Age is timeless-a wonderful thought. From the moment we’re squeezed into the world, through to the day we give up life and climb into a box, growing old is the only facet of existence we can count on. As we crawl, walk, drive, date and marry our way through life, aging delivers us into uncharted realms of new milestones, filled with fresh experiences. Each milestone we achieve leaves us restlessly anticipating the next, until the day comes when we wonder if we have any landmarks left ahead in life to sustain us.
We all can picture a guy, pushing fifty, maybe the neighbor up the street who one day sells the sedan, replacing it with a much younger man's sports-car or motorcycle. Maybe he’s the school-teacher, who starts to grow out his hair, leaving his dowdy wife for the twenty year old supermarket cashier, setting out in life on the ultimate quest to find himself-the stereo-typical, mid-life crisis.
Every man reaches this seemingly inevitable turning point somewhere along life's road. It is that pinnacle of time when he questions his own mundane purpose, deeply desiring direction and affirmation for his personal contributions to society's call. Men in such a state are at a cross-road, overpowered by a need to know again youth and that life was not wasted-that one's life's work has impressed the world with some sort of meaning.
I always expected this time would come in my own life. I didn’t dream I would experience such dreadful feelings at the ripe old age of thirty-two. Who suffers a mid-life crisis at thirty-two?
Nobody, was the answer. Although it took ten years to unravel the truth of my messed-up emotions, the truth was I wasn’t anywhere near living a mid-life crisis. I’d developed PTSD, due to cumulative trauma related to my work-a paramedic, serving in my home-town.
Negatively focusing on aging, was one of the reasons I’d found for the emotions trauma created inside. Trauma, fear of getting old, general negativity and real fear, spawned resentment for every piece of my life. Responsibility to family seemed to me the last of life's great achievements. I saw myself, messing up totally this transition in life. Trauma had already stifled my dreams and set me up for an endless series of, what-if scenarios to ponder.
What if I had stayed in college? What if I had married someone else? What if I had molded myself for a different career became an actor, musician, doctor, lawyer or a fool?
This became my mantra, as I hunted fruitlessly for answers as to why I felt so horrible.
Fighting a losing battle with all the negativity of trauma-thinking, to win the fight I needed a weapon to destroy the nemesis attacking my spirit. I longed for some form of magic power to fix what was obviously broken, powerful enough to carry me through the inevitability of my aging transition. The only weapon I could find was to try practicing positive thought.
Positively Thinking-this proved ridiculous. Regardless of what other people may think, the injury of psychological trauma does not shift by simply bringing-up to ourselves new attitudes. Choosing to accept our suffering, to grow through our pain is the trick to managing the troubling emotions of trauma. We need to ultimately feel our suffering. Embrace it, rather than running away. Of course, we need clinical help to do so. Our helpers need to be, trauma-trained and trauma-informed. (The disclaimer).
Aging brings milestone after milestone-transition, upon transition, in normal life. Some transitions are painful, but trauma is incessant with us that any typical transition, not bring us any sense of joy. Not, ever. Psychological trauma, simply won’t allow it, unless we find good help.
Here are a few examples of the positive-thinking shifts I’d thought would make a difference. Please, adopt now any one of them you feel could carry you through. I found these in a journal this morning. I'm quite finished with them all, for now.
June, 14th, 1995:
I’ve decided to tackle all the pain I’m feeling. Everyone tells me my attitude sucks. I hate getting older. For an adjustment of attitude, here are some things about getting old that might help:
The possibilities were endless, back then if I recall, and some of these actually came true. My belly, she’ a beauty and her tone? Impeccable. Both my hips are titanium, as I write today still alive at fifty-two. I love Merle Haggard, but I’ve thrown out every suit. For reasons I won’t get back into, Suits and I? We’ll never get along all that well again.
As for the trauma that first prompted this list, my battle will rage on from time-to-time. It is what it is. I’m getting more and more okay with that.
Thankfully, things are much better than they were, back then. It was fun, reading back today. Nice to see I at least tried to keep up a sense of humour. When times are tough and my days ahead are trauma-hard, I’ll dig out this list of possibilities for my life ahead.
I share this list in the blog with purpose.
Knowing how fate will dictate just how well I’ll likely age from here? With this list on the blog-I might stand a chance of remembering where it is.
Darren Michael Gregory, 04/24/2015
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.