Linda and I were talking about her ensuing landmark birthday, and she said, “Connie, this birthday scares me!” She shared that she had never really been bothered by milestone birthdays, but this one was different. Her fear was palpable, and I quickly decided to give her a hug and not flippantly say something that would not satisfy either of us. My career in senior living and hospice has given me the unique and enriching opportunity to be around thousands of Elders. Consequently, I’m an expert as an observer, although I am facing the same landmark birthdays. I believe the fear of death and the fear of aging are not the same. Our western culture is not friendly to the prospect of growing old. Our spiritual teachers speak in lofty terms about life after death, but this is a deep fear about the limited time we have left.
Dr. Bill Thomas, author of The Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life, says there are three types of aging adults: the denialist, the realist, the enthusiast. The goal is to move beyond the first two stages and arrive as an enthusiastic participant in the evolution of our own lives. The big paradigm shift happens when we understand there are benefits to be gained by growing old. The dilemma is that we feel out of control. How will the last chapter(s) of my life go? How much time do I have? We’ve lived in an illusion that we have unlimited time and suddenly a birthday reminds us of our expiration date. Spending more time focusing on that deeper life can move us towards a place of serenity. Living each day to the fullest is truly the only way to stay present. One proactive solution is to write down the important things we want to accomplish and create goals with deadlines. Compose your own bucket list. What about making some videos for your grandchildren? Record your “ten most valuable lessons” you’ve learned in life. Today’s technology allows us to “live forever.” Probably the biggest help is sharing these feelings with others. Often when we shine a light on our fears, they seem to fade away. We’re in this together, friend! Join the conversation at www.justnowoldenough.com.