Age is timeless-a wonderful thought. From the moment we’re squeezed into the world, through to the day we give up life and climb into a box, growing old is the only facet of existence we can count on. As we crawl, walk, drive, date and marry our way through life, aging delivers us into uncharted realms of new milestones, filled with fresh experiences. Each milestone we achieve leaves us restlessly anticipating the next, until the day comes when we wonder if we have any landmarks left ahead in life to sustain us.
We all can picture a guy, pushing fifty, maybe the neighbor up the street who one day sells the sedan, replacing it with a much younger man's sports-car or motorcycle. Maybe he’s the school-teacher, who starts to grow out his hair, leaving his dowdy wife for the twenty year old supermarket cashier, setting out in life on the ultimate quest to find himself-the stereo-typical, mid-life crisis.
Every man reaches this seemingly inevitable turning point somewhere along life's road. It is that pinnacle of time when he questions his own mundane purpose, deeply desiring direction and affirmation for his personal contributions to society's call. Men in such a state are at a cross-road, overpowered by a need to know again youth and that life was not wasted-that one's life's work has impressed the world with some sort of meaning.
I always expected this time would come in my own life. I didn’t dream I would experience such dreadful feelings at the ripe old age of thirty-two. Who suffers a mid-life crisis at thirty-two?
Nobody, was the answer. Although it took ten years to unravel the truth of my messed-up emotions, the truth was I wasn’t anywhere near living a mid-life crisis. I’d developed PTSD, due to cumulative trauma related to my work-a paramedic, serving in my home-town.
Negatively focusing on aging, was one of the reasons I’d found for the emotions trauma created inside. Trauma, fear of getting old, general negativity and real fear, spawned resentment for every piece of my life. Responsibility to family seemed to me the last of life's great achievements. I saw myself, messing up totally this transition in life. Trauma had already stifled my dreams and set me up for an endless series of, what-if scenarios to ponder.
What if I had stayed in college? What if I had married someone else? What if I had molded myself for a different career became an actor, musician, doctor, lawyer or a fool?
This became my mantra, as I hunted fruitlessly for answers as to why I felt so horrible.
Fighting a losing battle with all the negativity of trauma-thinking, to win the fight I needed a weapon to destroy the nemesis attacking my spirit. I longed for some form of magic power to fix what was obviously broken, powerful enough to carry me through the inevitability of my aging transition. The only weapon I could find was to try practicing positive thought.
Positively Thinking-this proved ridiculous. Regardless of what other people may think, the injury of psychological trauma does not shift by simply bringing-up to ourselves new attitudes. Choosing to accept our suffering, to grow through our pain is the trick to managing the troubling emotions of trauma. We need to ultimately feel our suffering. Embrace it, rather than running away. Of course, we need clinical help to do so. Our helpers need to be, trauma-trained and trauma-informed. (The disclaimer).
Aging brings milestone after milestone-transition, upon transition, in normal life. Some transitions are painful, but trauma is incessant with us that any typical transition, not bring us any sense of joy. Not, ever. Psychological trauma, simply won’t allow it, unless we find good help.
Here are a few examples of the positive-thinking shifts I’d thought would make a difference. Please, adopt now any one of them you feel could carry you through. I found these in a journal this morning. I'm quite finished with them all, for now.
June, 14th, 1995:
I’ve decided to tackle all the pain I’m feeling. Everyone tells me my attitude sucks. I hate getting older. For an adjustment of attitude, here are some things about getting old that might help:
The possibilities were endless, back then if I recall, and some of these actually came true. My belly, she’ a beauty and her tone? Impeccable. Both my hips are titanium, as I write today still alive at fifty-two. I love Merle Haggard, but I’ve thrown out every suit. For reasons I won’t get back into, Suits and I? We’ll never get along all that well again.
As for the trauma that first prompted this list, my battle will rage on from time-to-time. It is what it is. I’m getting more and more okay with that.
Thankfully, things are much better than they were, back then. It was fun, reading back today. Nice to see I at least tried to keep up a sense of humour. When times are tough and my days ahead are trauma-hard, I’ll dig out this list of possibilities for my life ahead.
