On Being Fierce, Part 1
Jun. 16, 2015. (see also 8.12.13) It happens one day. You are 66 years old. The eye doctor scratches his head and suggests a glaucoma test. Your husband forgets the security code to the front door. A routine chest x-ray finds a spot on his lung, which is "probably nothing." Then a fuse blows on your car and you can't figure out how to open the @!%&*! fuse box. Do you throw in the towel and start Googling for "independent living" communities? Is it time to find a safe haven while you still have all your faculties? Before the realities of old age and infirmity make everything a thousand times harder?
Six weeks ago I felt this way. After my "winter of perfection" (me being a paragon of diet, exercise, and creative activity... and flossing), the universe refused to pay off. Spring came and all I felt was old. Our lives were in good order, but where were the thrills? Where was the ecstasy?
Feeling out of gas, we started going to church. Why not devote an hour to counting our blessings, sharing a warm "kiss of peace," and having a cup of coffee with a group of committed, compassionate folk?
I needed a new door to fling myself through. Our May roadtrip didn't provide it. The road felt too long, the woods too deep. We turned back home after three nights.
I've been trying to do this aging thing correctly--a gradual down-sizing and a graceful letting go, right? But... maybe that's better for Jim than for me, better if you're in your eighties or nineties. I'm aging, but I'm also of the age when people buy high-maintenance, monstrous RVs and set off across the country creating new worlds for themselves. Or they buy boats. Or make bucket lists involving parachutes and mountain-climbing gear.
And Dylan Thomas' poem keeps popping into my mind:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light....
I often reflect on my energy diagram above. I try to nurture ROBUST energy to keep firing on all cylinders. It seems like a good platform for the occasional thrilling breakthrough. But when life has been kicking your ass, it's okay to switch to QUIET mode to allow healing and to open up to energizing new inspirations. But occasionally, when said life kicks your ass, you have to start kicking the hell back. Do not go gentle... rage, rage... be FIERCE.
My thought process was not this logical, but as we turned toward home, I figured we needed something BOLD, to meet the fading of our light with all the grace of a porcupine shooting his quills. In the Christian tradition, ugly creatures with pitchforks and skull necklaces are demons--up to no good. But in the Buddhist tradition, these creatures are the FIERCE aspects of a deity. They take on this ferocious aspect to protect and defend us when we are weak. They are the guardians who don't hesitate to scream at us when gentler voices go unheard.
So somehow I made this decision to don my magic cloak made of tiger skin and my magic hat made of peacock feathers. I will be my own fierce deity, reaching down to the depths of my bold divinity, and calling upon the majestic powers of the universe.