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Aging

A Personal Note on Aging

A Personal Perspective: On the blessings of aging.

Key points

  • Combatting the assault of ageism requires that we see the beauty, power, and blessings that come with it.
  • Letting go of focusing on our hopes for a forever youth can be freeing.
  • Many of us have learned to look at our past for the causes of our suffering, but we can also look toward our future to see who we are becoming.

Aging is something I began to understand 2 years ago when I was 65.

It wasn't because of my qualification for Medicare or because 65 was some magic retirement number; it was because I began to notice symptoms that go along with age—more grey, less hair, urine flow that wasn't as strong as it once was, viruses that hung on longer and sleep becoming even more rare.

I would imagine that these would be a gloomy foretelling or perhaps a more depressive reflection, but that is not at all the case.

Aging, like all processes that are chronic (and aging is chronic, beginning on day one), has the potential of becoming a disturbance from all we wish we were or an invitation to becoming all we are meant to be.

On the eve of my 67th birthday, October 9, I have no doubt about the choice I make on a daily basis—the choice of looking toward the end of my life for my inspiration and meaning as opposed to the beginning of my life for the memory of youth or the causes of life’s catastrophes.

Blessings of aging

Several blessings have revealed themselves in the last few years:

I have become less able to bully myself into "trying" to be what I think I should be. Ideas regarding being a man, a husband, a successful person, a "mature person"... they still live in me, but the battery that powered their potency has weakened. A blessing of aging.

My conscious work of the last 30+ years is now clearly in one piece, meaning I see how it all fits. Twelve years consulting for large organizations, 10 years of being an attorney, 8 years of teaching at a university, 15 years of being a teacher of process-oriented psychology, and 3 decades of private practice led to the formation of the Santa Fe Institute for Shame-based Studies a few years ago. I couldn't see it back then—how the pieces connected. Fortunately, I was willing to follow the river, not knowing where it would lead. The view is quite clear from where I now stand.

My childhood was a powerful wrestle with forces that appeared to be much bigger than I was. I say "appeared" to be because the child's eyes saw big things, not knowing that the bigness he saw was his Spirit, his dreaming, his calling. The horror of the violence that lived in my family was... well, many of you know that horror. But now, I see how the story unfolded over 67 years and the view is astounding. The child rescuer grew that impulse into something even bigger, allowing me to alchemize a medicine that may help redeem many more than my childhood family. Far from overcoming that predilection, defining it as codependency or some other pathology, I became it even more.

I have said before that my father criticized me relentlessly, calling me "a dreamer." Later I spent over 40 years studying nighttime dreams. And my mother's critique was, "David, you can't save the world," meaning she wanted me to live a smaller, more contained life of simple ambitions. Now I think, "How did they both see me so clearly? How did they criticize exactly who I was to become?” It's a brilliant universe, even when it reveals itself in such a twisted manner. The clarity about it all—a blessing of aging.

My neuroses and complexes—the ones I hoped to heal away, erase, and overcome as a younger man—were never eradicated. But they softened into the background and became just a few of the many planets that orbit around the deeper center of my being and my love. What freedom to not be hell-bent on "healing" these old friends and enemies! A blessing of aging.

DLewis33/Getty Images/Canva
Aged Rings in an Aged Log
Source: DLewis33/Getty Images/Canva

One particular experience has followed me for as long as I can remember: A kind of anxious sense, a palpable feeling of being unsafe. That "old friend" has flowered into terrible beauties along the way. One flower has been how that lack of safety led me to fall upon the Earth and locate the source of my spiritual life in this great round piece of love that we all walk upon. No longer looking back for the cause of that suffering, but finding the source of the medicine it was seeking, has been a great blessing of aging. Would I have discovered my Earth-based spiritual calling without that anxiety? I don't know. I only know that it was that anxiety that knew what I was deeply looking for.

And yet another gift has flowered out of that lack of safety—a deeper intimacy with my beloved, Lisa. In fact, just one month ago, she held me in her arms while I shook for 30 minutes with frightened sounds and sobs emerging from my depths. "I'm so scared, I'm so scared, I'm so scared"—words I couldn't stop saying reached her ears. It was a holy moment, not a moment of releasing old fears, but a moment of sharing them—their complete vulnerability. That precious intimacy—a blessing of aging.

I was programmed to think that I would reach my prime (whatever that is) around mid-life, perhaps in my 40s or 50s. I imagined I would then embody the height of my power, my financial earning capacity, and my ability to stand for what is most urgently called for in my soul.

However, this past year has been more empowered than ever. Not in the warrior sense—where my armor and sword lead the way (although they too have grown more defined in their purpose), but in the sense that my self-knowledge and love of the authentic being I am holds me more truly than I could even have imagined. All the power I had wanted could have never been as great a gift. This redefined sense of empowerment—a blessing of aging.

And lest I marginalize the blessing of financial success (something I thought I should not want, talk about, or enjoy)—much more money has flowed into my coffers this year than ever before. I thought I should have built a retirement account that was able to support me for the rest of my life; it turned out that I invented a life built around my calling and in doing that a flow of money has aligned itself with that invention. A blessing of my aging.

Looking forward, I see a man walking slowly along the ocean's edge, windbreaker on, the spray of waves flirting with the sky as the water gets tossed into the air with the joy and exuberance tucked neatly in my belly. I hear poems spoken, some to reach others' ears, some that only the rocks and trees bear witness to.

And I have built a web of mentees and students who have committed to studying and carrying forward my unshamed vision of psychology and healing—taking the paradigm to more corners of the Earth and unfolding the genius that lies therein in ways that I could never have seen with my limited vision.

And I see the saltwater eyes of my beloved looking into mine as they close for the last time and hear a final silent goodbye and a dropping into the sleep that I longed for in the decades of wakefulness that led to that moment.

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