August Journaling Day 31: Aging/Recap of this exercise

The month is ending and this will be the 31st and final journal entry, whoo hoo! I’ll share my feelings on the exercise and thoughts below after this blog. The topic today is aging and it’s another thing where my viewpoint has shifted quite a bit. I mentioned in the grieving blog about having to grieve all my ‘lost’ years to anxiety. My prime years. My ‘best’ years. Part of moving through that was realizing and honestly believing that despite my numerical age now (42) and some of the limitations that come with being 42 vs 25, I’m actually doing better in almost every avenue of life than I was in my late twenties or all of my 30s. So how are those my best years if I’m doing and feeling better now? Answer, they aren’t.

The phrase “age is just a number” is one we hear quite often and I’m kind of 50/50 in agreeing with that or thinking it’s wrong. I mean, yes it is just a number. But it’s also a pretty good gauge of how long we’ve been on the planet, how much we’ve been through, and how long we might have left. Things do change with time and weathering, both for the good and the bad. But my overall thought on aging is that it’s a blessing. Getting old is a blessing. Sure some things will continue to get more difficult both physically and mentally. But I think we also tend to equip ourselves mentally much better to be able to deal with those setbacks that come with aging.

I heard Howard Stern recently talking about a conversation he had with Jane Fonda who is almost 85 years old. He asked her “isn’t it difficult to be getting older and not do all the things you used to do? I mean you were the fitness queen of the world and could do almost anything physically?” Her response was something along the lines of “I focus on all the things I still can do. I’m 85 and I can still twist, or hop right up out of my chair. I can still do so many things even at my advanced age.” It just struck me as such a realistic and optimistic view of looking at the effects of age and still feeling blessed with what we do have.

I mentioned earlier in these journals that I had an extreme fear of death for many years after my dad died and this was a big contributor to my anxiety issues. I mean, I suppose I still fear death, but I rarely think about it and have very much accepted it is going to happen and with each passing day it’s going to happen sooner. But when I was younger my attitude was driven by fear of death. I’m very embarrassed to type out this next story because I come off as a major asshole. But I was young and stupid and it honestly helped me learn a lesson, so here goes. When I was in my late 20s and early 30s I used to attend weekly mental health support groups in Portland. There was a gentleman who was struggling with some of the same issues I battled and he was probably in his late 70s. I remember having the thought that “why are you trying to fix yourself when you’re so near the end? Like what’s the point?” That was really my attitude towards him and I cringe typing it now. But as I got to know this man more and hear from him I realized that he, just like me at the time, needed support. And that he was trying to make his life better. He was very much still alive and still working to improve and become healthier. I questioned him then, I admire him now. Shouldn’t we all be aiming to be better and healthier no matter what stage in life we’re at? It was a real wakeup to a younger me that the journey of life is just that, a journey. Even though we all meet the same ending, we all have the opportunity to make good of our time here.

That man really helped to frame some of my thoughts on aging. I’m thankful for him and I’m thankful that I didn’t stay convicted in my foolish beliefs about him as a younger man.

I’m 42 years old. My hair is getting a little thinner and grayer. That bugged me for like a day, until I realized, I just don’t care. I’m embracing those natural changes that will occur and I’m fighting the ones I have control of like my weight, my health, and my attitude. I think as I age I just want to keep trying to be a better person. I know there will be things that aging will make that goal be more difficult to work towards. But I suppose the goal is just to do the best that I can with where I’m at. Getting older is a blessing.

Reflections on this exercise:

Overall, this was very enjoyable and I think beneficial in a few ways. I had a conversation with a friend about this exercise a week into it and one of the questions they asked was why put this on your website instead of just an actual journal where others couldn’t see it. It’s a great question and one I think I came up with the answer for. As someone who is kind of in the ‘clicks’ business with my podcast and content, I was wondering if maybe I’d just gotten used to the idea that “I need those views and clicks!” Because there is a certain weird and good feeling when examining numbers of readers or people who come to any piece of content that I do. But I think for me, the real reason is connection. I’m someone who enjoys and seeks out connections with people. I’m not the best at doing that in real life as I’m a little shy at initiating connections and fear rejection. On here however, it’s much easier for me. And the nice notes or stories about some of the topics from other people I’ve gotten from doing these, well that’s one of the real benefits of the exercise.

To me journaling should have two real purposes. One is for the release. To simply put those words on paper or on screen and get them out of you. Words have feelings and thoughts behind them and I think there’s a catharsis on getting them out into the world. And maybe even more of a catharsis when other people hear them. That was another reason I wanted to write these publicly vs. privately. To me journaling just to myself doesn’t feel much different than me just holding on to the thoughts and emotions. The second real purpose for me of journaling is to look back. Both at my life and thoughts on these subjects, but also just as a way to go back and read and try and interpret my thoughts and feelings on things and reflect on them. One thing with writing, it’s amazing how different something reads while you’re typing it vs. when you go back to read it later. I’ll probably go back and look at and read the entries in a couple of days and kind of see how they make me feel to read them. Mostly I do that just to help learn and be able to work on myself and hopefully the journaling helps provide some insights into where I need some work. Thanks for reading.