what is it about growing older that we fear so much? is it the looming reality of death, which in truth is with us from the moment of conception, but which only becomes real as we progress with the years? or is it the loss of potency, or fear of it, that makes us worry about our ability to control our lives? perhaps it is mere vanity, the fear of yet another line or wrinkle appearing on our bodies "robbing" us of the beauty of youth? or could it be the accumulation of regrets for things we have done, or for things we did not do, the season for which may have past and the somber reality that they will neither be erased or achieved? obviously the answers will be different for each of us, and depends on where we stand in the process of getting older, as our vantage point influences those answers. someone who is turning 30 will likely have a different approach then someone turning 70. but the important thing is to be willing to look at the question, to face the reality of aging in context of the point we are living in that moment.
of course we could simply deny that we are getting older and all that it may entail, but most of us know that denial is a game; and a very unproductive game at that. pretending that things are not what they are generally serves only to keep us from experiencing the reality of our lives; or simply put - to live an unauthentic life. that we age is a fact of life, how we age is our choice.
often that choice creates a "crisis" for us, the proverbial "mid-life crisis". interestingly, the "mid-life crisis" is generally not a singular experience that happens at the point we become "middle aged". in truth we experience many so-called mid-life experiences of varying intensities and durations. more importantly we can experience them at any given time in our lives. it is not uncommon for someone to go through such a crisis at 35 or 30 or even at 25 years old. if we understand that the "crisis" is not age-dependent but is part of the normal process of aging for self-reflective beings such as we are, we will not be so surprised that even teenagers can and do experience a "mid-life crisis".
essentially, a "mid-life crisis" is a moment in time that we become intensely aware that we are changing, and that change is turning our world in different directions, perhaps even spinning our world so fast we are temporarily dis-oriented. it is natural at such times to become fearful, the earth is quaking under our feet and we are shaken to our core. we question where we are going, we fear the loss of the security we once knew, we wonder what will become of us, we cry "why can't things stay as they are" or "why can't things change faster" - depending on where we are standing at that moment in the "crisis". the important thing to remember is that its a good thing to ask questions, to look at oneself and to evaluate one's priorities and dreams and actions. it's even ok to be afraid, that's normal, we wouldn't be human if we didn't experience fear in the face of mystery.
however, if fear gets the upper hand, if fear causes us to become paralyzed or withdrawn or sends us into flights of escapism (such as binge drinking, promiscuity, or any number of unhealthy avenues that divert us from the life affirming self-reflective process that we label "crisis") then we need help with our crisis. honestly even if the crisis is not manifested in extreme fear, we often need help to pass through this dark valley. it's the reason many naturally turn to God in prayer for guidance and comfort. it's the reason many seek out a friend or loved one to talk with and share feelings. it's the reason some recognize that they need to talk with their religious leader or a counselor or a spiritual director to help them navigate their feelings and thoughts.
yet if fear has gotten the upper hand that need for help is magnified. sometimes the ability to reach out for help becomes more difficult because unbridled fear is shutting down the natural process of the "crisis". if you are caught in such a state - do not despair, there are bound to be moments of clarity, (perhaps reading this little essay is serving you right now as a chance to see beyond), seize that moment and reach out for help now. God really does care about you, and there are people, even strangers who care too. reach out, call a hotline, call your doctor, go speak to a pastor, pray to God for the strength to love yourself (even if you don't believe in God), just make use of this moment of clarity to move away from fear and into life. no matter how old we are or what changes we are going through life is worth living. if you have a friend or family member whom you recognize is in such a stagnant place, be strong and reach out to him or her, and maybe if necessary reach out for him or her.
remembering that growing older is the natural flow of life, and "crisis" is an on-going reflection on the process, helps us to move on in sane and healthy ways. in surrendering one moment we are caught up in the next moment; living is a continuum of paradoxes. a wise man once wrote - "it is in giving we receive, in forgiving that we are forgiven, and in dying that we are born to new life". and so it is that the joy of living is found in acceptance of growing older and in our full participation in the dynamic process of life.
© 2010 halley low