JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Your Wild and Precious Life
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D
The poet, Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?” This is something I have asked myself at many points of transition. As I approach my 80th birthday, I find myself thinking about where I have been and where I am going. A recent solo trip to Prescott, Wisconsin, to attend a celebration of life for a long-time friend, gave me many hours of reflection.
I feel very grateful that I have the ability to drive nearly a thousand miles on my own to reconnect with my friend, Wanda, and honor her spouse of forty-three years. Phyllis was a year younger than me and had been ill for the last six years. She was an amazing person who was a singer, songwriter, pianist, psychiatrist and lived her seventy-eight years to the fullest. It is life’s lesson that living our ‘wild and precious life’ in this moment is what we have.
Turning 80 means facing one’s mortality in a new way. Each day is a gift, our chance to be present in the quest for joy, love, and purpose. Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise, says it well,
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Jane Fonda, now eighty-three, said, “Listen, to be eighty years old and on a steady job, that is something.” Lily Tomlin, now eighty-two, retorts, “My hands are just ruined. I used to have lovely, graceful hands and now they are kind of like a Kielbasa.” Jane responds, “They work though.” Watching them on Grace and Frankie reminds us that humor is a good way to deal with changing bodies, new challenges, loving, and embracing our sexual selves.
Norman Lear, celebrating ninety-nine years, wrote in his book, Even This I Get to Experience, that his childhood was one of the great challenges and that he was able to find his way by telling stories based on his experiences. Because he turned his experiences into stories, we have had the joy of watching eight successful TV series. He is still writing and producing.
Finding your sense of purpose is a process of discovery, constant reinvention, and persistence. It is not a destination but a process that continues to unfold. I am grateful, that through my very unplanned twenties, I found my passion at age thirty. I have been a counselor for fifty years and am still learning and enjoying it. At age fifty-two, thanks to my parents’ frugality, I was fortunate to be able to return to school and complete a Ph.D. in Psychology and Education. When a twenty-year relationship ended, my career stalled and my daughter was experiencing big challenges, I thought my life was over. I found a job that re-set my confidence and met the love of my life. My work is flourishing and my now, seventeen-year relationship, feeds my soul and my life.
George Bernard Shaw says, “You haven’t overcome the fear of death until you delight in your own life, believing it to be the carrying out of the universal purpose.”
Thinking of people with purpose, I am reminded of the incredible “RBG” who fought stereotyping and discrimination. As a woman in law school and the law profession, well over ninety percent male, she battled sexism. She was a working mom, Jewish, and an older adult on the Supreme Court. She served on the court until her death at eighty-seven. She worked through family tragedy, illness, and was well known for never missing oral arguments. And we cannot forget John Lewis who spent his life working for justice, equality, and the right of everyone to vote. His admonition, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America,” reminds us of what we can do.
Face your challenges, whatever they might be, embrace your true self and sense of purpose, and think about what you can do with your wild and precious life.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator. She is the author of the Life Weaving Education Curriculum that teaches creative, effective holistic problem solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video or in person sessions), seminars, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Relationship Therapy call 816-509-9277 or firstname.lastname@example.org; www.heartlandholistic.com