Book Title: The Unexpected Adventure of Growing Old
Year Published: 2017
Pacifica Program: Myth Studies
Graduation Year: 2002
The Unexpected Adventure of Growing Old
This book began with my curiosity about and a questioning of attitudes that characterize aging as a time of deprivation rather than a time of enrichment. Growing old is a normal progression, experienced by all of us who are lucky enough to live a long life. All too frequently, however, the very idea of becoming old, as predictable as it is, fills us with apprehension. Picturing ourselves as sick, disabled, and dependent on others, we tend to dread this stage of life. But I am drawn to a very different view of aging, suggested by T.S. Eliot when he says Old men ought to be explorers. As an old woman—soon to be ninety—I look back on these years as a fascinating exploration of unknown territory.
We must become aware of the language, often disparaging, regarding this period of life. Too many products are labeled “anti-aging,” as if growing old is to be avoided. Based on my own experiences as well as the observations of others, I realize there are different stages of aging. We are not the same at sixty, seventy, or eighty. While during these decades we may face illness and loss, as well ageism in a society that values youthfulness to an extreme, we are also given opportunities to further develop our intellect, to appreciate solitude, to clarify our vision, and to deepen our emotional and spiritual outlook. Furthermore, it is important that we acknowledge our inevitable decline and death. The longest chapter in my book is titled “Death—The Elephant in the Room.” Carl Jung says that we would not live to be seventy or eighty if this longevity had no meaning for our species. He is right. I have found these late years to be the most fulfilling of my life.
About Leah Friedman
After an early career as an audiologist, I became in midlife a still-life photographer exploring symbolic imagery of the unconscious. These images led to an interest in Jungian psychology. At age sixty-nine I enrolled at Pacifica and received my PhD in Mythological Studies at age seventy-three. My experiences in conducting rituals is recounted in my book, The Power of Ritual: How It Can Change Our Lives. I have also written a memoir, Leafings and Branchings.