time.
It feels as though every shallow thought or movie scene or cheating scandal falls into some oblivion when you look at messy real love that’s lasted 100 years. You can’t even believe what meaning can be created when you have 100 years to learn, and discover yourself and what it all really means.
You know that song that goes, ‘Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful”? And then it goes “will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul”?… “I know you that you will”
This may just look like some dramatic lyrics to a lot of people but when I listen to these words I feel it in my bones. I feel it because I’ve seen it – the unchanging aching soul.
I’ve known men and women who have loved one another from their 20’s to the ’90s and felt the effects of time turn them into something else. Changing so rapidly from decades of life together. I watch people just love with so much power and honesty and care with so much sacrifice and desire. It may be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed, something so meaningful it takes a hundred years or so to be created. That time has meaning, it has value, it creates ways of being you could never administer artificially.
Once they were young, once they were desired, once they were undesired, once they were single, once they were in love, once they were free, once they were caged, once they were heartbroken, once they were blissful, once they were rich, once they were poor, once they were students, once they were teachers, once they had long curly hair , one they had short and gray, once they were one thing, everything, all things. They identify with their hearts because it’s the only thing that is meaningful enough to endure.
A place like that connects you with your innermost desires and your uttermost values. It’s a closeness with such a spectrum of age that you just feel as if you know, you know how simple and easy it is to live 100 years and to be a pool of emotion and memory of love and light and learning and a magnificently crafted book of many colors. And at the end of the day these people come home to their lovers, some new, some old and they look in the mirror at themselves just the same, decorated in yellow or purple or gold and with the same smile they had each decade. These people understand youth, passion, and freedom. They look to me like a time capsule and something they’d like to read up on. IT connects you with the world, it connects you with history, it connects you with yourself and your life as it is today.
It’s one of the most powerful emotions I’ve ever felt- to be connected to these people’s lives and journeys, their loves, and their emotions. It’s absolutely divine, I don’t know how to explain it other than a feeling that overtakes your body and amplifies your heart. To see love in real life, unconditional love with so much choice, sacrifice and kindness. Connections that took years in the making. Understanding that took time and dedication.
A sweetness that comes from being grateful and knowing a world of having nothing, not even kindness.
I remember softening a butter pad for a resident I saw often but never grew very close with. She is beautiful, with a british accent and observable intelligence. I remember running it under hot water to ensure that it would be able to spread. When I set the butter down she looked up at me and she said, “that was so sweet of you, I’ve never had anyone do anything like that for me”. You can feel the gratefulness in her soul and the understanding she has for what her life is and what it could’ve been.
And what effect it has on me really, is this notion of being undefined. If you can be everything in your lifetime, a spectrum of ways and looks and titles then it kind of shows that it does nothing but change your experience.
It shows that you were perfect the whole time, that anything is right and that we are all the same in this fluidity of titles and ideas about ourselves, rich or poor, beautiful or unbeautiful. Nothing can really hurt you if it isn’t directed at your core which is something outside of all the change. It’s the one thing that stays stagnant and it’s you. Not your age or your hair color or your boyfriend, not your job or your income or your situation, the only thing defined is your spirit and your being. you are at the end of the day, you. This feeling of being everything and everyone connects you to everything and everyone. The fluidity of a “label” makes you lableless and therefore connected to everything, not just what you are now.
In connecting with other generations and seeing the spectrum of life from start to finish:
Age becomes a reality to young people, not an imaginative place later in life.
Love becomes seen in everything, not an imaginative place later in life.
Identity becomes seen in everything and everyone, not one thing, or one person.