It's ironic that, at a time in my life when I'm the most confident, capable and secure, I seem to be having little anxiety attacks more and more. Over nothing or nothing much. And completely out of the blue.
I don't really have a history with this. I had one full blown panic attack in my 30s and, since I'd never had one before, I called 911 because I thought I might be dying. I couldn't breathe right...like I wasn't getting enough oxygen. Anyway, the paramedics did their checks and I was perfectly normal (albeit very embarrassed.) I remember they told me to drink a glass of milk and go out for a walk. So there was that one, isolated incident and I've never had one since.
But in the past year or two, I find I've been getting anxiety attacks more and more...like one every couple of months or so. And I don't see that they're triggered by anything in particular, so they must just be part of the joy of getting older.
Fortunately, another part of getting older is that I'm also wiser. And I know how to stop a thought in my mind and redirect it. Most of the time. It seems like these anxiety attacks feed on thought and attention. If I catch it at the beginning, become conscious of the moment, reset my thoughts and breathe it out of my body, I can stop it before it grows.
I'm noticing a lot of interesting dichotomies like this with aging. I have lines on my face that are too significant for skincare products to smooth and plump. And I have jiggles no amount of diet and exercise can fix at this point. But I no longer have the insecurity or vanity required to visit a medspa or plastic surgeon to fix these things. Maybe if I were rolling in dough, but even then, I'm not sure I'd sufficiently care. So while my "beauty" may be fading, the importance I place on it has subsided.
The list could go on and on. I feel more stress, but have better ways to deal with it. I see more pain in the world, but feel less pain within myself. I'm more forgetful, but care about the kinds of memories I forget less and less. My body is limited by aches and pain, but my mind is freed by letting go of a lot of pain and anguish. What it comes down to is a kind of shift in the way I see the world and operate within it.
It's a lot like the early bird menu for senior citizens...someone changed both life's menu and the prices you have to pay. :D And while all these changes may be striking to me as I'm just now noticing and experiencing them, soon it will just be the way I roll. Which means that so much of what vexed me the first 50 years of my life, won't even be worthy of mention in the second 50.
The key with all of this aging stuff is the same key to the anxiety—to accept I have no control over it. You'd think that would make things worse, but it makes things better. The older I get, the more I see just how much of life's slings and arrows are out of my control. So I'm quicker to lift stuff up and trust. And that makes life so much easier. It's a trick I've known for a while, but is so much more valuable now.
When you're young, your superpower is having the spit, fire and energy to swim upstream and fight the tide. But then one day you lose those superpowers and gain another—the power to see the wisdom in the flows and tides of life and let them wash over you, knowing you have the tools to handle whatever comes your way.
They say youth is wasted on the young. There are so many opportunities wasted by fear, immaturity, the need for control, a lack of preparation/readiness and a somewhat false sense of thinking you know what you want and what's good for you. We always looked at growing older as an unfavorable thing, to be avoided at all costs. And I'll be honest, it's not all rainbows and unicorns, but I'm nowhere near as put upon by life as I was 20 years ago.
So for my final submission into the notebook of ironies about aging, I offer this. I feel like I'm just getting to all the good stuff and am ready and willing to enjoy it. But first, I need to take a really long nap. :D