The fourth quarter: the art and science of unfolding

My sister and I were asked to kneel on Mom’s porch as part of a family photo. As we knelt there, we began to giggle. We’re companions in the fourth quarter of life.

“It’s so easy to get down here.”
“I hope no one’s watching as I get up.”

We leaned on each other, giggling. Then one of us asked, do you have Poise in your pants? We were off on another giggle fest.

Another of the new and surprising things that happen in the Fourth Quarter of our lives!

That’s when I started thinking about the difficulty of unfolding. I can sit for long periods: on the ground, in the car, wherever. I can sit cross-legged, I can kneel, I can sit with my legs straight out in front of me. I can even sit like a frog ready to leap.

It’s the unfolding, or opening up, that’s difficult. The first step is often just a bit painful and perhaps a little peculiar to look at. Once I’m on the move, I’m good as gold. I have no problems with balance or mobility.

This physical change in me got me thinking. Perhaps as we age, it becomes a little more difficult to open ourselves in other ways, too.

Life is the act of unfolding.

Unfolding is not just a physical phenomenon, but it can be emotional and mental, too.

Look at a baby, folding and unfolding, as if that’s her only purpose in life. A baby is open to new things, unjudging, and curious. As she grows, she naturally becomes more rigid, less willing to be folded and shaped.

Being less bendable can be protective. We’re more stable, less able to be manipulated, and perhaps even more predictable.

Unfolding keeps us alive.

It’s important to have strong, stable roots to keep us grounded, AND have the flexibility of new growth forever unfolding.

There are some ways to keep ourselves flexible physically and mentally. Here are my five favorites:

  1. Yoga: I’ve been practicing yoga most of my life. Of course, it makes me more flexible physically. It always makes me feel calm and centered, and even a bit taller. I’m happy to say that experts agree that yoga and other exercises also help us stay mentally and emotionally fit.
  2. Read: Reading opens us up to different places and different ways of looking at the world. I read somewhere that reading actually takes our minds to another place. (Our brain doesn’t know we’re still sitting in a chair.)
  3. Socialize: Get to know new people in new places. Try new foods and experience new activities. Diversity is the key here. The more different our experiences are, the more we grow both mentally and emotionally. New experiences are good for us physically, too.
  4. Meditate: Fifteen minutes a day can be very helpful for mind, body, and spirit. I’m happy to find that even if I don’t feel calmer immediately after meditating, it has an accumulating effect.
  5. Go with the flow: Now that I’m semi-retired, I have a wide-open schedule. Or as I told a client, “My schedule is open, until it’s not.” Beyond scheduling the day, it’s important to adapt to new, different changing requirements that come our way.
My sister and I, companions in the fourth quarter

As we age, it may be natural to take a little more time to unfold.

It’s okay to acknowledge that sometimes it might take a little time. It might look and feel a little peculiar. Sometimes, that first step just might hurt a little.

Remember that first day of kindergarten? Although some of us were as excited as all get-out to take the first step, others found it quite intimidating. And, as kindergarten unfolded, for all of us, surprising and sometimes painful things happened, too. That was way back when we were in the first quarter of life.

It’s no different now that we’re in the fourth quarter.