Coming of Age – Again

BuddhaThere are different periods to come of age in life. There’s the coming of age from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood, and one I’d like to think of as the coming of age from adulthood to enlightenment. I’m going to say that this coming of age happens in midlife, but I suppose it could happen any time. Spiritual teacher and writer Richard Rohr calls it the “second half” of life, but of course, that doesn’t mean that we have an equal number of years on this Earth on either side of it, nor does it mean that we ever really get all the way over the line (to enlightenment). But there is most definitely a shift, and I began to notice it happening in my own life as I approached a “certain” age, though of course I have a long way still to go on this journey.

At a certain point in life, it becomes time to shed the nonsense – the hiding from self, the insecurity that causes us to spend so much time caring others think or what society is telling us we should want or feel or do. It becomes time to stop blaming this or that experience or person for creating obstacles or stress or whatever it is that we’d like to believe is outside of us making us miserable, or for that matter happy.

I’ve been listening to people whine on and on about the traumas and challenges of the past and things that “should not be” the way they are. It seems that for some people, no matter how much time they spend on their “issues,” there is, to use a phrase I once heard in relation to my own struggle to let go decades ago, “no catharsis.”

Catharsis is necessary, and in order to experience it, we do need to admit our humanity. We need to stop pretending that things don’t hurt or even traumatize us. We need to do the “work” of feeling our feelings, our pain, and our losses, but we also need to get over it! I’m not sure if there is any special way of getting over things that we need to let go of. Is it an act of the will? Good luck? God’s grace? In my case, I’m beginning to suspect that it’s just age. I was tired of my own whining a long time ago, but I continued to empathize with most of the whiners in my life because, after all, I’ve been there and I know that I needed someone to witness whatever I was going through without judgment.

But I’m beginning to suspect that I don’t have to be everyone’s witness all of the time, at least not anymore. The point of facing the pain or trauma in the past is to get past it, and if you’re not going to do that, you’re going to stay behind, with it, forever. If you stay with it long enough, you might find that you’re the only one left in your little cocoon of self-pity and misery.

I think that people who stay stuck in the past secretly think – or wish- that it’s possible to complain their way out of doing what needs to be done to reach whatever goal they may have at any given time. The line of thinking might go something like this: Well this guy got what I want but he didn’t have all of these issues and obstacles that I have. It’s been so hard for me, and I know he didn’t have the same challenges so I should just get what I want anyway because… well because I really want it and if all this bad stuff didn’t happen to me, I’d have it. So I should have it even though I see myself as a poor pathetic loser with bad luck who should never have been born. And if I just got what I wanted I wouldn’t see myself that way anymore.

Really?  How about this. If you didn’t see yourself that way anymore, you might start to get some of the things you want. And you might also start to realize that getting what you want isn’t always so important. And you might also start to want the things that you get. And perhaps you’ll even begin to realize how much you already have! And then something even more amazing could happen. People could really begin to like you more and more because they wouldn’t be dragged down by your negativity and constant whining. You might start to like you more because you wouldn’t be dragged down by it either.

There, I said it. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular. It could have been directed at me and probably at any one of us at one point in our lives or another. The point is that if you live long enough, you might finally lower your expectations about what life should be like so that you can raise your appreciation for what it is like. This isn’t hard. You just have to do it! And if you’re afraid that you won’t be able to handle all the newfound joy and inner peace that might happen if you just decide to look for it, don’t worry. There will be plenty of opportunities for despair and disappointment should you find that joy isn’t really your thing after all. And yes, I will listen (for a while at least) when you need to vent about it.

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Maria Kuzmiak, M.A. is a health and well-being writer with a background in nutrition, psychology and education and a passion for yoga. Over the last 10 years, she has written hundreds of articles, blogs and newsletters for clients in health-related fields, particularly those specializing in yoga, natural medicine, nutrition, and spiritual health and healing. Maria has also worked as a nutritionist, teacher and technical editor. Learn more about her writing at www.wellbeingwriter.net.
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