Op-Ed
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Op-Ed

Existential Tenderness

I sense that a lot of people think grandparent wisdom is irrelevant. My grandparents are 81 years old. They were born 9 days apart.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

Since we’ve outgrown so much of the technology they used, how could they possibly have any good advice? One of the first things my grandpa told me after I moved in to the camper in his backyard was “You’re gonna have to slow down”, a demand that went against my very essence. I had so many comments I kept to myself… “maybe you could move a little faster, old man”. But I did start to move around slower, in a resentful way at first. I sacrificed moments that I’d planned out for myself. At some point, I stopped planning out such a strict agenda and allowed space for being open to whatever my grandparents may be feeling like.

That space opened the door, but before I was worthy of the lessons, I had to deal with the discomfort of not getting them my way. The construction of a search engine inquiry is: me ask question, me get answer. Learning from your elders looks more like “why the fuck is grandma trying to cut that one little piece of asparagus, as it stretches and evades the sharp side of the blade”. Then you think and you realize, she appreciates her food so much she savors every bite. Or “why does grandpa feel the need to tell me he’s talking to himself”. Which led me to believe grandpa doesn’t want me interrupting his conversations with God. “At least he’s talking to Him”, I thought.

Certainly, spending a lot of time around dying grandparents has led to a lot of contemplation about what I value in life. I don’t really care about the clothes my grandma buys me, I like to spend time out with her. Or do I? Do I just like this general support I get for spending time with my grandparents? Society loves a young person that will sacrifice their desires to take care of other people. But do I even want to be that person? I’d much rather get out and explore this world alone than to try to constantly work with someone else’s energy. I think grandparents also serve this purpose of forcing us to adhere to someone else’s lifestyle until we can properly live on our own. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that their frustration with the older generation is enough grounds for leaving home.

I’ve still been thinking about religion because I know their are Truths that are deeply embedded in ancient texts. I started to realize what Catholicism is; it’s sacrificing yourself to the sacrificed. It is giving your life over to God in exchange for the promise of Heaven. Heaven is filled with all comforts and all the indulgences we could ever want, but we have to wait. It reminded me of this realization I had with Tarot cards. A lot of readings say: “Just WAIT! All the things you’ve been trying to manifest will be knocking on your door in three days”. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they aren’t and even still, I learn something: patience. I take the encouragement of that stranger and use it to quell my concerns in the moment. Now isn’t that what good friends are for? Personally, I get a lot of joy out of each opportunity to practice stoicism because it builds character. But I wouldn’t be able to do it if I wasn’t riding on the shoulders of giants, those giants being the great archetypes.

Originally written in Collective Journaling at The Stoa

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