I share this list in the blog with purpose.
Knowing how fate will dictate just how well I’ll likely age from here? With this list on the blog-I might stand a chance of remembering where it is.
Darren Michael Gregory, 04/24/2015
I reviewed this week, The Evolution of Religious Behavior. In this chapter taken from the book, The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved & Why It Endures, author Nicholas Wade argues that religion spawned for humans as an evolutionary construct to ensure our survival. Having shed the hierarchical dominance structures we see in primate societies today, gods were formed to rule over man and helped us make sense of the world around us. Religion, Wade argues, is a human trait, now instinctively driven , inherited from ancestral man. This is an intriguing argument, making me curious enough to wander through it.
To start with, though we lack full knowledge of the link between our primate beginnings and our appearance on earth as humans, scientifically, the study of human genetics determines that we share a major portion of DNA with chimpanzees. Science, however, remains uncertain of when in time the shift towards a separate human-species, actually took place.
Some suggest that our species, homo-sapiens, originated in Africa 200,00 years ago. We also know the planet has existed in the universe, far longer. Relatively, it seems as though man simply appeared, almost in an instant in earth's history. Did religion appear as instantly and continue with us through every civilization of man?
Religion, Wade suggests, grew out of the need for man to make sense of the world around him and has, thereby, been with us from the beginning. Man has always needed religion, and religion has always been with man.
One scholar who supports Wade’s argument is Joseph Campbell. In his work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell discusses religion, rites and rituals across varying cultures of ancestral man. Unlike other scholars, Campbell didn’t question what was at odds within the various religions he studied. Rather, he studied the mythology, the stories of religions, seeking out what among these stories was most common and universal.
What he found was a pattern of common symbolism and metaphor, evident in all the various myths of man's religion, worship, life and faith. The stories of man, according to Campbell, with symbols common in literature and common within our religious rites, are stories meant as guides-leading us through common, necessary human transitions. Each of the stories have elements evident that are shared in common by every man.
These stories are the words of wisdom of past human cultures, according to Campbell. They were created to assist our ancestors psychologically through the transitional nature of all human change. These stories too, we're meant to nurture man through her interactions with the world around her, using story-language and structure to do so.
According to Campbell, we are each our own mythology. Our personal life story, is a continuing story of change and developing adventure. Collectively, human's find connection with one another and with the entire universe as we share our stories of where we've come from and who we are. The guiding principles in these stories, we use to govern our individual and collective lives. It is around these stories that ultimately, religions are made. In every story Campbell studied, written of man about herself-gods appear. Acting both with man as ultimate friend, and against man as a vindictive foe, a character appears in man's common stories-a character of relationship, with powers greater than herself.
Religions developed around this evolving relationship with these powers, and evolved along with us into the faiths we know today. As it is for Nicolas Wade, it is for Joseph Campbell: man's always had religion in one form or another and all point out to man, that man is not alone. All religions point towards a higher power-one we know in western culture today, as God.
The Hero's Journey in Campbell's views, defines the common patterns of human life practice that appear universally across man’s stories of history, religion and culture. This demonstrates that from our dawn as a conscious species we’ve used stories to help us make sense of our place in the world. Religion, Campbell suggests, developed to provide means to act out these stories . The stories, came first-religion, a means to an end.
The advent of religion and religious rites, connected us with our idea of God, who would help us and guide us we grew through our human existence. Collectively, through religious practice with others in human life, we are each able to hold a common reference, bonding us together with our God, our fellow man, and all that is. On the subject of myth and religion, it is with Campbell I most agree.
Another human universality unearthed with Campbell's studies is that through religious practice, man seeks to shed the shackles of being human and thereby experience fully, what it is to be alive: The rites of religious practice serve a practical purpose-to assist us through the process of human growth:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ― Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth.
Throughout his writing and in interviews, Joseph Campbell saw the fall of religion coming as a consequence of man's failure to cherish our religions, and to universalize our guiding myths (stories).
