chapter  8
Re-imagining the Self
Pages 14

As Anna wisely confessed, she was not always happy. She is certainly not

alone; and since one “lives in memory when one is old,” resiliency is unlikely

unless an older person can come to terms with both the good and the bad, the

joy and the sorrow. Remembering the heart-rending episodes of one’s life (such as

the loss of a spouse or the mistakes of youth) would be difficult, even intolerable,

without the capacity to gather all one’s individual experiences together and place

them into a larger, ongoing story-a story with a wider and deeper perspective.

Only then can one embrace the happy and successful times, and also accept

the losses and failures. Looking at one’s life from an extended horizon that

includes the spiritual dimension, difficult events are seen as opportunities for

growth as well as times of error and pain, and sorrow decreases because, in the

story, a different tomorrow has always come. In a complex, mature story, those

experiences that initially appeared as vivid, dramatic, and dominant (Anna:

“clearer”); that is, standing in the foreground, later appear as muted and shadowy,

visible only in the background (Anna: “gone away a little”). Perhaps this is what

we mean when we say, in popular language, “time heals all wounds”—it is

not really time itself that heals, but the reflective, courageous work of perspec-

tive building, done over time, that heals. Anna, who was always busy remem-

bering and reflecting, believed that without her wider perspective, without her

practice of incorporating each life experience into a larger vision, there “wouldn’t

be any kind of life.”