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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lightning Strikes

In his book Aging as a Spiritual Practice, Zen Buddhist priest Lewis Richmond lists what he considers to be the four “recognizable stages and emotions” of aging: Lightning Strikes; Coming to Terms; Adaptation; and Appreciation. He goes on to write that “any stage can arise at any age, and stages do not necessarily appear in any fixed order.”

Richmond’s book is one of the sources for my newest workshop, Journaling as Spiritual Practice: A Workshop for People 55 and Over. While reading it, I found myself especially interested in that first stage, in which Richmond describes the “dominant emotion” as surprise. “We are taken aback to realize, ‘I’m really growing old,’ and then surprised again at how long it took us to see it.”

It was that emotion of surprise that I was reminded of last Friday, while at lunch marking the 74th birthday of one of my high school friends. “This is the last birthday I’ll be celebrating, “ she said as our glasses clinked, “75 just sounds too damn old.”

Now I imagine someone in their 30’s or 40’s wondering what took my friend so long to realize that she’s actually been old for a while. But I knew exactly where her comment came from; as I told her, the “lightning” Richmond refers to struck me last November when I turned 73. And not only the lightning, but the surprise part.

I even did some journal writing trying to figure out why. In the process, I remembered the night before I turned 50 calling my sister-in-law, who’d already reached that milestone, and said, “Well in a couple of hours I won’t be 49 any more. In fact I won’t be 40-anything.”

And yet I didn’t feel “old” then the way I felt “old” last November. Nor apparently has my high school pal felt old until now. I have some ideas about why this might be true, including this “new” old age phenom visited on us by the Boomers.

Would love to hear from any of my Boomer & Beyonder readers who have experienced Richmond's Lightning Strikes stage of aging. And when. Feel free to comment directly on this post or email me at

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