Mary Oliver: Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Dr. Susan Schwartz (in Paradise Valley, Az.) and I (in Johannesburg, South Africa) went live last week on Wednesday 22nd Feb on reddit. It was a week long AMA – ask me anything – and then on Wednesday we responded to the questions as they came up. I’m going to put up a few questions and our responses to them for your interest. 

The excerpt below in blue was an introduction to our book “Aging & Becoming ~A Reflective Enquiry” – and it’s a little abbreviated as are the questions and answers, from necessity.

This is not a ‘how to’ book. Nor is a book about what, why, when and where. We’ve used personal stories and shared a few friends’ views. We’ve brought in myths and tales from the distant past. They live on as good myths do, speaking to our contemporary lives by illustrating the timeless trials and tribulations resonant to every generation. 

We’ve brought light and dark, pain and pleasure, heights and depths, shadows and the ever present paradoxes into this book. We’ve given aging honor and respect. It is our politic. We covered a wide array of topics; life, death and all else in between.

From A – Z we reflect on aging – and becoming. This is what we do every day of our lives – age and become. The writing has brought into sharper focus and our reflections have afforded a deeper way of looking at this crucial stage. Aging underscores the inevitability of death and the realization that the limit of time narrows.

Aging is part of living and the more conscious we are of it, the more we can actualize our potential.

A few of the questions and responses: –

Q: Have you paid much thought about archetypal rites of passage, and how the individual may encounter these, and how archetypal studies can influence the maturation process by virtue of being aware of the process with a deeper understanding?

A: Yes, we speak about rites of passage as in gaining awareness of oneself along the way. We give suggestions. Becoming oneself is maturity and as Jung says, it takes a lifetime. So, keep on being aware of self and others on your own particular journey.

Q: How does aging cause us to re-align our switch to authenticity? Does reflection on aging ground our perception of aging? 

A: Authenticity does not come with age. It comes from internal and external awareness and consciousness. It comes from working with dreams, relationships, developing one’s passions and becoming a conscientious person. It comes with daily attention and care to one’s soul and others.

Q: Jung said that we spend the first half of our lives expanding & establishing ourselves in the world and the 2nd half contracting to focus on what’s most important. What happens if that pattern is interrupted … considerations and circumstances i.e. … aspects of mental illness or trauma … breakdowns, blocks/complexes?

A: There is no real order but all are part of the whole. … The challenge is to stay awake and value where one is in life. Jung valued the stages … all the way through. Self-knowledge is gained in many ways-dreams, synchronicity, relations, inner and outer feelings. These show us how we are living and are manifestations of the archetype.

Q: What has in your eyes been the best part of growing older?

A: … a little more comfortable in my skin … time is limited in that there is no longer a forever as in the fairy tales – and more of a realisation of the importance of giving expression to my inner self.

A: Growing older happens daily. It is not in a moment but through a life time. Valuing of even the small things gives meaning to the more awesomeness of our individual lives. It is also honoring the range of feelings in being.

Q: …. How do you keep the spirit alive?

A: …. sometimes my spirits are very low – and many are those who are not so well disposed as those of whom you wrote – from them we learn too. Our spirit may be very disheartened at times or many times, and it feels as if there is no spirit or soul at all – even this place is a place of broadening our spirit…

A: I think the spirit comes through being creative, having joy in self, finding the surprise in each day. It comes from being inwardly aware and accessing oneself in many compassionate and depthful ways.

Q: I’m drawn to the question of grief since I write about this topic and work in bereavement. Grief has been a huge teacher to me. ….  Your line “Grief tends to press on the soul” drew me. Grieving for others took me on an initiatory journey that opened heart and soul and led me to a new life. …. How do you suggest dealing with grieving for our own vital selves?

A: Not easy to grieve at all and for oneself is part of life, I would think. The decline may also open the inner world as the outer communication is changing. No doubt there are some tangible things but there are also your dreams, anything creative that helps expression and being with those who care and know how to express love in the many ways love shows up.The issue is love of self as well.

A: … What we may have taken for granted … eg reasonable health, when it is taken away from us through no fault of our own, as in deafness, is a bitter pill.  … When it comes to our own selves, I guess this kind of grief takes on a different flavour, goes to another level – I’m reminded of a quote by George Eliot: She was no longer wrestling with grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.

Q: What can we do when we’re young, to grow old gracefully?

A: Grace is living with consciousness as much as possible each day. Mind, body and soul are involved and bring fullness to life. …

A: …..There’s always grace in the world if we see it, in our own actions, thoughts and expressions. … Moments of grace are always around if we are open to it and take it in. At any stage of our lives – the planting of seeds leads to future growth.

