Wisdom is Not Taught, it's Shared - The Journey of a Modern Elder.

February 25, 2023

Wisdom is Not Taught, it's Shared - The Journey of a Modern Elder.

May 29, 2023

Serendipity. I sat across from the doctor and listened in disbelief as he told me the prognosis. "You have a stress fracture in your foot from too much hiking. I'm looking at your chart. At 67, you might be too old to be hiking. Maybe you should consider doing something else."

I was too stunned to tell him what I really thought about that comment. Instead, I went home, with crutches and a boot on my foot, and the admonition not to hike for eight weeks. Hiking had brought me joy and awe during the pandemic - I worked in isolation all week long as a corporate lawyer. I now had eight Saturdays free, which had previously been devoted to hiking and training to walk the Camino.

I got home; turned my computer on; and there was an email from MEA announcing the online "Transitions" course meeting the next eight Saturdays. That began my journey into modern elderhood. Upon completing that first course, things became clearer. I could no longer take care of four elderly relatives, and work remotely full time as a lawyer, and be the person I wanted to be. And so, I gave notice at work that I would retire in November, and applied to attend the first onsite session in Baja after COVID.

At the end of the session in Baja I had an epiphany. I couldn't put everyone in my life ahead of me, and still hope to have a life filled with joy, purpose, and meaning - it would all be depleted before I could take care of myself and be present for others. So, I left MEA; walked 200 miles on the Camino in Spain; and vowed to return again as soon as I could. I signed up for the session on "Awe." Instead of attending that week, I ended up sitting by my dad's bedside, holding his hand, as he died. It was a different kind of awe than I had expected. But, I returned a few weeks later to attend another session on finding purpose, meaning and joy in midlife.

I joined a group of 30 people, who didn't know each other but met together, at a beautiful place on earth next to the ocean, and decided to take off their facades and reveal what was underneath. What if, it turns out, there are others who drink or smoke too much to numb feelings; have had surgery or wear make-up to look younger, or different; dyed their hair to look more attractive; or felt the need to list off all of their achievements, titles and successes to make them feel more worthy, accomplished and special?

I could list my achievements, but they could never match the badass superstars that were in our group. Besides, anyone can go to my LinkedIn page and see the listings there. I could share my path along the Camino, but the beautiful photos and walk are all up there on Facebook to see. But, what if I spoke from the “third vault?”

What if I was just vulnerable enough, and authentic enough, that I allowed people to see my feelings of unworthiness; sometimes depression and despair; often longing for something else, and fearing that I would run out of time? The feeling that something would happen to me or my children that keeps me living in fear instead of the present? Would I be judged and thought of as less evolved or worthy? Or, by sharing that, could I tap into the humanity and vulnerability in others, who look like they all have it so perfectly together, but also have thoughts of being "less than," fears of running out of time to do everything they want to; worry about trying something but failing at it?

MEA brings out the magic in all of us. And, how lucky we are to get to share it with others, and be open to receiving their magic. It's often been said that it's only when we open our hearts and reveal our true selves can we connect on the deepest level with other human beings and experience the feeling that we are all one. If we are indeed what we leave behind, then I hope my journey at MEA, and throughout my life, will allow me to leave the world a better place for having been in it.

Jane Tishkoff previously worked in professional tennis; co-owned and managed a tennis club; and spent 35 years working as a corporate lawyer. She now enjoys being curious; learning new things; spending time with her adult children and friends, MEA and hiking communities; and trying to make Oakland a better place for all. She is planning on walking 600 miles on the Camino Del Norte this spring.

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