“A Life Well-Lived”
By April McQueen
Wrinkles at the outermost edges of the eyes are an example of the biological evidence of aging that most people can relate to. This is how time passes: with markers. Wrinkles tell the story of a life well-lived. There is no need to try to hide the traces of years gone by, however.
No one has a life that is only good. Life is getting through mixes of bitter and sweet, good and bad, positive and negative, and old-fashioned and innovative. Making the choice to smile and not frown can make one’s wrinkles different. Even if they are late-comers to grace a face, wrinkles tell a story. They are part of a larger narrative.
There is a lot of wisdom that comes from a life well-lived. Our lived experience gives us a past. It is our choice to make it matter. It is an active decision to decide how we interpret its events.
We can fall into safe and easy routines. We can develop compromised expectations from the high achievement bar of youth to the winter of our last days winding down. Every choice is a story.
At any moment we all can hope to have what we need and pursue what we want. We grow up and some of us grow older. We settle somewhere in the middle, accepting less than what we deserve. Survival of the fittest requires redefining who we are in order to remain relevant. Self-examination helps us process our existence. We look back, judging, then justifying the measure of a life that has equal parts of self-defined success despite other-defined failure. In mid-life we take up sword and shield to fight the impossible battle: time. After a point, we yield to the one whom we have become.
Eventually, we are all in or all out: roots, connections, sacrifices, commitments, and promises. The rest, like dry, fallen, autumn leaves, is our actual legacy. Like the leaves we simply fall and blow away. This is how nature reflects our steps on the planet. After striving and competing in school, profession, and domestic relations, what ultimately unites us is the inescapable equality of our endings, returning dust to dust.
With time we may forget how bad the bad was. We have forgiven those that hurt us and prayed for the same mercy from those we have hurt: intentionally and unintentionally. Mere memories, (the uncontrollable chaos of the three sisters: happiness, sadness, and anger), stay in our hearts and minds. To keep the precious parts of life safe but not self-destructive, we push aside nightmares for daydreams of a better tomorrow. We give in but don’t give up. We don’t give the inevitable negativity from our past the power or space to take up catastrophic residence in our fragile present. We deny hurt an all-access pass through our hearts.
When we age, we claim the dignity we are due. If once we loved, then we are blessed. If throughout our evolution on earth we regret nothing, but we were loved, we lived well and we had a good life…then we are lucky to have had EVERYTHING.