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The Gift of Age

By the time you read this, I will be on vacation and celebrating my 52nd birthday. I can honestly say that I love growing older. I know that may sound crazy to some of you except maybe those of you who know my story. And for those of you who don’t here’s the short version: married at 18 and divorced by 20 with a child. I started to have back problems at 16, which evolved into severe pain 24 hours a day and lasted for many years. At some point during those many years, my doctor told me that I would live in pain the rest of my life and that nothing could be done to help me. I drank like an alcoholic from the first drink and I drank and drugged for over 14 years. Oh yes, and then there was my emotional state. You can imagine, with all the pain and alcohol, what kind of shape I was in. I believe the correct technical term is in the dumpster.

So you see, getting older for me has been a blessing because I survived it all. I got sober in February 1988, and one month later I quit smoking.  A few months before that I had begun healing my back, which had helped me get sober and quit smoking. With commitment and lots of work, I no longer live in pain. I can honestly say that my life has just gotten better and better each year. I am not saying that I do not have difficulties in my life because I do. But I have learned from each challenge I’ve been faced with, and each one has taught me how to live my life a little better. I no longer fear what life brings; I embrace it with this new understanding. 

One of the gifts of growing older is that it brings more insight, wisdom and maturity. This allows for a keener understanding of life. We begin to reset our priorities because we recognize that the race for who has the most toys is not important. We know that it’s not about doing more, getting more, rushing everywhere or trying to get somewhere. Instead, we acknowledge the value in slowing down, spending time with family and friends. We become more aware of what is really important and true. We begin to see the deeper beauty in life; that it’s ok to just “BE” instead of “doing” all the time.

“And yet we know that God speaks in silence.  Think of Moses.  Think of Samuel.  Think of Job.  These pillars of the faith came to know the voice of God as one of screaming silence.  They took the time to listen intently for the voice of God, knowing full well that God didn't speak in answers but most often in questions.” - Michael Sullivan, an Episcopal priest, is the rector of a large congregation in Lynchburg, VA

A recent insight I had was the idea of asking the right questions in life. Is there such a thing as the wrong question? Is there a better way to ask or say a question that garners a more productive answer or result? Could our lives change just by asking ourselves those old questions in a new way or stop asking certain questions at all?

Here is an example of what I mean.  What if I went through my day constantly saying, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t my life be better? Now just imagine how I would begin to feel about myself saying something like this repeatedly. Is it supportive? Does it feel uplifting?

Here are some examples of questions I want to avoid:

- What’s wrong with me?
- How long could this take?
- What could go wrong?
- How much trouble could it be?
- How hard could it be?

Sometimes we ask questions for which we really don’t want the answer! Nonetheless, when we ask a question, our subconscious minds will get to work to answer us. Asking questions can be empowering – as long as they’re smart questions!

Here are some examples of empowering questions:

- Is there a message for me in this experience?
- What’s the gift in this situation?
- What can I learn from this?
- What’s the most loving thing I could do now?
- What’s the most important thing for me to focus on now?
- What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
- What would I do if there were nothing to fear?

No matter what our age, it is always the appropriate time to notice and become more aware of how we program our lives through the questions that we ask ourselves, through the thoughts that we think. What would happen if you noticed, stopped and then reframed just one question or one thought to be more empowering, more uplifting, more supportive of the life you want?

I can guarantee two things if you are willing to pay more attention to your questions and thoughts throughout the day.

1) Over time, you will notice new thoughts that repeat on a regular basis that you have not heard before.  They will be more supportive of your positive growth.

2) Your life will change if you do notice and replace anything that is not empowering to something that is.

Remember it is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; this is the act of doing. This particular journey begins in stillness, from a state of BEING, not doing. To become aware of your thoughts you must first drop into the stillness of life, the stillness of yourself. It is there, in that stillness, that you will find the motivation and support to change your thoughts and questions. Try it for one minute a day for one week. I have taken many first steps with each new challenge I face in life.  It has always --and I mean always-- led me to something different, something better or something useful to make my life richer.


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