“It’s ironic that you are the extrovert and you work from home all day without ever leaving and I’m the introvert but leave the house, talk to people and go to work every day,” my husband told me as he was getting ready to head out the door. We both laughed, because the paradox between our personalities and present life circumstances is true beyond measure.
After our laughter subsided and we returned to living life in ways that do not align with our individual quirky traits, we did our best to not let the cumbersome routines that have become the new ordinary get the best of us.
One of those new routines includes my participation in Zoom video conferencing. I have meetings and gatherings approximately three or four times per day. This online platform can come in handy as it temporarily satisfies my sociable nature.
However, the other side of the Zoom coin has posed a bit of an issue for me. When I see myself staring back from the flat laptop screen, I try to avoid eye contact with that person at all costs. The woman peering back at me does not look familiar. In fact, I have no idea who she is. Who is that woman with a saggy neck, drooping jowls and wrinkles on her forehead? I knew she had gray hair – but the rest of it surprises me.
How is it that I didn’t notice the beginning stages of elderhood? It looks like there is another new ordinary creeping in and I can’t say I’m jumping for joy at the prospect.
There is a saying often written or spoken by individuals who practice Zen philosophy. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of that statement and understand it only on a surface level – until perhaps now. Thanks to that old lady on the computer screen – and the Pandemic which forced me into the world of Zoom.
Although there are slight variations to the chop wood/carry water wisdom, one interpretation teaches that mastering your thoughts and perceptions allow you to appreciate the extraordinary miracles in ordinary daily life. By mastering your thoughts, you are not chopped by the wood and carried by the water anymore.
If I must accept this ordinary life of an aging soul, then I will take the bull by the horns and conquer the heck out of it. I will master my perceptions of old age – or at least I will give it a whirl by remembering the attitude of a 98-year-old women I read about recently. The story goes something like this: She told her doctor that when she was younger, she looked like Elizabeth Taylor. When the doctor told her that it must be difficult for someone who was once that beautiful to have aged, the woman responded “What do you mean? Am I not still beautiful?” Yes, I want to be like her.
I know that when the pandemic is over and everything returns to normal, many of us, including myself, will come out on the other side with different perspectives and appreciating things, events, and people we took for granted before. But what I am now learning is when things return to normal – the normal is going to be different. The ordinary will have greater meaning.
Yes. I will still be an extrovert. Yes. I will still use Zoom. Yes. I will still age. But my perception of it all will have changed. I will not regard my adventure into aging with disdain. When things return to normal, I will have learned to chop wood and carry water with the best of them.
And, when that old lady looks back at me during a Zoom conference call and begins to judge the shifting tides of my skin, I will look directly in her eyes and respond, “What do you mean? Am I not still beautiful?”
And believe me – that personal shift in perception is one big extraordinary miracle!
May you also experience your own miracles when life returns to normal.