A friend asked me a question the other day: “This writing thing of yours; is it a hobby or do you see it as a profession?”
Even after I’d given him my answer, I chewed on the question for a while. It didn’t really matter what my answer was – encore career or a hobby. For me, the more important truth was this:
I’m following my bliss.
I first heard the expression about bliss spoken by Joseph Campbell when I watched a series of interviews with Bill Moyer in the early 1990s. What Campbell was referring to was the bliss of losing ourselves in the rapture of life’s experience.
This is one of the gifts that I find so valuable about getting older. Competition and comparison mean much less than they used to. It’s the immersion in the experience, the surrender to the moment of creativity and joy that are of value.
I’ve been blessed with women friends who have no problems modeling their bliss in life. I know master gardeners, writers, painters, quilters, advocates, and senior athletes. And the list is much longer. Finding your bliss and acting upon that nourishes the heart and the soul.
The act of making something, whether it’s dinner or a scrapbook, is sacred. It draws upon our creativity and our intuition. It calls forth a standard. Most of us desire to make things well, to achieve a sense of personal best. Making things creates joy and that joy is no less than a sense of purpose.
Exposure to advertising is bad for our emotional and spiritual health. This is a time to place our attention on the people and the things that we love; not the commercials that make us aware of the minutia of what could go wrong.
Turn off your television and do something else instead. Knit, read, walk, or visit a friend. Engagement with the world, a community, and our friends reveals our bliss.
Yes, some people will get sick and injured in older age. That is a truth. Some people also get sick and injured in younger age.
When the Harvard Study on Adult Development and Aging was summarized by George Vaillant, M.D., the conclusion was not what the drug companies would have you believe.
The conclusion was that your attitude was more important to aging well than your cholesterol levels. And what better attitude than to exercise your love and your purpose through following your bliss?
I have friends who’ve met the challenges of older age head on. They’ve had hip replacements or heart attacks. They’ve developed serious vision problems or arthritis. The ones that do well in the face of adversity are the ones who aren’t afraid to let go and adapt.
My mother’s end of life story was this: Her hands were arthritic. Her back hurt. She didn’t have as much energy as she once did. Still, on most days, the 90-year-old did two things that she loved. She read. And she worked with a small loom that fit on her lap.
Slow and steady, she created hats. Hats for babies and hats for kids. When she eventually filled a box, she mailed them to a children’s home. She followed her bliss in this way right up to the end.
Mother Teresa said: “We cannot do great things. We can only do small things, with great love.” That is the secret to bliss – it doesn’t matter what we do, only that we do it with love.
Since we know that eventually we will come to the end of our road, finding and following our later-life bliss seems like a pretty good exit strategy. It sure beats giving attention to the fear of aging or the fear of death.
I don’t know the answer to the mystery of death, but I do know the answer to the mystery of life: live as fully as you can. Love big. And you’re never too old to follow your bliss.
What’s your bliss? Do you find passion in small things? Please share your precious thoughts and musings with our community!