Reading James’ Varieties today, and I ran across a phrase that struck me. ‘The willingness to be…” The phrase struck me because it seems particularly apt for characterizing a crucial part of grief and of aging. Each, in its peculiar way, threatens or diminishes our willingness to be.
Grief, the experience of loss, makes the thought of renewed investment in being frightening or unendurable. Aging all-too-often chokes the willingness to be by making it seem that being is the using up of a now urgently finite resource — and we become miserly with our willingness to be, as if unwillingness could somehow bank being, and willingness spend it, if it is spent, only in certain chosen moments.
But we will be — whether we be willing or unwilling to be.