I read an article published in the New York Times entitled “I’m Too Old for This” by Dominique Browning. Though the article was originally published in 2015, it’s one of those timeless pieces of writing in which you read and nod all the way through. The author’s sentiments triggered some thoughts about my own life and age.
The point of Ms. Browning’s article is that she spent much of her life (she’s now in her sixties) admonishing her body, feeling insecure about herself and accepting way too little. She recounts feeling leveled by problems in the past and now the same issues hardly afflict her.
As a woman in my 30s, I’ve definitely participated in my (un)fair share of self-loathing: I’ve been angry about my physical imperfections. When various love relationships were not working out, I either stayed too long or shouldered the blame for many of the problems. In friendships, I’ve held the relationships as precious gems and some have stayed for 20+ years and others have been fleeting. Then were episodes and events that I should not have had to deal with, that nobody should ever have to deal with, and I thought “I’m too young for this.”
Ms. Browning points out that it’s really not about chronological age, but a sense that we are too smart, too kind, naive, or unprepared to deal with some of life’s wrenches. And yet, they happen and leave us looking around, shaking our heads in disbelief and wondering where we went wrong. We didn’t do anything egregious, but we have been the recipients of bad luck, poor circumstances, or simply a string of decisions gone awry.
I know that despite my youngish chronological age, I’ve been in loveless, boring relationships in which I felt I was losing my edge and growing dull. Then, I lost my voice. It literally emitted like a peep, mousy and soft. I didn’t feel like I could share my innermost expressions with my partner and grew resentful instead. The dreadful experience turned me robotic, honing into my domestic duties while so many of my desires and needs went unmet. Was I silenced or did I silence myself?
Either way, the experience hurt and I said to myself “I’m too young for this.” I saw myself looking forward 30 years and knew it would remain the same or only get worse.
When friendships disintegrated, I could not believe it and thought “I’m too young for this.” When death, disease and illness have loomed overhead, I also said “I’m too young for this.” And then I remembered the unfortunate truism: death spares no one.
In essence, all of this is part of life. My dear friend Shirley assures me that life is better when we find calmness and inner peace. How?
What matters most is the work. Does it give you pleasure, or hope? Does it sustain your soul? I’m too old for the dark forces, for hopelessness and despair. If everyone just kept their eyes on the ball, and followed through each swing, we’d all be more productive, and not just on the golf course.
The key to life is resilience, and I’m old enough to make such a bald statement. We will always be knocked down. It’s the getting up that counts. By the time you reach upper middle age, you have started over, and over again.
No matter if we are young or old, we all need to experience feeling heard and seen and met with open, loving arms. When we feel violated or ignored, it chips away at our souls. I encourage my clients to use their voices, whether quiet or loud, to alert others of their basic needs and desires, to remark on their own self-worth. Why don’t I always take my own advice?!
Because it is scary and I’ve felt unprepared for how to handle these moments. I’ve been naive or insular, not seeking help or reaching out to anyone and bearing sole responsibility. I’ve gotten myself tangled in shame spirals, not knowing where to start talking or when to act, despondency at the epicenter. Then a friend like Shirley looks at me with her caring eyes and warmth, and I melt and share what’s upsetting me and I remember I’m not too young, not too old. I’m human.
To learn more about my Life Coaching practice, please visit Coaching By Nina Rubin.