The Extraordinary Gift of a Longer Life

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“Life behaves as if it were going on, and so I think it is better for an old person to live on, to look forward to the next day, as if he had to spend centuries, and then he lives properly. But when he is afraid, when he doesn’t look forward, he looks back, he petrifies, he gets stiff, and he dies before his time.  But when he’s living and looking forward to the great adventure that is ahead, then he lives and that is about what the unconscious is intending to do . . . Man cannot stand a meaningless life.” C.G. Jung

I searched for a meaningful life for years without knowing it. Then, at the age of 49, I joined a Counterpoint Group.  Some of us  studied Jungian psychology together for ten years.  This triggered a major transition in my life. I had been getting messages from my unconscious Self that something wasn’t working and I was very unhappy about it. But what I learned about myself from that group, and from my subsequent commitment to record and work on my dreams, began to change everything.

“The failure to search for the calls of the Self in the midst of my struggles and the avoidance of the encounters that reveal them are risks I am no longer willing to take. Whether these events fail to enrich my life or bring it new hope, joy, and love along with life’s suffering is up to me. The cross of the moment may require me to overcome my dread or lethargy with passion, and if I do so, the moment of the special suffering of transformation will give birth to hope, confidence, and the renewed experience of being fully alive—the most alive I have ever felt, even as I approach my eighth decade.” Bud Harris, PhD, Aging Strong:  The Extraordinary Gift of a Longer Life, pp. 47-48.

A few years ago, after The Soul’s Twins, was published, I began to experience a mild depression. I noticed it in symptoms.  Like after 30 blissfully creative and deeply meaningful productive years, I was no longer motivated to start another major work.  Like a reluctance to get out of bed in the morning. Like an awareness that my normally sharp mind and healthy body were undergoing uncomfortable challenges: the worst of which were my irritability toward my husband, an unwillingness to socialize, a  lack of enthusiasm, a sense of hopelessness, and a diminishment of my sense of self-worth.

Finally, I acknowledged to myself that I was in a bad place. I realized if I wanted to keep living with meaning and passion, I needed to do something about it. So, as a woman who has never even seen a therapist and was filled with fear and trepidation about asking for help, I started weekly sessions with a Jungian analyst.

I started analysis a year ago. Recently I’ve  felt a “renewed experience of being fully alive.”  I give the credit to my family and my analyst for helping me through this rough time. Then my 80th birthday arrived last Sunday. To celebrate, my children arranged a weekend stay-cation for our family at a local resort hotel. That experience is the inspiration for this post.

On the eve of my birthday they presented me with the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever received. The first was deliberately silly: a lipstick I’ve been bothering my daughter to tell me the name of because it looks so gorgeous on her and I hope it looks as good on me! Second was a silver circle  necklace with the names of my five grandchildren etched on it. Then they handed me a large framed scroll on beautiful paper titled “80 Things We Love About You”.  For my 80th birthday each child, spouse, and grandchild, ten in all, had written eight things they love about me.  Eight times ten = 80. My age now.  Here are some samples:

My husband: “You’re the real deal. You don’t hide who you are.” (That’s a recent phenomenon. I wasn’t that way for years.)

My daughter: “Your vulnerability. You share what’s important to you, who you are, and what you believe.”

My son: “That you taught me that it’s okay to be an introvert.”

My son-in-law: “How you welcomed me into the family by making me a gingerbread house Christmas stocking.”

My daughter-in-law:  “You are always up for a long talk and a glass of wine.”

My first-born twin grandson: “You challenge me to think about the world in ways I would not otherwise.”

My second-born twin grandson:  “You inspired me to look deep inside myself and follow my heart.”

My oldest granddaughter:  “You inspired me to pursue psychology.”

My youngest granddaughter:  “You introduced me to horses which led to one of my greatest passions.”

My youngest grandson: “Anybody would be lucky to have you as a Grandma.”

Oh, my heart! Was this not the best gift ever?

I encourage you to use this idea with your family at milestone birthdays. It has meant everything to me.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.

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Comments

11 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie,

    Your title says it all really, for to live until 80 years of age is an extraordinary gift! Thank you so much for sharing the wonder of it all with us. I’m so pleased you had a wonderful time! I ab-soul-utely love the collective scroll your family presented you, (great idea!) so beautiful, loving and deeply meaningful, thus completing your lifelong search by coming full circle and finding the meaning you set out to find all those years ago (and as always not far from home, as it always is!), coming back to the beginning as T S Elliot writes and knowing it for the first time. This, this coming home to oneself is the true celebration of life, the work of a lifetime. Enjoy it all my dear friend!

