The older we get, the more we should want to grow
Rather late in life, writes Terrance Klein, I am adjusting to the sharing of my bed. My companion is a dark brown Chihuahua, named Coco Chanel. It is a challenge because Coco sleeps in the center of the bed.
Chihuahuas love to burrow, so Coco almost always sleeps under the covers. But she sleeps under various layers, depending upon the temperature. As it varies, Coco wants layers added or removed, and she thinks that I should help with this, as, she argues, we can both then get back to sleep faster.
Coco insists on sleeping to my back side. I think that I must have rolled onto her while snoozing, though it could have been Sister Andre, when “Auntie Andre” was babysitting. So if I turn to face Coco, she exits one side of the sheets, climbs over me and enters the other.
Friends have expressed amazement that I allow this, but not those who know Coco well. The night we first met, when she would not yet come to me, she nonetheless got into bed when the time came. She went way down to the bottom, on the other side as if to say, “Look, I don’t know you, but you can stay… until you find your own bed.”
Tossing and turning used to be so trouble-free. Now it is a bit of a tussle. Especially because Coco does plenty of her own. But that is what we animals do when we sleep. Even then our muscles need to be regularly stretched and relieved. As anyone who has been injured knows, to lie perfectly still is nigh on insufferable.
Animals twist and turn at night. We humans do a lot of it during the day as well, because, for us, pure stasis is equally insufferable in our waking hours. I am at an age in life where I know my preferred brands: of coffee, shaving cream, toothpaste, socks and underwear, cologne and cough syrup. But when something novel comes along, I will give it a try. Don’t we all? If nothing else, it will confirm that we have already found our favorite.
We say that old friends are the best friends, which is, no doubt, true. But that does not mean that we grow tired of making new friends. We sense somehow that a part of ourselves is out there, with those new friends, waiting to emerge.
Even as we age and realize, with some sadness, that we can no longer jump over fences or throw a ball or lift heavy objects as we once could, we still find great delight in mastering the new. Sometimes it is a new skill. I made an angel food cake—from scratch—a few weeks ago. Sometimes it is a new insight. Do you find yourself saying: “I didn’t realize that this is when these flowers bloom?” Or, “I don’t remember when the butterflies were so plentiful?”
Cardinal Newman was pondering the development of Christian doctrine when he wrote these oft-quoted words, but they apply to all of human life: “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
It is said that the great St Francis of Assisi frequently used to greet his brothers by saying, “Let us begin, for until now, we have done nothing.” Those poor brothers! Living in mud huts by the river, walking barefoot and always hungry! They must have wanted to hit him over the head, but Francis was a man fully alive and—you know it—to live to change, to grow…
Full story: The older we get, the more we should want to grow (America Magazine)
– The Rev. Terrance W. Klein is a priest of the Diocese of Dodge City and author of Vanity Faith
Main image: Jared Sluyter @jaredsluyter for Unsplash
Image 2: The real Coco Chanel (Wiki Commons)
Image 3: A puzzled chihuahua (Wiki Commons)