On the Shelf or Embracing Life?

Could it be that rather than putting ourselves on the shelf as we get to a certain age, we have the amazing opportunity to serve and express ourselves more freely, released from the false worries about fitting in and what people will think about us?

No need for the resignation of, “I’ve got nothing to lose,” – but the choice to be inspired by the same feeling – unashamed and without shyness we can go for it, sharing our experience, wisdom and observations without reservation.

There is enormous fun to be had with this as we first accept the liberation and then the simplicity of the responsibility on offer to support and mentor others, sharing what we have learnt along the way.

So what, as a society, can we say is going on when we so readily dismiss and sideline our elders? With our attention and attachment to youthfulness, are we resisting the natural cycles of life and the richness they hold, disregarding and undervaluing all that is on offer from our elders and their lived experience?

As two elders, we have certainly had a developing relationship with the concept of growing old. There are so many myths that abound around ageing:

  • That we will at some point ‘get it’ or ‘have all the answers’
  • That it is a decline from everything we had when we were younger, ‘over the hill’ as the saying goes
  • That it is the time for us to retire and be rewarded for our hard work, a ‘putting out to pasture’ mentality
  • That, maybe particularly for women, it is all over in terms of our physical attractiveness to others
  • That we should gracefully step aside to make way for the younger generation.

Talking to others and as we feel now there is no ‘getting it,’ – the gorgeous thing being that we actually start to feel younger, realising how much we still have to learn and losing the pressure of needing to look like we have all the answers. This leaves us much more open, curious and appreciative of the ongoing and endless discoveries life offers. There is an acceptance that introduces humility, a life-enriching quality that allows us to view the world and our place and purpose in it with a sense of the bigger picture and the joy of our equality.

It is now our experience that our ageing bodies are beautiful, sexy, sweet, and endlessly precious, emanating qualities that behold, nurture and support others. We can give ourselves permission to embrace the confidence and freedom to dress and present ourselves without being devotees to fashion magazines and the latest ‘looks.’ And that there is no retirement requirement; that a deepening engagement with life and the people in it means we realise how much we still have to offer and how much we want to continue to do so.

Whilst gripping youth so ardently (seen so clearly in the celebrity world), is humanity as a whole avoiding the responsibility and balance of embracing growing old and the steadiness and deep understanding of life that these years hold? And how in the reflection of the way we live, others get to transform and develop their relationship and understanding of ageing and growing older.

In our experience of being elders, at work, in our families and amongst our community, there is a grace in accepting growing older and a huge service in taking responsibility for the pivotal part we play in society. If we reflect on this being the autumn of our lives and what this symbolises, it can be a period of great inspiration as we take stock of what is truly important and offer this reflection to others.

No need to shrink into the shadows. We can simply embrace growing older, appreciating the passage of time, the learning on offer and the blessing of the responsibility we have to share and reflect.

By Judy Joy and Matilda Bathurst

Related Reading:
Sexiness in the Older Woman – Not Related to Age, Sex or Good Looks!
Active Ageing – your Health in your Hands
‘The Joy of Ageing, Esoterically’ 

1,062 thoughts on “On the Shelf or Embracing Life?

  1. Absolutely there is no need to shrink into the shadows, I am more alive and vibrant than I have ever been. Has this to do with age? I am definitely older and wiser but more important is the choice to commit to life and feel the purpose of my being here, we all have a quality, a uniqueness that only we can bring to the whole.

  2. I will be 50 very soon, and I am finding that this embracing of myself as an elder is not something that I can pull off all of a sudden just because I reach a certain age. It feels to be a gradual progression, looking back at how at every step of life I have been living and appreciating the learnings along the way, and looking forward knowing that there’s so much more to learn.

  3. This turns aging on its head and reading this is so inspiring – the fact is we can at any and all ages have a purpose. If we connect to this then age does not make us any less.

  4. It is only as I have grown older that I have realised the negative perception of being older, the feeling of not having much time left or not having quite us much to offer as someone younger. But I have also realised that we can influence how people perceive us by our own opinion of ourselves.

