This aging, saging crone has recently learned that aging gracefully can be, well, clumsy. In a previous blog, I espoused the gifts of elder women when they have taken the hard challenges of life and incorporated and internalized the lessons learned as opportunities to grow wiser and more mindful. To me, it is the gifts of these experiences and the wise wisdom that emerges, that defines the essence of the aging gracefully woman.
So, why then did I spend a year worrying and obsessing about a doctor’s appointment? Where was my wise woman wisdom when I really needed it?
From August 2012 when I first walked out of my ophthalmologist’s office after my yearly check-up, I have worried, fretted, obsessed and terrorized myself with my very own original scary story. The plot of my original drama revolved around me having to have cataract surgery. Okay, you’re saying, “HUH?” CATARACT SURGERY for a plot? Okay, have some compassion. I understand that probably to most “normal” and admittedly, some not so normal people, this would not be any kind of a plot and certainly not a traumatic event. And while of course, no one wants surgery of any kind, the reality of cataract surgery is that it is safe, quick and has positive results – like immediate improved vision – even for higher risk patients like me.
Most people do not perseverate over this for a year……But I did.
I worried about this 2013 exam the minute I walked out of my 2012 appointment. In May of 2013, I took my first major step when I called and actually scheduled my eye exam for the following August 12.. I kid you not when I tell you that I dreaded just making the appointment……Once THAT was done, as I continued to worry, obsess and develop my scary story to newer and higher levels, I then began preparing myself for the August 12th appointment.
Months before the appointment,I began a regimen. I meditated, did guided imagery and visual imagery exercises. I prayed for best outcome. I asked for support from the women in my women’s circle. I brought my spirit guides and my partner with me to the appointment. And while some of these helped and the support was wonderful, the reality is that none of these steps got to the crux of the problem.
I was so fraught with fear and worry and panic. I was so caught up in my head, that I became increasingly detached from my emotional body. In retrospect, I realize now that I was in a fight or flight mode. You can’t be in fight or flight and feel your feelings……that’s counterproductive -it’s not what it was designed for. Vulnerability went out the window as fight or flight took over. Fight or flight requires being defended and tough and strong…….not soft and tender and caressing……which in retrospect is really what I needed all along.
During that challenging year, had I been able to tap into my vulnerability and had I been able to experience the feelings of sadness, loss, powerlessness and even fear, I know that I would at least have been able to feel myself……..But once fight or flight took over, any connections to my feelings were cut off. Going into fight or flight is strictly about survival, requiring toughness and rigor It is a primal instinctive reaction to danger. Vulnerability would have required my soft and tender self to be available: to allow my deepest feelings to emerge; to cry and be in touch with my softness. The two are simply not compatible.
I know my fight or flight mode was trying to protect me, but the reality is that this kind of protection didn’t serve me. While fight or flight might be very appropriate for some life threatening experiences, it was not appropriate for this one.
It took a year for me to finally understand what dynamic was driving me to fear. This well-intended misguided protective modality never served me at all because it wasn’t what I really needed. I didn’t need to be out of my body, I needed exactly the opposite. I needed to be able to feel myself, caress and hold my scared self. I needed soothing and tenderness and most importantly to feel my vulnerable self.
I am grateful that I have gained great insights into what happened and have learned a very valuable lesson. When facing frightening, upsetting and scary events in my life, I don’t have to put on thick armor and protective gear to defend myself. I can be much better served by embracing my scared child; soothing and holding her, all the while allowing my feelings to flow, emerge and be…….I understand that real inner strength is not about being hard and defensive, but instead it’s about being soft, and tender and real and true to your inner core……..It took me a year of fumbling and stumbling and eventually I got it. I learned that vulnerability is a powerful and rich gift. I learned that by embracing my tender, soft, frightened self; by loving my scared little girl, I was able to feel and be true to my real self. The defensive stance melted away and I was left stronger than ever. And so I learned. By embracing my deepest feelings, and not stuffing them or covering them up with defensive armor, I came home to myself. I was able to be present in my life without future thinking and creating scary stories . Being vulnerable put me back in my heart, mind and body. I understand now how by allowing my tender, soft and vulnerable and real being to emerge made me invulnerable to the defensive actions of my thoughts and old patterns of being Thank you my wise woman for finally helping me glean this most important lesson.
By Roberta Teller