How Can We "Discover" Ourselves With Age?
Aging is a strange journey, isn’t it? Despite birthday celebrations and pageantry, there is an uneasy sensation that comes with crossing over the threshold of some loaded decade marker—moving into some era that once seemed truly unimaginable, such as our 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s.
Today, on my birthday, I am simply passing through the undefinable yet mystic door of another “random” year, 43, and yet I still find the experience difficult to process. Like aging itself, a single birthday is many things at once.
Aging: It can be painful in its bodily aches and emotional challenges; poignant in its compulsion to focus on losses, unrealized dreams, and even death; and wisening as it forces us to shed unneeded baggage and focus on finding true perspective, generosity, joy, spiritual connection, and self-actualization.
Each year as the autumn chill begins to creep into the air and another October birthday of mine approaches, an annual call for personal reflection seeps into my soul. I can actually remember this sensation being present as far back as childhood, at age 6 or 7 and then into adolescence. While others were simply playing video games or going through the motions of mindless homework perhaps, I was listening to whatever music stirred me at that stage of life (Michael Jackson, Julian Lennon, Duran Duran, Huey Lewis and the News, Jon Mellencamp, to name a few), and taking stock of life and dreaming about the future.
As the tree leaves turned from vibrant, juicy greens to golden yellows and fiery reds and then fluttered to the ground, I wondered how I ought to change going forward. As certain birds got ready to migrate south and other animals prepared for hibernation, I thought about journeys and transformations. I dreamed about future loves and successes. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to a basketball player. I knew that I was imperfect and needed to improve myself. I knew that life was both joy and sadness. I knew that I could do something special if I stayed determined. I felt compelled to acknowledge, even at an early age, the soulful headiness that is personhood.
Life is something special, and our souls and these years we have been gifted from God are special: that is, I guess, what I was feeling back then. And that is what I try to focus on each birthday.
Life is poetic and divine. It can be heartbreaking and challenging for sure, but never something to be cheapened or taken for granted (although I guess we all go through periods of doing that, even if subconsciously).
I was reading an old journal of mine the other day, one that dates back to the early 2000s, just as I had recently married and begun writing a novel (still unpublished); just as I had begun navigating the stress of a new career path. In some respects I was thriving, but in other respects I was struggling. I was struggling to find balance and temperance in my life, struggling to deal intellectually and emotionally with past heartaches, struggling to prove myself, and struggling to simply find peace of mind and direction.
At the time I was taking cheap alertness aids from the gas station so that I could stay productive and engaged as I moved through long days, and I was also taking antianxiety medications that had been prescribed to me a few years earlier. Some of the “simple,” well-defined goals that were outlined in that journal of mine, goals like ceasing to take the alertness pills, would be realized in the relatively near term. But others, such as getting the prescription medications out of my life (Paxil, Xanax), would not come to pass for more than a decade.
We rarely get things right on the first try in life. I’ve discovered that there are almost always starts and stops and twists and turns on the way to personal accomplishments and the realization of wisdom and goals. Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t think so.
Quitting those pills was an outlined goal of mine, but reading the subtext of my old journal, I am now, many years later, able to recognize a desire for goals that were and perhaps still are harder to define: getting closer to God, loving myself more fully and unconditionally (“win or lose” in life), loving those in my life more fully and unconditionally, finding greater confidence, finding sustained purpose, finding sustained freedom from anxiety, anger, guilt, boredom, fear, melancholy, and the other emotional banes of human existence, and generally getting healthier and happier.
In many respects I’ve made great strides toward these broader goals in the course of the past decade, but it is still my desire to realize them more fully as I pass through the portal of another birthday and continue to reach for the correct sort of meaning and joy in life.
Toward that end, my posts this month will focus on ways that we can get better with age: happier, healthier, wiser, more accepting of ourselves, and more spiritually connected. As I focus on fruitful self-exploration this fall, I hope that you will join me to find greater progress, love, and peace in your own life.
Getting Better with Age
A few Points of Focus for Personal Growth This Fall
1. Stop trying to make your life fit into a neat box.
It won’t, it can’t, and if someone has one that appears to, then they’ve probably lived as a coward or drone, or they probably have a lot of “behind the scenes” stuff that you aren’t seeing. I think that most of us were brought up with the idea that your study in college, set the foundations of professional and home life in your twenties and maybe thirties, and then “settle in” to that neat little life of storybooks by your forties.
