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This summer, I turned 47. I’m not sure why 47 sounds SO much older than 46 but in my mind it does! Maybe it’s because I can no longer claim I’m in my mid-40s. No…I have definitely tipped over to the almost 50 side of the 40s, and as I sometimes joke with people, I am now more than halfway to dead. 🙂 When and how did that happen? How is it that there is now more of my life behind me than ahead of me?
I can’t answer those questions anymore than I can answer the following questions: At 47 years old who or what am I? What really happens after we die? How can we be simultaneously separate beings and one with the collective field of consciousness? How does karma really work? Does evil exist as it’s conceived in the Bible and superhero movies? What is the ultimate purpose of the challenging lives we live on Earth? What the hell does it really mean to be spiritual or enlightened?
As a seeker of truth, these are questions I’ve been asking myself for quite some time. And…the truth is… I can’t answer these questions much better at 47 than I did at 27 or 37. Sure, I can give a laundry list of my accomplishments and failures, hopes and dreams, and things I’ve done or wish I had done. I can say I’m a single mother of a 14-year-old daughter. I’m a daughter, a sister, a friend, a leader and sometimes a follower… None of these labels will ever truly define me or capture the fullness of who or what I am. I am simultaneously all those labels and none of them. Sure, I can spout off what I’ve learned from respected spiritual teachers, my own experiences and what resonates deeply with me and certainly feels like truth. However, I really don’t know…
And so… at 47, I am still asking those same questions and realizing I’ll never have the answers – at least not while I’m in a human body spinning around on this crazy planet we call Earth. Anyone who tells you they know the absolute answers beyond any doubts is delusional, lying, fooling themselves, or stuck in a rigid belief system. 🙂 Sure…we have ideas, we get glimpses and feelings and can make some guesses that resonate and certainly feel like the truth of who or what we are, why we exist at all, what happens after we die, what the point of all this is…
But we need to be extremely careful, especially the seekers. In our quest for truth, we have a tendency to blindly follow the mystics and the gurus and project God onto the ones we think have it all figured out and know the ‘THE TRUTH’, ‘THE WAY’, ‘THE PRACTICE’, ‘THE ANSWERS’ that will get us closer to God and the oneness and connection we long for. And in our desperation to know, we forget that we are our own guru…
And so here’s where I’m at at 47 years old. Here’s what I can pretty safely say I DO know now that I didn’t at 27 or 37…
- I know that getting very comfortable with the uncertainty of it all and simply enjoying the discoveries that come as I walk my unique path keeps me sane.
- I know that no amount of money or material possessions can ever truly fill me up and make me feel complete.
- I know that I do not need the approval of anyone to validate me or help me feel good enough.
- I know that comparing myself to others will always lead to despair.
- I know that no one else can complete me, that the idea of two halves making a whole in a marriage is total B.S.
- I know that making self-honoring choices and having firm boundaries is one of the most compassionate things I can do for myself and others.
- I know that the single most important thing I can do to catalyze positive change and have a lasting impact on this world comes from changing myself from the inside out and fully opening my heart to love in all its forms.
- I know that I am here to use my unique combination of skills, experiences and talents to serve others in meaningful ways.
- I know that by taking care of myself I am also taking care of others.
- I know that the key to loving others is to love myself first as deeply as possible.
- I know that ALL emotions are welcome inside me and welcoming them all leads to wholeness.
- I know that there is only one deep truth running underneath all religion and myth.
- I know that my psychological and emotional growth is synonymous with my spiritual growth.
- I know that my worth is non-negotiable. I am worthy regardless of what I accomplish or don’t accomplish. I am worthy if I get the big promotion or I don’t, if I achieve my goals or I don’t. I am worthy simply because I exist. Period. End of story.
- I know that I am the only person responsible for my reactions, responses, feelings and personal growth. On the flipside, I know that I am NOT responsible for anyone else’s reactions, responses, feelings or personal growth.
- I know that I can choose to be a creator or a victim every moment of every day.
- I know that the process, the journey IS the way. There is no end point. There is no final destination where I will feel settled and happy ever after. Constant evolution and change IS the way, IS the point.
- I know that I don’t need to seek for THE answers anymore, for some elusive state of ‘enlightenment’, for a mystical experience or anything else for that matter.
- I know that I can simply live my life enjoying each moment free from any compulsion to achieve, do, or be anything other than exactly who/what I am.
- I know that I only need to look within, to trust my own inner guidance and wisdom.
- I know that I am my own leader, my own hero, my own guru.
These are the exquisite lessons of aging that our culture disregards and doesn’t teach us.
Instead, our culture, with its obsessive focus on external beauty and graceful aging, bombards us with messages that what matters is covering the gray, getting rid of the wrinkles, keeping our skin firm, avoiding the weight gain, getting rid of the age spots. The advertising industry pounds into our heads that there’s something wrong with aging, that our aging bodies are ugly and unacceptable, and, of course, their products promise to help us maintain or regain our youthful appearance.
Do I sometimes fret about my sagging skin or notice to my dismay the growing number of spots on my skin? Sure I do. Do I love when people tell me I don’t look my age? Hell yes, I do! I am not immune to the millions of messages surrounding me since birth about what it means to age and how we’re supposed to do it. But I also know that messaging is a big pile of stinkin’ b.s!
I don’t want to go back to my youth. I don’t want to go back to the days when 99.9% of the things I did were focused on getting external approval, being seen, or getting attention because I didn’t see myself and recognize my own inherent worth. I don’t want to go back to the days when I mistreated others and myself due to my own immaturity and lack of understanding. I don’t want to go back to the days when I thought I had to figure it all out and know all the answers.
I want to be exactly where I am right now…47 years old, increasingly saggy skin, more and more age spots and wrinkles, and lots of gray hair but carrying inside me the beautiful lessons I’ve learned and a deep recognition that I don’t need the answers. I simply need to love myself, to love others and to soak up every stunningly beautiful moment of aging…to rest in the knowledge that I am my own guru and aging is beauty.
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