Tag: middle age

The Gift of Age

The Gift of Age

Living just for today can be a real challenge for those of us who have lived our lives immersed in western culture. Every where we turn we hear messages, reminders, and indicators that unless we are moving forward at break neck speed we are not really living. Buddha, and others, understood the disservice we do to ourselves, and our lives, when we do not see and appreciate what is ours in the present moment, the gifts that are right in front of us.

One of the greatest awakenings I have experienced in my lifetime has been to finally see with great clarity how much I was losing today while worrying about tomorrow and fretting about the past. It took reaching midlife and fifty years of beating my head against a wall to finally get it. As a good “hippie”, I read years ago, and understood at some level the value of living in the moment, but I could only sustain it in moments when I was feeling particularly carefree. But living it in my soul? Ah, that would take years, and many, many hours and days of living mentally in the future, encountering road blocks to my best laid plans, and then reaching midlife and immersing myself in the heartbreak of the past.

Midlife presents an enormous opportunity to make great soul strides, to learn from fifty years of living that we can shed our misconceptions and get back to the basics of who we really are. We can choose to ignore the messages of our culture and hang on to what we know to be true in our hears.  Therein, lies one of the true wonders of aging… to at last not only be able, but willing, to see things more clearly…see things as they were meant to be…to see things as they are for us and to accept life with all its ups and downs, as good, and right and true. It’s a gift of aging. Embrace it.

Be Who You Were Born to Be

Be Who You Were Born to Be

As we get older life takes on new texture and color. Sometimes it’s dark and disturbing. At other times it’s richer than we ever imagined. Our focus sharpens. Things that once were paramount in importance suddenly seem silly and frivolous. Other things, that we previously put on the back burner, take on a new sense of urgency.  Making the shift into this new “mindset” is not always smooth. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself slipping back and forth between the two. Old habits of thought don’t go away quietly!

Social obligations are just this type of problem area for me. I enjoy people. Each and every one of my friends and family add a richness to my life that would not be possible without them. They give me love, spark my creativity, make me laugh, allow me to feel less lonely in my craziness. But, I am by nature an introvert and a loner. I enjoy solitude even as at times I fear loneliness. Over the years I did not allow myself sufficient time to live in my own world, think my own thoughts, explore my own imagination.  I forced myself to “act” in a more culturally acceptable manner and I hounded myself for not being better at it. Consequently, the mean girl in my head beat me up regularly.

At midlife a major shift occurred and for the first time in my life I began to embrace who I was and let go of all of the external expectations that I had allowed to guide my life. At first it was a great relief. It was exciting, even thrilling to suddenly give myself permission to be me. As time went on, however, old patterns of thought began to rear their ugly head. Social obligations would arise and the old fashioned knot in my stomach did as well.

It is my believe that the universe works very hard to keep us vigilant. There is no time for complacency. A lesson not completely learned warrants a reminder, don’t you think? For me, when old patterns of thought crop up, sooner or later, I know I need to wake up to the fact that I have to practice saying “no” again. I have to exercise my right to be me, more overtly, even if only as a reminder to myself that who I am is important and that the external cultural does not have power over me.

If and when something similar happens in your life, use it as a reminder, a kick in the butt, an opportunity to grow stronger in your conviction to be you.

Here’s to being exactly who we were born to be! No more, no less!

More on this topic:

Getting It Together After Fifty

Are You Still Pretending to Be a Younger Version of Yourself?

Perfectionism & Aging

Midlife Madness

Midlife Madness

Midlife Madness Fatigue
It’s not easy to find a good photo these days and I was so happy to find this one because not only is it the perfect photo, it connected to me to a great blog. Click on the photo and check it out!

Midlife hit me over the head with a hammer and then dropped kicked me into another universe. One minute I was boogying along, full speed ahead, the next I was laying flat out on the floor. Do you know what I’m talking about?

I think back, in a still recent retrospect, and I can’t even name which life altering event altered me more! It was a swift leveling to my senses. My father’s death, my son’s high school graduation, 9/11, my husband’s heart attack, second son leaves home, first son returns, financial stress, caring for my mother, my mother’s death, all the while my body morphing in the way it does at midlife, hormones all topsy turvey, weight shifting hither and yon and yon again…oh! I almost forgot the car accident…flipping four times and living to tell the tale…PTSD.

At one point I found myself glued to a chair unable to move and mumbling to my husband, “I think I have burn out. Do you think that’s possible?”

“I don’t’ know,” he replied. “It has been a little crazy lately. Maybe you just need to rest more.”

Ya think?

When the glaze across my eyes eased for a brief moment, I did some research on burn out to see if what I was feeling fit the bill. My doctor was simply treating my symptoms and rolling her eyes but not getting to the cause. (It always bugs me when doctors do that. It makes me feel like I’m imagining things.)

