Aging with Grace

I asked my friend Nanci, at long last retired from her career in K-12 education (as a teacher and principal) how she is adjusting to all her free time. Nanci, in her early sixties, has a brilliant, introspective, ethical and spiritual mind. You might remember her from these skydiving pictures. She’s no wuss. Here’s what she wrote recently, and I think it exemplifies transitioning with grace as we age:a
Last week I went to a kayak class in our local Ocean Kayak Clinic. It offers lots of classes from kayak surfing, rolling, expeditions, crabbing and rescues. My neighbor, Roy, and I thought that we might take rescue together, since we often kayak and it would be good to be able to help each other and ourselves should we capsize. I had taken the same class 8 years ago and felt that it was a good class to have and to repeat.
It was a cold, rainy day… there were eight of us in the class. I was one of two women and the oldest in the class. I feel that I am a pretty accomplished kayaker, but in this class I was terrible. I was able to help others, but every time it was my turn in the water I could not get back into my boat, except with a ton of help. I remember being in classes with other “lame” (IMO) people and was embarrassed for them and wondered why they were even in the classes.
Eventually the class ended and I took my very chilled and soggy body home. I then ruminated on what exactly this means for me. Should I work to regain upper body strength (although I do yoga regularly and it’s not usually a problem for me) or should I just not do any hard kayaking where I might get in trouble or perhaps there may be some other ways to think about the experience.
I hosted a Tapas Party a few days later with a bunch of “foodie” friends, including my wonderful yoga teacher. During the conversation, someone asked me about my class…I laughed and said, “True confessions”, and told the group of my struggle.
Laura, my teacher, said, “Well, Nanci, what I hear is benevolence of spirit.”
And she was right…and this is my real learning from this experience. Because for most of my life I would have been totally humiliated and would have slithered home and berated myself for days. I would never have shared my experience for the sheer embarrassment of it.  For once, I had accepted and loved myself enough to be able to just contemplate what this meant in the realm of my life, without severe judgement. And it felt good. I’m not sure if this is a gift of age, or if it is a late learning for me. It is something I wish I could pass on to young people who live in the shame and embarrassment that I have carried with me all these years. Imagine what we could accomplish as humans if we could be self loving.  Benevolence of spirit, what a wonderful term and a life expanding concept!
Nanci, I’m inspired by your words, and happy you’ve found that sweet place of self-appreciation. Unfortunately, it probably is something the kids will have to wait and work for, because I think it mainly comes with age. Thanks for letting me share your story.


  1. says

    Yes, I remember Nanci from the skydiving story! What a lovely reflection on how, with age, we learn to treat ourselves like we would treat a cherished friend. I suppose “benevolence of spirit” is something we earn through time and experience and if we felt it all along, we may not appreciate it it so much. Nanci, you are an inspiration to all of us. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you ,Lynne for hosting Nanci.This is a great reminder.

  2. says

    This was so beautiful! Thank you for sharing. Though I agree, the young ones won’t truly understand this until they are older– though I wish they could truly see this. So much heartache in so many ways would be saved if they could.

  3. says

    Bravo to the benevolence term. Bravo to her for getting in the boat. Again and again and again. Bravo to her for hosting a tapas party. Bravo to her for laughing and sharing the experience. What a great energy to be around, I’m sure.

  4. says

    Thanks, Lynne, for sharing Nanci’s reflections. I suspect that with age comes wisdom, if we’re lucky! Some people sadly never seem to get to the place of self-acceptance, nor the ability to laugh at oneself without suffering for it. By the way, I think Nanci is very brave to do kayaking — this said from someone who lives inland and carries a long history of fear-of-water in her family tree!!

  5. says

    Nanci ….I love that Benevolence of Spirit! Your story is inspirational and the fact that you can still kayak and roll & rescue is admirable. I can relate to this post; I was once a professional athlete and sidelined by injuries at the peak of my career. Though I have physical limitations that prevent me from participating in all the athletic activities I love, I am growing mentally tougher and spiritually stronger every day.

  6. Debra says

    When I turned 50 I felt more power than sadness. Yes, that IS a big number, but there is something awesome about just claiming your place in the world. Hey – I have been here for 50 years – I know stuff! Do I wish I were thinnerfitterstronger sure, sometimes I do. But now I am more focused on making better decisions and what my daughter will remember when I’m gone. BOS is a wonderful goal – as well as forgiveness.

  7. says

    So many great lessons to be learned here. I really like the term “benevolence of spirit,” both as a way of caring for the self and a way of suspending instant judgment of others. It’s maturity, in the best sense of that word.

  8. says

    What a wonderful story. As someone who is known for being unathletic & rather open about all my failings, I think that I might of been born with benevolence of spirit. Love that term. Thanks for sharing.

  9. says

    Yes! What a great term: benevolence of spirit. It’s a perfect description of that gift we receive at some point in our life that allows us to drop the facade and be who we were meant to be without embarrassment or apology.

  10. says

    A wonderful post. I think that benevolence of spirit does come with aging. There is a wonderful acceptance of ourselves that we don’t have when we are younger. I love being able to laugh at myself and to enjoy trying new things, even if I’m not so good at them. I don’t expect perfection anymore. It is very freeing.


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