The Oregon Book Report - Book News from Oregon

Rethinking how we see ourselves aging

February 11, 2014

By Michal Ann McArthur, Bend
Author of Choking on a Camel

Her blog

Book Review: “The Gift of Years” by Joan Chittister
Genre: Self-Help/Spirituality

For an attitude adjustment on aging, read Joan Chittister’s “The Gift of Years.” Before I read this book, aging was something I dreaded. I worried about all the negatives—failing health, not feeling useful, being boxed in by growing limitations and narrowing opportunities, wrinkling and fading away. Bah, humbug! says Chittister. Her book focuses on the positives of aging and outlines how to grow old gracefully. As soon as I started reading, I was hooked.

The book is a series of 40 short chapters on various topics related to aging. The chapters are meant to be read and considered thoughtfully one at a time, much the way a daily devotional book should be read. Chittister considers such topics as regret, fear, ageism, joy, fulfillment, forgiveness, and letting go.

As she deals with these various themes, she points out both the burden and the blessing of each. For example, in the chapter on regret, she points out that our own attitudes about the past largely determine the quality of the present. She calls regret “the sand trap of the soul.” Spending time regretting is “a misuse of the aging process.” Instead of getting trapped with the burden of regret, she urges her readers to embrace the blessing of learning from the past and letting those lessons enrich and inform the present so that we continue to become better people.

The short pithy chapters contain aphorisms, quotable quotes, and bits of wisdom drawn from a wide variety of sources.

Overall, Chittister teaches that “the task of this period of life . . . is not simply to endure the coming of the end of time. It is to come alive in ways I have never been alive before.” This book inspires the reader to do just that.

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Discuss this article

Jan February 13, 2014

I am definitely going to read this book!! I can use the attitude adjustment! Thank you, Michal Ann, for telling us about this book.

Christine Webb February 13, 2014

I, too, will read this book; however, happily, my grandchildren are doing their very best to keep me young at heart for years to come. And then, will share it with my 30 year old daughter. Wouldn’t it be nice if she was able to realize the value of learning these lessons while still young and before she senses herself aging? Thank you for this review…

Yvonne February 13, 2014

Reminds me of my own grandmother’s lesson to me–to grow old gracefully and view the world with wonder. Your review invokes my interest in reading a work that encourages me to keep that attitude! Thanks for sharing Michal Ann.

Jrenner February 13, 2014

I have read this book, Michael Ann. It is one I will keep on my book shelf to re-read from time to time through my aging process. It is a treasure, delightfully full of wisdom and practical ideas to keep we seniors engaged, hopeful, active, and healthy emotionally, spiritually and mentally. If you find a sentence or two that might not be consistent with your core values, I suggest application of this statement: “Eat the meat and leave the bones”. Don’t just buy one book, buy several and pass them on. A wonderful gift to give to senior friends.

Terisa February 13, 2014

Wow, do I need what you described! Sure will be reading this one :). Thanks AB

TTaylor February 15, 2014

“Growing old gracefully” has always sounded a bit too passive for me. I for one want to live with gusto as long as I am able. The quote you included in your review; “the task of this period of life . . . is not simply to endure the coming of the end of time. It is to come alive in ways I have never been alive before.” has sparked my interested. I’m adding this book to my must read list.
Thanks Ann!

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