While researching, I discovered “compassion fatigue”. Oh, yeah! That’s it! Perfect match! It had been a lifetime of compassion run amuck. I hung on to my clever self-diagnosis for some time and began at last to acknowledge that maybe I did have a little stress in my life and maybe I needed to start thinking about doing things differently.

Now, ten years since the beginning of a decade of total come-undone-ness, I’m renaming my condition. I’m calling it “midlife madness fatigue”. My body, mind and soul have had enough and I’m not taking it anymore! Care to join me in the revolt?

 

The Fear of Love

The Fear of Love

We have all been wounded.  Many of us bear the deep scars of a less than perfect childhood. Perhaps our parents didn’t, or couldn’t love us the way we needed to be loved, alas, the way all children deserve to be loved. Or, maybe another person or experience left a mark on our psyche or heart so painful that we put in place cleverly devised layers of protection to keep us safe from future harm.

Self-protection has its benefits, but it also has its dangers. The longer we live and the more we have loved and lost, the more likely we are to be weighed down by our own cleverness. We may even feel smug about our ability to “carry on” in spite of life’s eventualities, or to turn the other cheek with increasing ease. We may, in fact, simply be numb.

If you look into the face of an innocent child who was loved into awakening, you will see the wide-eyed innocence of easy trust, acceptance and love…a love that flows freely without boundaries or limitations or expectations.  That once was us.

We may never be able to go back to the point of perfect innocence, but if we dare, we can choose to stare down our fears, choose to open our hearts and choose to love again.  We can decide to no longer let the past control our willingness to open our hearts today. We have surely reached the point in our lives where we can trust our ability to survive hurt and loss. We have done it many times before. We may know the pain that open, trusting, unsuspecting love can bring, but we also know its deep abiding  joy and life-giving power as well.

We owe it to ourselves and to those who come into our lives today to keep taking the risk to love and be loved. It is the only real way to know the fullness of life. After all, as the song says, “it is the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance”.

 “The Rose”

Some say love, it is a river
that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
and you its only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking
that never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken,
who cannot seem to give,
and the soul afraid of dyin’
that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been to long,
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong,
just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed that with the sun’s love
in the spring becomes the rose.

Perfectionism and Aging

Perfectionism and Aging

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you insane your whole life.”   ~ Anne Lamott

Figuring out who we are and what we are supposed to be doing is a lifelong process…an ever-changing progression of near hits and misses.  I have lived much of my life under the illusion that one day I would “arrive” and find myself comfortable and at peace with the person I have become. I believed that if I worked diligently to uncover the truth about life, about my gifts, about who I really am and who I was born to be, then I would know what to do in order to live in peace and die without regret.

Suffice it to say I am a bit of an idealist, and like all things, this propensity has it’s good points and it’s bad. The up side is that my idealism propels me to keep searching and working to reach the goal of authenticity. I can’t seem to give up trying no matter how many times life knocks me down or another ugly truth rears its head. The down side is also that I keep trying, keeping reaching, keep striving for something more, something better, something “more me”…like the ideal in my head. Not going to happen.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one on this endless and often exhausting journey.  Everywhere I look, women who are facing the aging process are either trying to do the impossible…live forever…or putting their head in the sand. They pick up the pace with their exercise, diet, weight loss, supplements, medications and face lifts in a frantic effort to stop the clock.  Others run away from their mortality by throwing caution to the wind. They throw out their clothes, their husbands, their jobs, their homes and head for the mountains, the seas, and the Far East. If they go far enough away from what they were maybe they’ll be someone else entirely, someone who can live forever. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with either approach and sometimes it’s exactly what needs to happen, but often it’s just a postponement of the inevitability of facing oneself and staring down the demons that keep us from inner peace.

We each have to choose our own way of dealing with the aging process. There is no right or wrong answer. There are a couple of things, however, that might be worth considering.  First, it is helpful to remember that our ideals are only a guide, our beacon in the night sky, not our must-achieve-destination. If we allow ourselves to become caught up in obtaining our ideal we may begin to believe that we actually can and we will be  destined to fail. In the process, we will miss all the good-enough along the way.

Secondly, if are only looking outside of ourselves for direction, we will again miss the mark. All  of the answers to life’s mysteries can be found inside ourselves, our body, mind and souls. They will never be found in the world, in another person, in our job, our home, our family, our career, our religious beliefs, our education, our achievements and accolades. The externals do have value in that they are fodder for our soul, mirrors that reflect our inner truth if and when we care to look.  If we use them as such, they will serve us well.

Aging authentically is not easier or more difficult than striving for authenticity at any other time of life. What is different is that we are gradually growing into an acute awareness that time is running out. We also, however, have a whole lot more information about ourselves and the world than we had at any other time in our lives. We also always have truth and beauty within our reach. Though life will sometimes cast doubt on our ideals, we must continue to hold them up as what they are…a beacon of light in the dark.