Over the past few weeks I realized my life had changed without my recognizing it. Also, in a new way, and at a new depth, that my continuing Quest for Contentment requires me to once again let go of, and move on from, what once satisfied me and offered contentment, but no longer does. Relatedly, I realized I had become disenchanted with my aging life situation, and now need to do something different. Beginning with letting go of outmoded interests and activities that no longer satisfy, but tax my time and energy, and keep me from new ones. Perhaps you can relate to this. If so, read on.
“Everything changes, all the time.” Given this gross over-simplification of Buddhist wisdom, you would think I/ we would get better at dealing with changes that happen to us on our long life journey. In fact, there is a lot of evidence showing we typically misunderstand, try to ignore, or actively resist change. I.e., hold dearly to what was.
This post follows and flows out of my last post, Seeking Renewed Contentment at a New Crossroads, where I perhaps did all three. On reflection, I now realize what I was writing about a few weeks ago was anxiety relating to some unrecognized changes impacting my life. I invite you to read it now to more fully appreciate my experience this post records.
On reflection, I discovered that my previous post was incomplete. Though I had gone as far with it as I was able at the time. I now realize I was not then able to recognize, or acknowledge the relevance of, these significant changes; which were expressing themselves as growing tension. The irony is, professionally, I know free-floating anxiety typically accompanies significant life transitions. Especially when I am /we are resisting the call to let go of out-of-date thinking and/or moving on into a new life phase. But, as you may appreciate, knowing and understanding something is one thing; applying it is another.
Briefly, what I wrote about then was six aspects of being at a late-life crossroad. What I didn’t do, however, was realize they were all part of a bigger whole. With the related responsibility for me to proactively negotiate my way through this intersection of discontent if I am to reduce its emotional turmoil. Although I did acknowledge a sense of “call to take a different path,” one that included “retirement,” I wasn’t yet able to fully recognize that one phase of my life was ending while another was pushing to be born. Both signalling a need to realign my behaviour and maturing values with emerging new interests and changed circumstances.
I arrived at this crossroad both involuntarily as the result of a negative response to a medication change. My response was to recommit myself to focus my waning life energy more on activities most meaningful to me now, and going forward. And to let go of the rest, if I am to progress on my quest for continuing contentment in my later years.
At each of life’s crossroads, the path to maintaining emotional satisfaction in life’s changing circumstances is to choose, and commit to, our best course of action from the limited options available to us in our specific circumstances. Typically, this entails waging an inner battle between two opposing forces: holding on to our accustomed way of making sense of our corner of the world, and letting go of parts of it in order to recognize and take hold of emerging new ideas and options, hopes and dreams, and imperatives. As is the character of many, even most, transition experiences. Moreover, this struggle only intensifies as the issues and consequences of our choices become larger, especially in later life, which adds its own complications.
When life is progressing well and smoothly, no reasonable person wakes one day to say, “Today I will upend my life.” Yet, many internal and external changes do that: upset our accustomed way of experiencing life in our world. Thereby launching the necessity to alter whatever path we have been on; a special problem when we have enjoyed that path. Examples of a wide range of changes impacting later life’s emotional balance include: relationship changes, especially divorce or empty nesting; job changes and/or retirement; significant illnesses, our own or a loved one’s; moving our home, often compounded by downsizing. Also, new learnings and/or new ways of thinking or believing, such as may happen through formal or informal education. Often mis-understood is the psycho-spiritual impact of recognizing and/or moving through mid-life, or dealing with the onslaught of “old age,” however defined. All of which can alter our sense of our self-identity.
If you too are at another crossroads, and /or are facing confusing, even painful, choices in response to the changes impacting you, and/or are questioning who you are now, I invite you to explore this website to see if we can help you make sense of life changes impacting you. If you do, please get in touch through it. Remember, we offer a free 30-minute introductory consultation to help you find or regain the peace and contentment you seek now.