    Love and blessings,

    Deborah

    1. Dear Deborah,

      I hadn’t thought of that but last weekend did feel like a lifelong search coming full circle, back to the “home” of my soul from which I became psychologically separated at an early age. And yes, the circle, my favorite symbol, with my grandchildren’s names on it feels like a kind of ending, yet at the same time a new beginning. Leave it to the poets to always find the perfect metaphors for life’s most meaningful experiences! Thank you, dear friend, for your always thoughtful reads. Love and blessings, Jeanie

  2. First, I wish you a glorious happy birthday (though I mean, I did congrats you on FB!?), then my heart beat among yours for such precious gifts that you have become. It is wonderful to have such a lovely family. And my words might follow theirs: I thank you for being my teacher, giving me the power to find the trust and confidence to stay on my own feet. I think it all comes because of your great and pure heart.
    So, I see you are bored! Therefore, I want to write here a dream my son told me some days ago and ask you please to interpret it as far as you can.
    It is the first time that he told us about his dreams; he said: He goes to a room in which my brother Al’s dead body lay in front of the altar (he had seen this scene when we all were together at his funeral those days), then he saw that his feet move and there comes a child (a girl like his four years old daughter, Mila) out, and he took her by arms, and then he saw that Al woke up, or stood up, but his face was not similar if he was someone else.
    My son, Raphael, is a goodhearted young man, and I believe he missed his uncle, but I have a feeling that it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Al?!
    I will be happy to read what you would think thereabout. Always yours, Aladin

    1. Dear Aladin,

      Thank you for the sweet birthday wishes. And I’m grateful to know that my words have been of some assistance to you on your own journey back to the home of your beautiful soul. You have been a blessing to my journey as well.

      Haha! Well, I’m not exactly bored these days, 🙂 but I’m happy to accommodate your request for thoughts about Raphael’s dream. Although only he can know whether or not they resonate with him. For starters, the fascinating symbolism revolves around the theme of death and rebirth. Since it’s his dream, it could suggest that psychologically he’s experiencing the death of some outworn beloved (because it’s Al) attitude or belief and the birth of a new youthful, feminine potential within himself. Something like a new capacity for feeling and accepting some tender nurturing feelings, the kind he associates with his loving relationship with his uncle and daughter? He takes her by the arms, accepting her and bringing her wholeheartedly into his inner and outer world. . . And when he does that, his beloved uncle stirs, comes alive. It certainly suggests that some aspect of his psyche is experiencing a renewal, an awakening to new life. Maybe new or renewed appreciation for the gift of his life and his family. . . something like that. Perhaps he’s experienced something recently that has helped to bring that awareness to his conscious mind? And the fact that Al is lying in front of an alter suggests maybe it’s a spiritually meaningful awakening, . . some affirmation that the soul lives on? I would also want to ask Raphael what emotions he experienced as the dream progressed, as well what his associations were to the events and images. They will tell him a lot about this message from the Self to him. Was he feeling sad or delighted to see his uncle? How did he feel and what was he thinking when he received the little girl? What was the final feeling he had during the dream? Things like that!

      I hope something about this helps you and him acquire a bit more self-awareness. Love and blessings to you both, Jeanie

      1. Your interpretation is a great help for sure, my lovely lady. Thank you so much. Honestly, I thought to ask him about his feelings if he was afraid at the end of his dream, but I didn’t. Might because the children were playing around, and I didn’t want to go deeper into the subject. Anyway, I will translate your text and send it to him. He will surely get a lot out of this. Thank you again, wholeheartedly 🙏

  3. What a wonderful Birthday Celebration Jeanne. Thank you for sharing the ups and downs and sincere blessings. I loved it!

  4. Thank you, Karen. It really was wonderful for me. Something I needed and am so grateful to have been given. At this stage of my life it feels important to be open and honest about the realities of life and its challenges. Our culture doesn’t do much of anything to help us deal with the aging process. The media are all about celebrating youth, beauty, material success, and sex while treating aging like it’s a failure and ignoring the terrifying statistics about stress, depression, and suicides among young people. There’s something wrong with this picture! Much love, Jeanie

  5. So here is reason #81…you have been such a treasure in my life! Your inner and outer beauty, your passion for self knowledge and an authentic life, your amazing wisdom that is freely shared, your friendship…all treasures!xoxox

  6. Oh Beth. You have been an amazing treasure in my life too. A model for what a strong, mature woman looks like ever since I met you! You have such an open, generous, friendly spirit, such enthusiasm for life. You’re brave, and bold and follow through with what you plan with utmost care. I admire you so much! Thank you. Love, Jeanie

  7. Thank you for sharing your beautiful celebratory birthday weekend with us Jeanie. I loved reading the scrolls, words of truth and wisdom from them all.

    I’m ever grateful for the steps along the way of the paths and windy roads you’ve taken and shared with us. May this continue.

    8 – the symbol of infinity.

    Love, susan

  8. Thank you, Susan. And thanks for the mention of 8 as the symbol of infinity. I’ve also looked at its symbolism in numerology because it’s also my life path number. Here’s what I found: “One of life path 8s biggest lessons is to learn how to find balance, in life and within themselves: “Balance between the material and spiritual world; balance between the ego human mind and the inner voice of the soul; balance between self-discipline and self-control and a need to control circumstances, others, and the world.” Sure sounds like me! Much love, Jeanie

    https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/life-path-number-8#:~:text=One%20of%20life%20path%208s,control%20circumstances%2C%20others%2C%20and%20the

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