U is for Unraveling


As we enter our seventies, it is easy to dwell on changes in our minds and bodies with a view toward the negatives. We may experience pain and loss as our bodies age and as our lifestyle as we knew it for so long is left behind.

This photo of the work “Unraveling,” by Ursula Von Rydingsvard, is from a recent trip that a friend and I made to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The installation sparked my thinking about old age as an age of unraveling. There are two ways that I might choose to think about the verb, “to unravel.” The first is the negative connotation,    meaning at loose ends, or coming to pieces. That is the view of aging as one of pain and loss.

However, relying on my knowledge of Spanish and French, I choose the connotation of the words, desenlace, or denouement. These words literally mean untying or unknotting, and are used as literary terms for the resolution of the conflict in the plot of a literary word. In literature, the author unties all the twists and turns, knots if you will, of the plot to resolve the story, play, or book, thus leading to the conclusion. In our lives, our unraveling may be similar. What are some of the knots, the conflicts, that gifted elders experience that are waiting to be resolved in the final stage of our lives?

 Untying involves setting one’s agenda for the years (days/months?) that remain. Agenda-setting or goal-setting involves taking stock of our resources and proposing goals that respond to those realities. Thus, having surveyed my resources, I will never run a marathon, but I do intend to train as a marathon writer and to finish the three books that are in different stages of writing, to publish a book of poems, to read, to connect with loved ones, and to maintain my mobility during my final years. I will call on all the resources at hand to assist in untying and resolving those goals.  Surveying my fiscal resources, I will not spend them all at once on a world cruise. However, I do intend to travel each year, visiting familiar and unfamiliar places. As gifted elders we can plan a fulfilling agenda within the confines of our resources.

 Untying is setting our life in order in the sense that, in consideration of our loved ones, we simplify the process that they will need to go through after we pass. Do our loved ones know who to contact? Do they know where important papers are? Do the know what our wishes are?

 Untying involves saying what is left unsaid. For the past several years I have kept a gratitude journal, focused on family. Our youngest son who lives nearby knows where to find that journal to share with his brother and the rest of the family upon my demise. I have also begun final gifting, writing poems, notes, and other missives to family and friends and designating meaningful gifts from our belongings that will be significant to them.

Untying means resolving the inner tensions within ourselves  – letting go of past hurts and touching the mystery, the spiritual, in ourselves. Mindfulness, prayer, or other types of meditation become a daily ritual that assist us in unraveling. 

 What ties and knots do you have that need to be unraveled?

*Photo of “Unraveling” by Ursula von Ryndingsvard. In the collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.


 This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z (2016)  Challenge. Click here. to see all of the blogs in the A to Z Challenge


4 thoughts on “U is for Unraveling

  1. Joy, your post was deeply touching. Brings to mind the gorgeous Japanese perspective on wabi sabi (something I wrote a little on last year). Looking at the world in terms of change helps embrace each moment…each breath. Thank you for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

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