  5. We like to blame others for putting us on the shelf and not valuing us as we age, but you have hit the nail on the head, we put ourselves on the shelf, we write ourselves off first before others do, and why shouldn’t they if we have first?

  6. Never should we accept or buy into the notion that we are useless, not because of age, gender, character, race, intelligence or else; we all are unique in expression and contribute something to the whole that is made by all of us and we should support each other to be very aware and appreciative of that uniqueness.

  7. Sitting on the shelf may seem to be safe but it is also utmost boring and meaningless, hence not an option we can choose for too long before ‘life’ will give us a gentle push. We are players in and of life no matter if we like it or not. There more we embrace the fact, the more we will enjoy playing our part.

  8. Getting older only seems like something you want when you’re in your teens, then all of a sudden you go, wait no stop! Society definitely has placed the elderly into a box of being past their prime – but you can be past your prime at 25 if you don’t commit to life. And maybe that’s the secret to staying young.

  9. This is beautiful to read for all of us, of all ages, as we have made life as a whole about being on the shelf and to fit in, meanwhile we are denying ourselves to live the beauty that we are and bring all of us into everything we do.

  10. There are definitely a lot of beliefs around ageing that are untrue. We don’t have to become anything just simply continue to be ourselves, value that and share it with the world.

  11. The dynamic in our society is to dismiss the elderly and in that are two things to discern.
    1. The complete ignorance to the quality the elder bring, as when listened to will stop us from inventing the wheel over and over again. So actually as a society we do not want to be stopped in our waywardness.
    2. The abuse that is common place to treat the elderly with is not only accepted by society but by the elderly too.

  12. As you can observe in life there is an avoidance of becoming old in many ways. Could this mean that there is a certain quality in the elderly, a quality and a reality we do not want to be faced with because it will expose to us the waywardness we are living?

  13. I’m 62 years old and trotting round the world on business with a very heavy work schedule, living out of a suitcase, changing to different hotels every few days with a lot of driving in between a lot of flying and loving every minute of it. In my 60’s it felt as though I was just getting going. I’m not getting older I’m getting younger
    I’m able to do more now than I ever did in my 30’s – 40’s because I have such vitality.

  14. Every stage in our lives offers us the opportunity to deepen and activate living our power. It is through our connection to our Soul that we evolve and can reflect the truth of all the we are, and this can never be measured by the age of our body, our physical appearance or capabilities. To be aging is a beautiful reminder that regardless of how our bodies are, our Soul is what remains unchanged forever impulsing us to live it lights, at every point of our lives.

    1. Ageing is only for the human body, but not for the Spirit and the Soul which are eternal that live in and with it. If we let ourselves to be ruled by the reality of the human body, that the human life has a begin and an end, do we then live in complete neglect of our Spirit and Soul?

  15. Until our last breath we have to embrace life in full, because to do so is to accept responsibility for what we are here to do.

  16. We have a choice as to whether to be on a shelf or not. Many young people put themselves on the shelf these days but equally other young people I know are so wise they have become elders – none of this has to do with age.

  17. Many stages of our lives can be fraught with disappointment, struggle and expectations of ourselves which can bring angst; without self-acceptance and appreciation, life will always be a struggle.

  18. Beautiful to read this this morning and realise ‘That we should gracefully step aside to make way for the younger generation.’ is a belief that has been triggered and nurtured in me- that I have fallen prey to..Of course we will naturally give way to others as we die and they continue living but we do not have to give in or give up anything. We continue in our power and they in theirs.

  19. How many people already spent life on the shelf of giving-upness already from a young age? It is not a matter of age but bringing oneself in full into life every day as much as possible, that´s what keeps us young and vivacious.

  20. The temptation of being shelved comes with the current model of living that is based among other things in allocating people into boxes and asking them to embrace where ‘they ought to be’, identify with it and not move. The time to expand and to serve beyond the box has finished.

