Aging is an Attitude: Ease up on yourself

From my vantage point, there’re many more perks to aging than there are annoyances. Each of us is different, of course, and circumstances can change with lightning speed; perhaps with a diagnosis that triggers a major freak-out and unsettling change. Also, as we move ‘further on up the road’ (to quote a line from an Eric Clapton song), we’re more likely to experience issues with, or loss of birth parents and friends, any of which can cause mental, emotional, spiritual and physical setbacks. Life events can sometimes feel like dumb-luck, or as if we’re living under a curse. I’ve experienced both scenarios. Thankfully, age brings a more balanced perspective; an easier, more flexible response, either way. As one gets older, the world expands or shrinks — sometimes both. If all goes well, age brings with it the gift of time, and mental space to think about what has been, and what will be; what should be celebrated, and what needs to change or be released.

‘Fear’ has had a leading role in my life, wellintoadulthood, for sure. Not the generic anxiety caused just by living in the world (terrifying enough): plane crashes, sharks in the water, possible attack by a full-on crazy street-person with whom you never even made eye-contact with. My Fear was internal, lurking in a very intimate and tender corner of my being. Mostly it felt like self-doubt and criticism; perfectionism; an irrational need to control my external surroundings, to stay one step ahead of whatever I sensed was chasing me. I was hyper-alert professionally (as a woman in a cut-throat male-dominated environment), and personally (the guilt of wanting and needing my career and some kind of home life, assuming I would fail at both). For years — decades! — I knew the Fear was there but chose to ignore it. Just like when we sweep or vacuum a floor, some of us pretend there’s no dirt / dog hair /dust bunnies under the rugs; so why bother taking them outside for a good shake? Despite having accomplished many of my personal and professional goals, there came a point in time when I realized I was ready tothink about and maybe even see what might be under that rug. My readiness came because I was older, wiser, less focused on my career and raising my son. I was ready to start connecting the dots between my life choices and results. How many of my really important decisions were driven by my fearful mind (ego) ? How many were driven by my heart (genuine desire)? Right out of the gate, the imbalance was obvious.

Having the time, space and opportunity to ask these question is, I feel, one of the luxuries of being older and being in a stable place. Still, some form of enhanced awareness is always a personal option, regardless of age or circumstances (except being incapacitated in some way).

There was no single method that kick-started my exploration of why and how being afraid (of failure, in general) had impacted my life. I could never fully quiet my mind, so mediation was not as helpful as reading (one of my favorites, Eckart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”). But I did launch into almost four years of trying-out the many self-help choices: reiki and energy-healing; breathwork; yoga; check-ins with Abraham (Law of Attraction); dream analysis. I read some amazing books. I kept reaching-out; one book leading me to another. 

And then it hit me: it wasn’t the books, or videos, pressure points or meridian work (which I love, by the way), breathwork, or dream work; it was ALL of it: the sheer attention, interest and focus I was giving to my Self. My energy was no longer going in twelve different directions. I was allowing myself the same care and courtesy and patience that I’d held in reserve for other people, projects, my career, my marriage and my child, running a household, and making sure that the challenges and subsequent accolades kept coming at work. I’ve always been extremely ambitious, except with regard to my Self. Even the hours at the gym, building muscle or hell-bent on surviving extreme cardio, wasn’t giving me what I truly needed: to stop worrying, fearing, controlling, pushing, and ignoring the questions about what I wanted and needed to be truly and deeply happy. It’s a work in progress. But I’m convinced that aging well requires easing-up on the pressure we put on ourselves to have/be/do, listening to our inner guidance systems, and staying true to what’s in our hearts. 

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