When many of us think of our own aging process, we immediately conjure up a negative association; a sense of deep loss as our youth fades. This loss, when seen through the lens of our young adult self may also carry with it a sense of shame in no longer being who we once were. Things that we took for granted such as our physical strength and flexibility begin to wane. Lines appear on our faces, our hair begins to grey and thin. From this shame lens, we can only see what is leaving us; we feel a sense of betrayal at this process happening too soon. We aren’t ready to die yet.
Many of us take the road of denial when we become aware of this process happening to us. Denial takes a great deal of our vital energy to maintain; hair dyes and skin treatments, sports cars and romantic affairs; anything to stave off the inevitable surrender to the slowing down of our physical functioning. In the process of the denial of aging we may also find ourselves carrying a sense of failure at not being able to remain as we once were. We usually don’t think about the second half of life in terms of growth and evolution, but rather as an indignity that has to be suffered. We are exposed now to all who can see our wrinkles and greying hair. We are now more aware of our vulnerability since we can no longer cling to the youthful illusion of immortality.
If we look closely, the reason for our feelings of shame, loss, or failure during the aging process is that something else from within us is telling us that there is more life to be experienced, but it is not clear how this is to come about. Something at our core remains youthful; still curious, adventurous, and enthusiastic. Yet our physicality is painting a different picture altogether. Which messages do we listen to?
This is a time to engage in this/and thinking. We can say yes, my body is showing signs of aging, but yet I also feel that I have much more to do and experience. We can feel unfamiliar aches, pains, and stiffness while also feeling the freedom of not having to repeat many painful life lessons because we have already lived through them. We can feel new physical limitations in movement while feeling inspired by a new idea or project. The fact is that we have more room now inside of us, our experiences having carved out a larger psychological space that can contain and hold both the desirable and undesirable as equal qualities of the human experience. In a nutshell, we have invested innumerable experiences to be where we are today, and we should take advantage of the insights and wisdom we have gleaned from our lives along the way.