When you look around, each one of us can probably see someone we care about facing a difficult obstacle. It may take the form of a challenging illness, a marriage that is breaking apart, the death of a loved one or close friend, a financial hardship or perhaps simply the sadness of an empty nest. We also see and feel great joys such as new relationships forming, grandchildren and great grandchildren being born, new insights and learning being shared.
Of course for most of us, the joys seem to be far more preferable than the challenges, whether they’re happening in our own lives or in someone else’s. We have lived enough years to know that both make up the fabric of our existence, but still the joys win out as the goal to pursue, it is just human nature. However, when faced with courage, it is the challenges that really help us to grow, to reassess and to begin again on a necessary new path. The transition into advancing maturity is a stage of life that calls us to slow down. It doesn’t mean we stop living, it just means we need to look at life with a new perspective. Yes, this does mean reconsidering our point of view, our long held opinions about ourselves and others, a pre-life review so to speak before we eventually hit the pearly gates.
Dr. Brene Brown has written a wonderful book called Daring Greatly that explores vulnerability in great detail. She dares to expose the results of her own unexpected look in the mirror as she researched the subject in countless interviews with many somewhat willing subjects. I chuckle as I hear her tell the story of getting up in front of a huge audience to bear her soul upon a strong inner urge to “be authentic” amidst the straight laced limitations of the scientific community where competition and order reign supreme. It reminded me of my own trepidation when I pressed Send on the first four or five columns I wrote, having made the decision to just tell the truth about caregiving as I was experiencing it: the good, the bad and the ugly.
When we let go of what we know, we feel out of control and vulnerable. It brings up strong emotions. Do we share them or do we put on a brave face and choose not to bother someone else with our feelings of doubt and uncertainty. It takes courage to reveal fragility, both for women and even more so for men, but to do so is the step towards healing that vulnerability offers, enabling us to move forward in consciousness through connection with others.
In the third stage of our lives, we are faced with things that previously may not have been brought to bear. Caring for an aging parent is one, leaving a job that was a great source of self worth and companionship another, holding the hand of a dear one who is dying, sharing in the wonder of our own children having children and experiencing the growth that comes from parenting and being givers and protectors of life. Stretching our capacity to embrace life in all of its shapes and forms opens our hearts to walk in the soles of wisdom, daring greatly to love more, to be more. Theodore Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
As we enter and travel through the aging process, I think we are all pretty aware that it is our health and well being that matters most. Nothing else compares in importance, because it is what keeps us participating with those we love. The new science of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI: the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body) is discovering that we must lay aside our protective natures and open to the wonder of understanding that as we feel, we heal. Repressing our emotions lowers our immune system and in turn makes us sick.
To stay well, especially as we age, can we choose to feel, choose to share and choose to be vulnerable? As we become connected to the knowingness of our body’s innate wisdom and trust in its intelligence, when our bodies get into a state of dis-ease, we know it is just letting us know we have gotten out of balance. Through the willingness to be vulnerable, we can begin a course correction.
On October 25th, discovering this reconnection will be explored in a one day workshop called the Soles of Wisdom – Daring Greatly in the Third Stage of Life. Daring greatly means walking resolutely in the wisdom of our own unique experiences for growth, taking one step at a time. Give me a call if you would like more information.