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A Work In Progress

 by F. Marie Foley.

  

Picasso said at age 86, "It takes a long Lime to become young.Ē

 Thereís an odd irony to this business of being an adult: especially an adult who is over 50. By the time weíre in our 50ís, most of us have an ailment that could be diagnosed as The Shock of the New. We become afraid to do things weíre not accomplished at.

            This ailment slips up on us.  Itís easy to see how it happens. We spend many years to become good as something Ė teaching, practicing medicine, building houses, farming or hitting baseball. These years are filled with long hours of study, hard work and at times suffering. Eventually, we achieve some measure of success. Retirement comes. We ponder what it would be like to try something new. But the prospect of beginning again is unpleasant; foolish, amateurish. We are afraid to risk our self-esteem on something outside our expertise.

Most of us are not lazy, but concerned - and rightly so. We have a big investment in our ability to do what we do well. Itís easier to rest on our laurels than to think of our lives as a work in progress.

 So, the over 50s are often defined by our doníts instead of our doís. I donít jog. I donít bake. Iím not a word person. I donít read. I donít swim. Iím allergic to bicycles.

 When I went back to college at the age of 41, one of the things I learned was that the thing that makes our children more creative than we are is that theyíre so ready to be beginners. They are willing to try and fail and try again. They seem to realize that if they fail Walter Cronkite is not going to come out of retirement and tell the world on national television. It is remarkable how fearless and optimistic they are. As adults we too would find great satisfaction in stepping outside of our expertise and living to tell about it, whether it is learning a new language or discovering that a computer is fun, even though we may never be any good at it.

 One morning last week I realized that at the age of 51, my spouse in less than a year has become the resident of a new country, started a business and produced and patented a product for the Manufacturing Industry. This same man who is only adequate on the piano, when asked to play at a wedding, without hesitation said yes, practiced for the first time in years and was perfect. Proficient in Gaelic, Latin and English, he would now like to learn Spanish; certainly an example to me, of finding the energy to do without fear, and not be defined by the negative.

 We need to realize that our life is, ďA work in progress.Ē There should never be a time when we become afraid to tackle the new or stop learning. The only cure for, ďthe shock of the new," is the ability to keep recreating ourselves. Once we become aware that we are on a progress track, it can give us the courage to go on, confident there is still more progress to be made.

 In 1925 Dag Hammarskjold, who was many years later (1953) to become Secretary General to the United Nations wrote: ďLife yields only to the conqueror. Never accept what can be gained by giving in. You will be living off stolen goods, and your muscles will atrophy.Ē

 

 

 

 

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