“I turned 77 on my last birthday and now recognize some of the effects of aging. I can’t wiggle my body in quite the same way as I did when I was 7 or 17, among many other things I can’t do quite as well now.”
I grew up on a farm with nine siblings. With 80 acres of farmland and woods, we had plenty of space to roam outdoors. A different story unfolded indoors. That’s where wiggle room was limited—especially at mealtimes, when I shared a bench at the end of the table with three siblings. Any wiggling would shake the bench, cause elbow bumping, and evoke complaints.
I turned 77 on my last birthday and now recognize some of the effects of aging. I can’t wiggle my body in quite the same way as I did when I was 7 or 17, among many other things I can’t do quite as well now. But I find inspiration in what Mary Pipher wrote in Seeking Peace: “The great glory of life is in the wiggle room.”
When I get frustrated with my physical limitations, I remind myself that wiggle room also applies to mindset. This mindset allows me—even urges me—to continue dreaming and planning. While some aspects of my life place constraints on what I can do, wiggle room reminds me that slowing down isn’t the same as shutting down.
As a child, I didn’t have enough room on that bench to feel comfortable, a constraint due to limited physical space and one over which I had no control. But, today, I do have control over my inner space. I can choose a mindset that doesn’t allow age or aging to limit me.
Different forces have played a role in shaping who I am today. But I’m not cemented in place. I can still dream, plan, and map out new directions and destinations. I may never write another book, learn another language, or start a new career. I know I’ll never have another child and, most likely, not even adopt another dog. I’ll never compete in the Olympics or scale the highest mountain. Yet, I know there’s wiggle room for me to grow. (Read “6 Stories on Aging Gracefully” for more about aging gracefully.)
I can still form new friendships and discover in my current friends fresh insights into why we’ve hung together over the years. I may plant a tree or a pollinator garden—knowing the benefits will outlast me—and much more that hasn’t yet revealed itself on my radar of possibilities. I can still add bits of goodness and beauty to the world around me. While aging tells me it’s time to do some things differently, they don’t tell me to stop growing. Wiggle room tells me that—like the tree or garden—I can continue to grow and change.
This wiggle room isn’t something given to me. It’s something I claim for myself. And what I love about claiming the wiggle room for my inner self is that I can do it without pushing someone off the bench.