Well, I’m well over 1000 words already so I’ll end now. There’re so many more … maybe I’ll do another post soon with more of these interesting and depthful questions..

The reddit link if you want to check it out is On reddit itself there are so many very interesting looking sites –

And, thanks to Ally Bean for suggesting last week that I make a post about questions …

This is a photo of yours truly taken this morning by a visiting guest Charles. I am holding a copy of the book which is not even mine. It’s on loan from a friend of mine who ordered it! I’m awaiting my very own one … (and no, I’m not mad about the photo of me, though the book is lovely!)

Thank you for reading. The seasons are changing, so is everything. Keep centred.

30 Comments on Conversations

  1. “There is no real order but all are part of the whole.”

    I love that line because it’s so true, but often overlooked in our To Do List world. We’re all so aware of the things to do and the order in which we’re supposed to do things, but in reality… what you said.

    Thanks for creating this post. It’s a wonderful glimpse into what you and your book are all about.

    • I agree it’s a powerful line by Susan Schwartz …

      And thank you again Ally Bean – you were the prompt to make this post. Another to follow next week.

  2. Thanks for the words. Lots to contemplate and appreciate. The peep at the Q&A shows such value. (:

  3. Hi Susan loved reading your post !! the quote of Mary Oliver “Let me keep the distance always from those who ….is simply superb, and very true. I read every question and answer, let me tell you and susan have done great work; your responses made me think a little more on authenticity, acceptance, evolving self and liked the way you have responded to all the questions, thanks for sharing a bit about your book – I am hoping to get a copy for myself. Thanks again to both of you, great work, keep it up !! Loads of love and congrats again 🙂 I feel a little more knowledgeable after reading your post 🙂

    • Thanks Genevive for your lovely comment -I hope to put up a post with further questions and responses. I enjoyed re-reading them and felt the depth of them all over again …

  4. The questions you listed are thought-provoking as well as your responses. Defining ourselves is not easy. There are so many questions, mind-sets, with possible answers. The process of aging can take us by surprise, especially if we are in denial. Being accepting of our aging process is necessary. You Susans must have enjoyed discussing the abundance of ideas and thoughts about Aging. I do look forward to reading your book.

  5. I love it. Thanks for the gathering of three Susans. And thank you for this response to the question about grieving for one’s own good health as we age: “I’m reminded of a quote by George Eliot: She was no longer wrestling with grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.”

    I think I’ll make a pot of green tea for my old friend Grief and me.

    • Thank you Elaine. Yes, George Eliot’s is a lovely quote.

      i love your last line – it evokes all sorts of images and feelings for me …

  6. Hi Susan, What a wonderful post! Thank you so much to you, Susan and Susan for providing some truly great conversations on the topic of “Aging & Becoming.” I totally loved your book and for those who would like to read a little more, here’s my five star Amazon UK review. You look fabulous in the photo, and that’s a great opening quote. Blessings always, Deborah.

    “Wow! I have never read a more brilliant book in all my days! Everything I’ve ever wanted to read about or question in terms of “Aging & Becoming” is held with the beautiful pages of this collaborative soul missive. Put simply, this is an extraordinary enquiry and exploration of life, death and everything in between. The depth and flow of conversation between these two long term (several decades!) students of Jung is astounding! The A to Z topics they touch upon feed mind, body, spirit and soul. I feel this is a must-have book for all Jungians, psychotherapists, healers and for those dedicated to their own soul evolution.

    Here is a book about knowing oneself and reflecting on life. You could literally open this inspirational book at any page and begin reading, and this is what I shall be doing again and again for the inherent wisdom, depth of beauty and profound truth found within these pages is remarkable! Dear Susan’s, know this, I shall be feasting on your work for many years to come, for one cannot savour such richness in one sitting alone! You give us so much meat on the bone! Totally unique in its presentation, a book bursting with grace, and one that looks at home in the midst of many Jungian titles, presently residing next to the Red Book itself.”

    • Thank you Deborah so much – and for your LOVELY review of our book so beautifully and generously described!

      Thanks for saying about the quote – and the photo – 🙂

  7. Well done ma. Really like the post intro quote: ‘Mary Oliver: Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.’ Well done for AMA! 🙂

  8. Happy to hear that your AMA was a success. Reddit is a wonderful platform for such question and answer events.
    Wishing you both continued success, and of course, more book sales than you can imagine.
    Shalom aleichem,

  9. You both did great! we really had a Susan-party going on that day. Thank you both for sharing your wisdom in such a generous way.

Comments are closed.