Rethinking how we see ourselves aging

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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.