This piece is dedicated to Emily Reed who passed away this week. We are grateful, Emily, for the gifts of your gracious presence on our dear Island.
Sit Back and Relax
Some people get on a plane and head out to their destination, effortlessly surrendering control to their pilots. Others are in the throes of panic – terrified of being out of control. Anxiety and fear of the unknown ride within them until they touch down at their destination. They are hyper-vigilant for that moment when the plane blows up or crashes. They await the moment of impact when powerless, hopeless, & helplessness consumes them. Fortunately, for most of us, when we fly, that moment never comes, but that doesn’t stop many of us sitting in wait.
I used to be that person, when it comes to flying. I am that person now, when it comes to other aspects of life. You see, how we do one thing is how we do everything. Whether it’s getting on a plane, starting our day, or getting into bed at night, each aspect of life can be viewed as facing the unknown. The uncertainty keeps many people up through the night, as the relinquishment of their lives to sleep is an unbearable feat.
I used to be terrified of, well, just about everything. Actually, the truth is, and this is very Freudian, that I saw every moment of life as a potential moment for dying. Even at five years old, as best I could, I avoided being alone, because I was certain that I would die if I were alone. I’d sneak into my sister’s bed once she was asleep, or take my pillow into my parents’ room and slide under their bed so they wouldn’t step on me if they got up in the middle of the night. Of course, they knew I was there but they never said a thing.
Over my lifetime, thousands of my life choices were made based on ensuring that I wouldn’t be alone. This didn’t necessarily ensure I was happy, but it did ensure that I wasn’t going to be alone – my sole purpose in life for a very long time.
I know a lot of people in their 40’s and 50’s who have never lived alone. They move from their parent’s home to their home with a roommate or their new spouse. Divorce, separation, or death may have been the only options for extricating them from their patterns of living in fear of being alone.
You see, no matter where we are in the aging process, we carry the same patterns living within us, unless we realize how limiting and stultifying this can be, and begin to try something different.
During the time that I was terrified of flying, I read something that said fear of flying was a result of the belief that you could not be rescued by a Prince or Princess Charming. Somehow understanding this liberated me from my fear of flying. And, over time I became brave enough to fly fearlessly, live on my own, cross the Atlantic Ocean in a sailboat (not alone), and step into many other adventures that, had I stayed in my fear, I’d still be back firmly entrenched in avoiding what scares me – being alone. I would have even stayed in a deadening marriage, living a life that was safe- but not fun!
Most of us are afraid of living alone because we are afraid of dying alone. Truth is, most of us do die alone. Circumstances are such that that’s just the way it is. And could it be otherwise? We live within a body – a vessel, that only we inhabit – nobody else can live within the experience each of us have. Each of us have unique experiences of life that cannot ever be duplicated. Even if we are surrounded by people at the moment of death, we are having a unique experience unto ourselves.
Aging, when looked at with consciousness and wisdom, gives us opportunities to notice the ways we have chosen to live our lives. We have chosen to either enhance those ways of being that perpetuates suffering, settling, and surviving, or allow us to thrive and grow, expanding our capacity to be with the adventures that life offers, from the moment we land on earth to the moment our spirit takes off for parts unknown.
Throughout life, there are moments when we are not in control and no matter what, we cannot control the circumstances. What we can control is how we be within the circumstance. First date, first kiss, first success, first cataract surgery, first incontinence episode, first erectile failure, first conversation with Social Security regarding Medicare. Nothing can prepare us for all those moments when we have no choice but to surrender into the excitement and exhilaration of life’s gifts, or we clench, tremble, and hold our breath with every possibility that things could go wrong.
Those of you reading this today have successfully arrived at this moment in your life. You have overcome tremendous amounts of challenges and potential failures. You can trust that you can trust yourself to steward you through any hairy-scary circumstance. You can never be alone when you trust that you can trust yourself to get yourself through this too!
Surrender doesn’t mean giving up. Surrender means letting go of those fears which limit your ability to be present in this moment. Taking a deep breath, relaxing into yourself allows you to be present to each of life’s adventures one moment at a time. Thrilling!
If you’d like to join Dr. Rosie in the AGING – Who Me in-person discussions at the Orcas Island Senior Center, we are meeting Tuesday, March 28, 2017 from 1-2:30pm. Or, if you’d like to set up a coaching session, call 360-376-4323.
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