At the End of the Day

The Christmas season is behind us and everyone is heading back to work. For many (including the self-employed), this has been a two or three-week holiday from before Christmas until the Monday following New Year’s Day. It isn’t always easy to get refocused and get back into gear. Nonetheless, inspired with new (or old) resolutions, I join the millions who are now focusing on what lies ahead.

I predict that 2008 will be the Year of the Optimist. I don’t know why. Not much has changed in the past three weeks, the “presidential pack” are sounding like broken records and the polar bear is on the endangered species list. Everyone I am speaking to seems to have a different version of what’s what ‘at the end of the day’. ‘At the end of the day’ is business-speak for ‘what is important’ and appears to have replaced ‘the bottom line’ as the phrase that will presumably make the significant point in most conversations. For example, ‘at the end of the day’ I don’t have the foggiest idea what will happen in 2008. This kind of all-purpose phrase gives a bit of certainty in these uncertain times.

I have learned that it isn’t some distant ‘end of the day’ that is so important, but what we are doing each moment. Another way of saying this is that the only day that is important is today—and what’s important is whether at the end of this day we can say we did our best and lived life to the fullest, whether we added a bit and were useful to others and, most importantly, did we appreciate this amazing gift of life—both the good and the bad. ‘Eldering’ is teaching me that, at the end of the day, we only have each other and the opportunity to work and play together in mindful ways, to take life (and not ourselves) seriously and to be grateful for the opportunity.

Someone was recently asking me why I started The Eldering Institute and why I chose that term to talk about ‘the possibility of aging’. In fact, I didn’t invent this idea—it actually found me. I have spent most of my life working to transform the structures of interpretation that limit our aliveness and keep us trapped in self-referential and mostly self-destructive patterns. What I realized as I moved through my 50s and entered my 60s is that a great deal of my thinking and way of being was a reflection of our culture and that aging isn’t just about biological change. It is whatever we say it is. It can either be about loss, decline, isolation and loneliness or it can be about possibility, wisdom in action, powerful intergenerational relationships, and leaving the world satisfied that we played all out until our last day.

At the end of the day, the choice will have been ours.