I’m officially living with nuns. Not just any nuns–retired nuns. One of the sisters said the average age here falls somewhere in the eighties. After volunteering in a nursing home for almost two years in high school, I developed a pretty solid understanding of age by eighteen. Eighteen years is not enough to appreciate the depth of aging, but I at least had enough wisdom to laugh at my parents for calling themselves old. My friendship at the nursing home with a 96-year-old woman quickly helped me realize that the many middle-aged individuals in my life who feared getting older were wasting lots of time and energy being consumed by fear instead of just living life to the maximum.
The grounds I live on are beautiful. I’ve seen deer three different times in the past 24 hours. My cell phone doesn’t work inside here. It’s frustrating, but it forces me to go for a walk if I want to call anyone. Today I had to laugh in the middle of a voicemail to my friend, April. I described the beautiful scenery around me and told her about how I had deer on both sides of me. Then, it hit me that it probably sounded like I’m living in Narnia. This experience is probably rather surreal for most. I’m always surprised at how people think about nuns. People think of the Pre-Vatican II nuns. The nuns I know don’t wear habits, never hit kids with rulers, and believe in love not judgment.
In fact, the poet/nun who got me connected with this place is actually one of the coolest people I know. She’s 75, and breaks every stereotype about nuns and 75-year-olds. She has been a social justice activist forever, jailed for her beliefs, and even drank straight whiskey with James Baldwin. That’s only scratching the surface of her stories! She’s a phenomenal role-model for anyone regardless of age or religious background. I love to tell people who fear aging about how she says each year of her life gets better than the last. She loves getting older and that every year is the best year of her life. I can tell she means it, too. I’m grateful to know her. It would be a lie to say I’m not just like most foolish youth. I certainly have the occasional fear of aging that my friends complain about. Sometimes I have to sit down and wait for logic and the wisdom others have shared with me to kick in. I could do an entire blog entry about stepping back in order to allow logic to take over feelings. That was a huge part of my partial hospitalization program. They always said, “The feelings are the last things to change,” meaning we had to go through the motions of health–even if it felt fake–before we could see positive change. I try to apply that in situations like this where I’m overwhelmed with fear, but know I’m in the right place.