Now, has that actually happened for anyone reading this? If so that’s great, but I would venture to guess that the majority of us have realized that life is a continual process of trying and failing and then trying and finding victory and then doing it all over again. It is a process of realizing that we were dumb twenty years ago in some respects but wise in others. It is a process of continually making changes and setting new goals and at times just trying to hang on without giving up hope.
Embrace your struggles. Embrace your successes and failures. Embrace the unique craziness that is your existence, and realize that life never was a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade painting, and it never will be. You don’t have to find “the perfect” life, you just have to find one that works for you and embrace it.
2. Love every iteration of yourself. Accept with understanding your history, good and bad.
Show compassion toward the totality of yourself. Show patience, grace, and encouragement to both the old self and the new self and everything in-between.
Think of the different stages of your life. Take a moment and close your eyes, and picture yourself at 7 years old, 17 years old, 27 years old, and so forth. Think of yourself at your worst and at your best. Think of yourself at your sickest and healthiest, at your most scared and most confident.
Now, give your most frightened self a hug and tell him or her that things will be okay. Give your sickest self a stroke on the head and tell him or her that God and time heal. Give your most confused self some direction, give your most accomplished self necessary congratulations, and give your most anxious self some encouragement. Life—this earthly journey through experience and aging—is complex, and none of us can “do” it perfectly. But if we can accept, forgive, love, and encourage the history of ourselves, then we can have a better future and begin to get a clearer picture of our soul and legacy.
3. See yourself as more than yourself.
1. See yourself as connected to the earth, to humanity, to nature, to history, and to eternity. There is a time for getting in touch with your body, and there is a time for getting outside of your own body and mind. There is a spiritual necessity to detaching from your pains and desires and needs, and indeed from the very thought of “you.”
Today, take a moment, close your eyes, and try to focus on yourself as an egoless, eternal soul, hovering over the various landscapes and energy fields of the earth. Hovering through history, connected to the roaming animals, the mountains, and the rainforests. Picture yourself connected to the ancient Egyptians, the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, the American pilgrims, the African American slaves, ancient royalty, ancient jokers, the homeless, the soldier, your grandparents, Christ.
Get comfortable where you sit right now, and take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Continue doing that, and as you do feel your spirit leaving its body and blowing over the lands and the oceans, time traveling through the centuries; picture it without a career, without a “style,” without money needs, without the stress of any job or relationship or sickness—without the thoughts and physical sensations that have come to define “you.” Picture your soul being free and simply floating through history and geography, making observations and gathering good energy. Picture your soul as much more than what you’ve come to know as your current life. Picture it as shape-shifting and eternal. Erase its limits.
Now, after having done that, pull yourself back to where you sit reading this, and imagine how you can carry that eternal, broader vision with you into daily life. How can you connect on a daily basis more intimately with a more mystic and meaningful vision of your life and what it means to be you?
Think of that question this month, and allow creative answers to begin setting you on new paths.
Remember to think of your life as sacred ground, remember to love every version of yourself, stop trying to force life into a neat little box, and remember to take care of yourself and your dreams. Work to continually discover and nurture yourself so that you are finding greater happiness and peace with age.
Oh, and remember to get outside and get a few good pictures of the beautiful fall colors.
Take care until next time,
Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to find out more about his life coaching here, and he hopes you'll reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.
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“I contacted Michael for coaching because he has the ultimate credential of having been through it all himself! I liked his warm, empathetic manner. He is easy to talk to, and I felt as if he were a family member in his warm caring toward me. Michael has a very reassuring way of communicating, and I would highly recommend him.”
Jon - British Columbia, Canada
“I came across Michael’s videos by chance while looking up information on prescription drug withdrawal. I found his YouTube videos to be very informative, honest, and consoling. I was watching one after the other and even converted the sound on the videos to MP3 so that I could listen to his advice while going for walks. That was very soothing for me, and therefore I decided to try his coaching services. Great decision.
"Michael is a great and patient listener, and during our time together I felt that he sincerely cared about my healing progress and had genuine empathy for all those going through withdrawal. He is a positive-minded individual who disseminates hope, and I appreciated the useful, personalized follow-up notes he sent after our session. Most certainly I would recommend his coaching.”