With today’s three main religions of man clashing with one another around the world-and although it seems man needs story and some form of religion to guide us-religion today doesn't seem relevant to many of us. We can't seem to fully appreciate religion's value in building common purpose, leading ultimately to peace. Right now religion brews destructively, as a reference-point for war.
Are we hard-wired for religion, as Nicholas Wade argues? Man is certainly hard-wired with need for growth and we’re certainly hardwired with a need for understanding our place in the world through story (mythology) as Campbell suggests. Religion once acted as a means to such end. Although all myths, hold within elements of deep truth to guide humanity. Religion, it seems, has failed us in it's own task to do the same.
With the clash of religion today and all the destruction of war: perhaps we need new human stories to guide our transition as a species towards globalization. With a larger sense of a world-wide human tribe, a new religion may be by necessity, very much in order as well.
Through my life's experience, faith and story-telling of my own, mythology and religion today serves purpose: we need story-telling and rites to guide us along in a process of recovery-of this, I remain convinced.
I'm far from a scholar, but I’m certain both Nicholas Wade and Joseph Campbell would agree. I’ll leave the discussion with these words from Joseph Campbell:
"Mythology may, in a real sense, be defined as other people’s religion. And religion may, in a real sense, be understood as a popular misunderstanding of mythology."
Darren Michael Gregory 04/23/15
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In the early 20th century, while studying world mythology, Joseph Campbell discovered a pattern hidden in every story ever told and he called it “the heroes journey”. A truly inspirational film, FINDING JOE takes us on the ultimate heroes journey: the journey of self discovery. As you slay dragons and uncover treasures, you just may find that the holy grail you seek is closer than you think.
Personally, I don’t care. I was always more spiritual about the game. Avoiding the work involved, I’d rather not dive into any deep research of the game’s over-all health benefits.
My current personal exercise regime isn’t right now, up to par. It’s generally limited to the comfort of my home potato patch-the couch. It’s here ( prone, for the most part ) that I mold my thoughts into stories for the blog. It’s been a long time since I played a round of golf. Quite awhile, I realized today, since I've written anything here as well. As for golf, here’s what I remember about why I once loved the game, and couldn't get enough of it.
Smacking that little white ball around was an escape. Playing the game got me outside with my friends, granting us all opportunity for the male bonding we tragically missed as children. At least that's the tale we’d spin to our gals, the kids, and the dogs whenever we wanted to leave them behind for a day of play. My family, gave in so easily. Looking back on my family life, ultimately crumbling due to trauma in the home not long after my own final game: perhaps they all appreciated the break from dear-old-dad.
Occasionally, before trauma invaded my space, my once steady soiree on the golf course gave me an opportunity to play a round with God. Please, don’t confuse this with my earlier statement-when I tagged the game as personally spiritual. God was one of the many patriarchs of my local club. This short-hand version of his full name, Godfrey, delighted the old-fellow and placed him closer to the status on the course he quite rightfully deserved.
We played together on a men's night, years back. It was a lucrative affair. The prize money hit the twenty-dollar mark, I believe. My game was way off. God’s game was never better. As he consistently feathered his shots down the centre of the fairway, I repeatedly hacked at my ball in the forest surrounding the links, working diligently to salvage some sense of athletic pride.
Around the eighth hole, God was showing the ever present signs of a winner. His score was brilliant, and he’d refreshed himself a little along the way. God was tipsy. I had already decided to ignore the five dollar loss that I invested for the entry fee. God's eyes and laughter, sparkled with every shot. Riding proudly in the saddle of his golf-cart, youth danced in the man's eyes. By days end God had taken all the money.
As I sat at the nineteenth hole drowning my sorrows, contemplating strategy for my next round of play, I grew increasingly satisfied to write-off the entire experience. I got a little tipsy, myself. Then I heard five words from God that might have acted as seeds towards developing notions of finding wellness in my already blistering life. His words brought purpose to an otherwise dreadful, hacker's day on the links.
