A Work In Progress
by F. Marie Foley.
said at age 86, "It takes a long Lime to become young.Ē
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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