  21. I feel more sexy, tender and sweet in my 60’s than I ever have felt before in my fife. Observing others around me at this stage of their life there is a focus on retirement, joining the ‘travelling nomads’, starting to live the life they have been waiting for and working towards, there can often also be a ‘givenupness’. There is so much within us to appreciate and confirm as we see life more clearly, exposing it’s imposing and dictatorial energy that we may have allowed to control how much we bring to those around us. Growing older is amazing and powerful.

    1. One of the things about the reward of retirement is the mentality that you can “enjoy life” then. It’s very much based on outer activities dictating how we can feel, instead of making an inner connection to our essence, the soulful part of us, and the joy that can bring to any moment. When we live the fullness of ourselves no rewards are needed – it’s a joy simply to be ourselves.

      1. And that is a great illusion to think that we can enjoy life THEN. If we are not able to enjoy life in our everyday life no retirement nor time off nor holiday will bring us the joy we are missing.

  22. ‘False worries about fitting in’ – so true, our fears about fitting in are based on pictures of what it means to ‘fit in’ and be accepted. But what are we trying to fit into? Usually society’s pictures, someone else’s ideas, about what is socially acceptable. And why do we want to do this? It feels like we do it when we don’t accept and appreciate the beauty that we all are, and judge ourselves for being different, instead of accepting and embracing that we’re all, in essence, one and the same, albeit in many different expressions.

  23. I actually wonder if we can put ourselves “On the shelf” at any point in our lives, for example, when things get tough, or we make mistakes we can give up on ourselves, or if we haven’t fostered a sense of self worth, or if we don’t feel we are beautiful or worth it – but perhaps in these moments we need to embrace life more, commit more, give life more, rather than taking the easily option of the shelf.

  24. ‘No need to shrink into the shadows’ no need to put ourselves on the shelf either, I appreciate getting older and wiser and feel more beautiful, sexy, sparkling and joyful than ever and there is more to come, more to embrace of me and more to share with the world.

  25. This is very lovely to read and confirm. ‘It is now our experience that our ageing bodies are beautiful, sexy, sweet, and endlessly precious, emanating qualities that behold, nurture and support others.’ The wisdom of the elders is ageless.

  26. The elderly have an immense wisdom to share with us “the younger generations”. I love talking to the elderly, who have lived life and are not so tense, worried and worked up with the 21st Century modern hassles and dilemmas.

  27. “So what, as a society, can we say is going on when we so readily dismiss and sideline our elders?” – yes, and this makes me reflect on the recent comment made in the press about the UK economy being in a slump and termed “menopausal” as a result – the comment alone shows how much we can unconsciously side-line those in their later years, our elders as being ineffectual or on the scrapheap, whereas in fact this time of life in its naturalness is but a (another) cycle where there is a growth and activity though just in a different quality to what was before. When we start to appreciate, we always see more than what is there.

  28. ‘We can simply embrace growing older, appreciating the passage of time, the learning on offer and the blessing of the responsibility we have to share and reflect.’ Such a gorgeous sharing, we need true role models like you ladies to reflect to others that there is so much to appreciate and understand about life and ourselves when we embrace the ageing cycle.

  29. Of course there are the cycles of the human body to adhere to but that is only the vehicle we live in and with. The love spark that lives within is forever young while it is age old and that is what is what is being expressed whatever age we are if we can let it unfiltered come through. There are of course the false images of getting older that are around and wants us to belief that we are different when young then when we are older. In fact it is only the body, the outer we live in that ages but it is not our essence which is forever young.

  30. Just because you may retire from your job at a certain age should not mean you retire from life nor from giving back to and interacting with your community in a way that sets a loving and respectful example for others to follow.

  31. I actually felt yesterday that I am feeling more in tune with my body, more beautiful and more in love with myself then I have since I was a young girl –
    Self love and self acceptance is all of our natural birthright – take this away and we are subjected to people’s judgments – it’s taking on these judgements that makes us look and feel older then we are.

    1. Thank you Sam, it’s a beautiful and very inspiring comment, it makes sense to what you have shared about judgement bouncing off us when our self love and self acceptance are solid.