Someone in our foursome asked something, seemingly insignificant, about how active God was for a man of seventy-four. The patriarch smiled, sat firmly back into his seat and dropped this simple, yet obviously still memorable line . . . . .
“You Sit Down...You Die.”
That brought some things into perspective, back then as I recall. And, it certainly is helpful to me today. Every word rolling from the tongues of all of the wellness gurus I’ve heard since, smacks me upside the head with meaning, blooming inside the seeds of God's advice to us all that day.
This lying around on my sofa, my garden of inactivity, trauma issues aside, creative bubble-making for this blog or not, is likely going to kill me. Ouch!
Recollecting on my friend God, I’m reminded today of his advice. There is so much variety when it comes to choosing exercise: Aerobics Classes; Exercise Machines; Gyms; DVD Lessons with Skinny People doing Skinny People Things. As I once again taste some remission, I could likely spend a much better new-lifetime devouring all that exercise has to offer as nourishment for my lazy soul. Maybe it's time to get back to thinking about some physical exercise.
God’s words ring right now, like a bell within the corpulent fat cells of my weary, inactive body and exhausted, trauma-recovering mind. It's simple advice, really:
“YOU SIT DOWN ... YOU DIE."
To keep it as simple as what God was saying that day, the advice from on high is this. All we need to do through trauma recovery is keep moving. Trauma recovery is about taking small steps forward, one step at a time, and simply to every day keep moving forward, away from the troubles of our pasts.
Physical fitness is a huge part of our recovery need. It's the easiest really to do. It's the perfect place to start working with ourselves. The best thing we can do to help heal the human brain, for instance, is to simply add a twenty-minute walk to our day.
To paraphrase some of the wellness gurus: Do what you love, where you love to do it. Make it fun and you can’t go wrong. This, in a nutshell, was God’s wellness advice. Keep moving. Doing so, keeps us alive-in body, mind and in spirit. Movement. This is what we all need.
For golfers, the answer might be as easy as sticking with the links. Playing golf is our idea of fun, right? Walking while we play helps to contribute to our physical fitness and the act of swinging the club helps to maintain our flexibility.
If I recall the game, however, it can wreak havoc on the mind. I threw many clubs, into many lakes of water, if I recall correctly. If ever I'm blessed to return to the game, perhaps some mindfulness is in order.
I do remember loving the fresh air, the sunshine and the view of the mountains surrounding my local club, playing golf. I wasn’t very good at it. I'd never break any records, and I certainly had no hope of ever hacking my way onto the tour, but I suppose I did get some exercise and other benefits from playing the game. I really do still love the game of golf. I love watching a player make a brilliant shot. I still take it in (vicariously) from time-to-time.
Another simple life-lesson I picked up once, Golfing with God?
“Hit That Thing, Like You Don’t Give-a-S**t, Where It Lands.”
Today, I take these words to heart. Life is short. Life is for living. The love in human life, the pain-all of it. Life's outcome, really doesn’t matter all that much. We do our best to live a good life, trauma issues aside, and we do our best in recovery. I’m learning to not care so much, where the ball lands. I just keep swinging the stick. This is the best, I can do.
Who knows, someday I may get another chance to swing a stick and have a chat with God. Next time we see one another, it will need to be in our idea of paradise. Heaven's Links, I suspect the club is called. My friend passed away, quite a few years back now. We all Sit Down, at some point or another. I really do hope to one day see him again, swinging a stick on the course wherever heaven is.
The next time I bump into God, on the links beyond Heaven's Gate - I'm sure he'll have more wisdom to bestow upon me. As it is with Patriarchs such as God, He made it there first. I'm sure when the time comes for me, God will be happy to show me around. Maybe, in heaven, it's All Golf - All the Time? One, never knows.
Hey, God and I, might even be allowed to get ourselves a little tipsy . . . Or, maybe we'll just take one look at each other, knowing what this human life was for both of us, and smile.
Whatever the final scenario-God's in it-this I know, for sure.
Darren Michael Gregory, April 10th, 2015
For The Love of a Game
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.