During this month of holiday gift giving I’ve been thinking a lot about the gift of aging, and all the things that come with it.
For years now my morning ritual is to spend a few minutes lying awake in bed reciting to myself what I’m thankful for, so that before my feet hit the ground my heart opens up with appreciation for the new day. Somehow it just seems to put me in a peaceful starting place.
Then yesterday at the end of my yoga class, I had an unexpected awakening. More than giving lip service to my awareness, I experienced a new way in, a simple but huge shift. And it allowed me to embrace an aging-up challenge I’ve been “gifted” with — hearing loss.
Seems obvious, but the light went on as I eased into the understanding that we don’t get to be selective with what we are grateful for.
If I am to live a life of gratitude, I need to accept ALL of it — including the messy, shitty, ugly, painful and disappointing stuff too.
Since adolescence, I’ve had noticeable hearing loss in my left ear, but now that I’m in my 60s, hearing aids have become a daily necessity. Even though they offer an assist, I still miss a lot of what’s being said. Covid made me realize how much I rely on reading lips. Most interactions my mind is working overtime to process the parts I can hear and guess what words to fill in that sound similar or would make sense in the conversation. I’m not shy about asking someone to speak up, but that’s only after I’ve exhausted trying to figure it out myself first.
I prefer to be in the back of yoga class so I can keep an eye on where the poses are going by watching the people around me. The instructor, whom I adore and is fabulous, (check out Drorit’s motivational story and classes here) offers up mindful inspirations at the beginning and end of class. Spoken in a soft voice so more often than not, while others are enlightened, I’m struggling to comprehend. Regardless, I set “gratitude” as my intention for the morning practice. With each pose I was conscious of how grateful I was to be a part of the energy in the room, how flowing through the poses made my body feel awake and strong, and how honoring my journey on the mat renews my body and spirit. It was easy to be grateful for loving what I was doing in this one hour, for me.
Afterwards, lying flat on the mat, exhausted, and totally spent, when I relaxed into “shavasana” I somehow got to a place where my mind let go of trying to figure out what words of wisdom Drorit was sharing with the class before we departed. Instead of struggling to comprehend, I went to a deeper place to “be grateful for what I can hear.” I accepted my limitation. I was no longer missing out, or coming from a place of lack, wishing it would be any different than it was. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I was sharing in the moment by feeling the love and energy vibrating in the room. Instead of my usual efforts to fight it, fix it, or figure it out, I just let it be. And it allowed me to change my perspective, sort of shift my starting place.
Funny, my hearing capacity hasn’t improved, yet now I find myself walking around feeling lighter and unrestricted, no longer bound by my condition. There’s a sense of new-found freedom in that.
To me, one of the most valuable gifts we can give ourselves is taking time to be more fully present. That’s why I felt the need to speak up about my little revelation. I think sharing our stories, no matter how different we are from one another, gives each of us a chance to perhaps see a similar part of ourselves we may not yet have given voice to.
By accepting the now, I was able to arrive at a different place. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy to feel gratitude for what each moment has to offer. But if we can understand that we’re always growing and becoming something new, it gives us a chance to discover what may have been overlooked before. My hearing loss pales in comparison to more life-threatening illnesses, and yet, the process of discovering a path forward with acceptance and compassion is an essential part of each journey.
It’s a choice I can make. One we can all make. And who knows, we might just be grateful for what we learn about ourselves along the way.
“Be present in all things and thankful for all things” Maya Angelou