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Old and Joyous

By David Sanford

Who Are You Really?


Like all older people, a lot has been taken away from you. If not already, then soon. You used to identify yourself by your profession. (“What do you do? I’m a school teacher.”) You are not that any more. Maybe you used to be an active parent. You still have children, but they do not need you much anymore. Moreover, if you are like me and my adult children, they seldom visit San Miguel. (“Too many other obligations, Dad.”)

You will gradually lose your mobility; for sure, you will lose your driver’s license, if you have not already. The story grows sadder by the sentence. But wait a moment: Everything that is taken away creates an opportunity for something new to replace it. Who are you really? You decide. Here are two ways to approach the question:

1. You get to be nobody special. This may be an attractive choice if you were earlier weighed down by a heavy identity. Alice was convicted of forgery and served time in prison. Barry inherited the family business, and now is glad to be rid of that role. Being nobody special creates an opportunity. For example, you could have thought of yourself as a basically conventional and rather shy person. Then you make a new friend in San Miguel, and, over dinner, the two of you decide to make up pretend identities and try them out on each other. Because you balance each other in risk taking, your sample identities are over the top! No, this is not who you really are, you decide. However, you know what. you do not have to have a fixed identities. You can trust yourself and just go with “I’m me.”

2. You feel that you are here to learn how to love. A benefit of having lived a long time is that you can look back at all those decades of experience—striving, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, being both generous and not generous at all, and learning along the way. Then you can ask yourself the big question: More than anything else, what has my life been about? Personally, I feel that I am here to learn how to love. When I look at the major challenges of my life, they are all about learning how to forgive and love myself and other people.

Here is a suggestion: Review your life decade by decade. Pay attention to the challenges in each major period of your life. Has it all been pointed one way? What has your life been about? Is it still about the same thing?

David E. Sanford is 82. His website is For 30 years David was a relationship therapist. He is the author of five books on love, couple relationships, and marriage. David and his wife, Joyce, live in San Miguel in wintertime.


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