Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

May 18, 2013

Perspectives: Structuring a balanced life as we age

Whether we realize it or not, we all live within “structure.”

Sometimes it becomes too limiting or too confining. This can be physical, emotional and spiritual.

The most obvious structure is our homes. While they provide safety and often pride, they contain us and define what we may do in a specific space. After a few years in our homes, we are ready to change the paint, add or move furniture and sometimes even remodel. We decide how best to live within the structure called home.

Our lives also have a structure to them. For the most part, it is one we have chosen or accepted. We get up at a certain time, eat breakfast, go to work, exercise and interact with family and friends.

Sometimes outside influences cause us to change our daily patterns. Sometimes we make decisions to change the routine. On a given day, we may decide to stay in our pajamas all day, eat when we are hungry and pass the day with TV reruns. We change the pattern knowing we will return to it tomorrow.

The process of aging involves the changing of patterns because influences from outside and within us call for modification and variation. We may try to continue with the older and better-known paths, but they become less rewarding — sometimes consume too much energy — and soon we feel limited rather than free.

Our spiritual lives,w too, provide a structure. Weekly church, mosque or synagogue attendance gives us contact with our larger religious communities; but we often struggle within the format of the service. Sometimes we want it more “traditional” (however we define “tradition”) and on occasion we want something new.

At any age, however much we need structure, we also need to know there are times without structure, no definite plans or any commitments other than “to be.” We can think of all manner of “ought to,” “should” and “need to,” and they can usually wait. And when we return to them, it is often with increased energy and perspective.

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