Who am I to write about midlife? I often see myself as just a 17-year-old kid with a really good job.
After several years of lying dormant, the nightmares have returned to visit me during my sleep. I had hoped they were gone for good, but apparently they aren't. I suppose I'm moving into yet another stage of healing, a new cycle of growth. Even so, I am tired of it.
Bodily, I don't feel old. I feel strong and energetic and durable. However, my mind seems ancient, like it has been around for millenniums. Maybe I am experiencing awareness of a connection to what Carl Jung called the collective unconscious.
My instinct is to go to the mat with these experiences. That's kind of a conditioned response: to beat into submission the internal stuff I don't like. The major problem with that approach is that it tends to drive the painful stuff underground. Then it lies there, bubbling and cooking, only to resurface later in a nastier, uglier form.
So maybe I will face it on the mat, but work with it more than try to defeat it. I want to embrace it, stay open to it, and learn from it. Why not? The nightmares are here now. They may leave soon, but they may not. As long as they're already here, I may as well see what they have to teach me.
I want to accept the counsel of the Austrian-Swiss poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who wrote:
So you mustn't be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better. In you, dear Mr. Kappus, so much is happening now; you must be patient like someone who is sick, and confident like some one who is recovering; for perhaps you are both. And more: you are also the doctor, who has to watch over himself. But in every sickness there are many days when the doctor can do nothing but wait. And that is what you, insofar as you are your own doctor, must now do, more than anything else.
From Letters to a Young Poet
, No. 8, online source: http://www.carrothers.com/rilke8.htm