Yasmin - Cairo, Egypt
“No one else is doing what Michael is doing. It truly is a ministry! Michael is willing to make himself vulnerable to help others during their journey in the valley. He is very easy to talk to (I felt like I had known him forever), and I would most definitely recommend his coaching to others.”
Andi, North Carolina
“Michael’s coaching is truly a game-changing experience. I appreciate the level of understanding he brings … tons of knowledge on how to survive the days and get closer to recovery. When you finally get to look someone in the face and know they understand exactly what you’re going through, it can bring a different level of comfort; that is what Michael’s coaching provided me, and without a doubt I would recommend it to everyone going through this.”
“I decided to use Michael’s coaching services because he seemed very genuine and trustworthy. After speaking with him a couple of times, I realized that I am strong enough to overcome certain obstacles, but also realized that I need not rush the process [of becoming medication free]. It was comforting talking to Michael about my withdrawal issues so that I could realize that what I’m going through is common, and it was also useful that Michael took the time to give me feedback in specific areas—like making a schedule and forming realistic expectations for myself. Michael gave me more useful feedback than a lot of mental health counselors I’ve had. Michael has helped me, and I hope he continues to help others. I would definitely recommend his coaching services.”
“I learned a lot from Michael. At first I was so confused by withdrawal (wondering what I was going through and if I would be this way permanently), but Michael helped me to realize that we do heal and that things do get better. I had a lot of worries, but he helped to ease my mind and he gave me positive feedback regarding how to approach each day in this process. Michael has a caring heart, and I would 100 percent recommend his coaching to others going through this.”
Erikka, South Dakota
“It can be frustrating having to deal with [withdrawal] symptoms for months on end and getting next to no support from doctors or anyone in the medical community (people who for the most part are clueless). Simply getting a chance to speak with Michael—someone who has gone through what I have and is able to offer support—was comforting. I also really enjoyed his follow-up notes. They were insightful and helped me to consider things I hadn’t thought of. I very much enjoyed working with Michael, and I would recommend his coaching to anyone who is going through this process and looking for support.”
“Michael is relatable and non-judgemental. I liked his positivity and follow-up notes. He provided good support overall. I believe that if a person really wants to withdrawal from medication, then support like this, from someone who has personal experience, is invaluable, and for that reason I would recommend Michael’s coaching to others going through this process.”
Leanne – Ontario, Canada
"Because of Michael’s own experiences, he knows what serves and what damages. He helped me to control my intake of negative information, he made me more optimistic, and he gave me a sense of the “whole [healing] picture.” Michael is a good listener and his comments are very precise. I would definitely recommend his coaching to others going through withdrawal."
Miguel, Atlanta, GA
"I really enjoyed my coaching sessions with Michael and looked forward to each call. He is very easy to talk to and offers very good advice. Our conversations gave me hope and coping skills, and his follow-up notes and progress plan were very helpful; I reference them often to stay on track. I found it comforting talking to someone who has been through this and really understands the struggle. I now look at withdrawal as something that can be overcome, something that I can heal from. I felt very comfortable talking to Michael, and I would recommend his coaching services to others going through the withdrawal and healing process."
“I decided to try Michael’s coaching because, in his videos, he seemed so honest, relatable, upbeat, hopeful, and knowledgeable. I believe I got more out of Michael’s videos and coaching than I got from years of professional counseling. It is very comforting talking to him because it is like talking to a very knowledgeable, long-time, close friend. I have more hope for the future after talking to Michael, and that helps me to survive the times when I am feeling blue. I would recommend his coaching to those going through the withdrawal and healing process.”
“I really enjoyed the care that Michael put into every contact with me. I appreciate how he shared his own experiences, found out about my overall context, and made direct suggestions; it was so important to believe that I was not losing control of my mind and body and that I could carry on with living while going through the process. It was also helpful to set goals and a plan and check back in on these things. Michael’s coaching is very professional and authentic, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who is going through the withdrawal and healing process.”
Emma, United Kingdom
“I always refer back to what Michael coached me on in the past regarding dealing with such times during the recovery and healing process. I enjoy working with Michael because he takes his time answering each of my questions in detail. Michael has true answers and guidance. It is comforting being coached by someone who understands my symptoms, and also Michael is a very compassionate person. I would definitely recommend his services to a person in need of help during the withdrawal process.”
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CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING
If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.