  32. As a woman in my 30s I am deeply inspired by the older women in my life. Their lack of self judgement or need to be perfect, their understanding and holding of others, their zest for life and their purpose are deeply inspiring.

  33. There can be a bit of defiance and defeat underneath our drive when we say we have nothing to loose … but if we approach life appreciating who we are no matter our age we present something very different that we’re amazing just as we are at any age, and we are just us not trying to prove anything. And the world badly needs more people, especially elders to do this.

  34. “There is an acceptance that introduces humility, a life-enriching quality that allows us to view the world and our place and purpose in it with a sense of the bigger picture and the joy of our equality.”
    The quality of humility is opening me to being much more willing to learn from life and much less wanting to fight what it brings.

  35. Speaking up can be scary as we can be worried about how another will take it or if we will be judged etc. But it is super important to share what we hold and have inside us and not hide it away.

  36. Allowing our body to feel that we can “simply embrace growing older, appreciating the passage” of space that will allow us to be aware of what our next in-carnation will bring does take all the stresses out of this life and so we become aware of the truer way of living with a divine purpose for life.

  37. No shrinking here too.
    I love each day my body gets older as I also feel much wiser everyday and blessed to re-discover the love I am and shine in through my body.

  38. Taking stock, and see what is true, that’s something that is very missing from our world and perhaps our constant chasing of youth is part of this; maybe in our race to be ahead, to catch that next thing we miss out on what is truly important, and this I feel is what our elders offer us, context, the bigger picture and an understanding that there is so much more than we know … our world needs more of our elders to remind us of all parts of the cycle we live in.

  39. I remember as a teenager thinking that anyone over thirty was over the hill and that I knew better because I had my finger on the pulse of life, but it wasn’t long before I went through a long period of knowing that I didn’t and now I can often feel when a young person is thinking that I am over the hill, now theres a bit of karma for you. Now that I have reached fifty an age I used to think was way over the hill and up the other side, I still feel as young as I used to and in some ways it feels like life has just begun.

    1. Yes, quite interesting that in our younger years, we may consider a certain old age to be really old… but when we actually reach that age, we still feel young and the same as we did back in the younger years… Shows just how much our inner quality and expression is ageless, and never ages at the same speed as our human years.

  40. “That we should gracefully step aside to make way for the younger generation.” This is a big one isn’t it? And one that actually makes me very sad because it means our elders are hidden away and we do not have as many opportunities to learn from their lived experiences and the elder wisdom that they share, and we are less of a society when they are hidden.

  41. As I reflect on ageing and where I am in life now – this blog has supported me to realise that when I was younger and physically I could achieve so much, move so quickly, lift and shift things which meant not asking for help etc, I am realising the true gift of ageing is that it is removing so many of these obstacles and is bringing me back to who I am from the ‘inside’ first. Thank you Matilda and Judy for exposing how we get distracted and how ageing clears many illusions that gets in the way of living truthfully.

  42. Could it be possible that having any focus at all on aging will never serve our body because what that involves within the larger aspect of us being immortal becomes a distraction? So as a Soul-full being we still have to lovingly nurture our bodies and this will provide the body with the ability to be able deliver wisdom no matter how old.

    1. If we were also aware of reincarnation we would not hold so ardently to youth because the natural cycle of evolution means we will have birth, youth, maturity, elder years and death many times. We have the opportunity to value each part of the cycle of life and bring our all to it – life after life.

    1. Yes, quite true Matilda, there comes a point in life when we actually embrace rather than dismiss, only to discover the richness, the awareness, the insight, the self-acceptance and embodiment of love that continues to resonate more and more deeply as we ‘age’ – needless to say, we discover further, this quality is in fact ‘Ageless’.

  43. We all have so much to appreciate as we grow older and not only the fact that we are discovering we have choices in life and a true connection to God. Also we can feel the true relationship we can have with others, when we understand our equality and there is always equalness within-our-inner-most or essence!

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