One day I looked at myself in the mirror and indulged in full-scale self-pity.
Oh, I remember when I was young, I thought. My skin was tighter, my breasts were higher, my rear was firmer, my entire body was voluptuous. I had so much more energy, and I practically glowed. I wish I had realized what I had when I had it … and now I'll never have it again.
Then another voice in my head intervened.
“What you did then, in fact, was exactly what you're doing now: You kept thinking that if only things were different, you'd be happy. Then it was whatever man or job or resources were there to save you; now it's if only you were still young. Reality check:
In those days, you looked good but you didn't know it. You had everything but you didn't appreciate it. You had the world at your feet but you didn‘t realize it.
“You know what it was like? It was just like now!”
Thus began my recovery from “youth-itis.” I slip back into it every once in a while, but as time goes on, I snap out of it faster and faster. I realize it's nothing more than a mental habit to idealize another time, another condition, another reality—as simply a way to avoid the reality of my life right now.
And in avoiding the reality of our present circumstances we avoid the miracles they offer. Everyone does it because that's the way the ego mind works. But we can stare down this self-defeating habit and cultivate a truer perspective: that wherever we are is the perfect place, and whatever time it is now is the perfect time. That doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't improve things, particularly ourselves. But indulging the thought that if only we were younger, things would be better is a surefire way to age with pain.
My Father once told me, “When you're old, you don't feel old.” I can appreciate what he meant when he said that, as I ponder the fact that the essential being I am inside myself is the same in my 50s as when I was only 15. So who am I really? Am I the woman who has changed with age, or am I the changeless self within? Am I the woman who is encased in time or the being who dwells apart from it?
Sometimes when referring to things that happened long ago, we say things like “I remember it like it was yesterday.” And that's because in a way it was. If time, as Einstein declared, is merely an illusion of consciousness, then linear time itself is a metaphysical fiction; everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen, is happening now. There, in that realm of the eternal now, is the true “I am.”
The eternal self dwells in eternity, and eternity intersects linear time at only one point: the present. Who you are in this moment, therefore, is who you truly are. And from that essential point of perfect being—created anew by God in every instant—miracles flow naturally. Thoughts of love interrupt the past and open the future to new probabilities. No matter who you are, no matter how old you are, in the present, all things are possible.
The physical self ages, of course, but the spiritual self does not. As we identify more with the spiritual dimension of our lives, then our experience begins to shift from the changeable to the changeless . . . from limitation to limitlessness . . . from fear to love. As our journey through linear time gets shorter, our consciousness can in fact expand. And as it does, time itself is affected. The deeper we go into the love of God, the more we actualize our earthly potential. The understanding of that which does not change is the key to our power within a world that does. In aligning ourselves with the eternal self, we age not in a straight line leading from luscious youth to decrepit age, but rather like the flowering lotus opening more and more to the light of the sun.
Physically, we get older and then we die. Yet spiritually, whether we go backward or forward is a matter not simply of the body but of consciousness. When we think about age differently, then our experience of age becomes different. We can be physically older but emotionally and psychologically younger. Some of us were in a state of decay in our 2Os and are in a state of rebirth in our 6Os or 70s. King Solomon, who supposedly was the wisest of all men, described his youth as his winter and his advanced years as his summer. We can be older than we used to be yet feel much younger than we are.
As we become more spiritually intelligent, more aware of the forces that underlie and cause all earthly reality, then issues of age begin to transform. Spiritual growth increases our sense of what's possible. And as we sense new possibility, we can step into that possibility. With every word, every thought, every action, we choose what we wish to call forth in life. Old thoughts create old scenarios, and you can choose to let them go.
We achieve so little because our minds are undisciplined. We're too easily lured into self-deprecating thoughts, limited beliefs, and negative self-perception. No one forces us to think, My best years are behind me, or No one will want me anymore, or I missed my chance. But whatever it is we choose to think, our subconscious minds take very seriously and our experience will reflect our thinking.
Our very cells respond to the thoughts we think—with every word, silent or spoken, we participate in the body's functioning. We participate in the functioning of the universe itself. If our consciousness grows lighter, so does everything within and around us.
This means, of course, that with every thought, you can start to re-create your life.
At midlife, you suddenly see an endgame where you used to see an endless stretch. You know now on a visceral level that this lifetime will not go on forever. There's no more time for five-year detours. No more time for getting it wrong. No more time for relationships that don't serve, or for staying in situations that aren't authentically you. No more time for playing small, false pride, or whatever other roadblock emerged from the dark waters of your psyche to put off the joy that's meant to be yours. You want to become a precision instrument now—focusing on exactly what you want to do and being exactly who you need to be.
According to ancient Asian philosophy, life is not a circle but a spiral. Every life lesson that has ever been presented to you (which means everything you have ever been through) will come back again, in some form, until you learn it. Whatever didn't work in your life before this point was a reflection of the fact that at that time, you hadn't yet integrated the different parts of yourself. Where you didn't yet accept yourself, you attracted a lack of acceptance in others. Where you hadn't dealt with your own shadows, you manifest shadowy situations. Broken parts of you encountered broken parts of others. So now you know! That was then and this is now.
Midlife is our second chance. If you want to spend the years you have left simply reenacting the dramas of your past, you can. The same script will indeed be coming around again for your review. But if you choose, you can take that script and give it an awesome rewrite, totally get on top of your material, and take a bow at the end that blows everyone away.
Your play might be set in another town this time and the characters might be different. But it is essentially the same play. Whether you felt you were ready to star in it last time is another story. Whether you behaved in a way that welcomed your opportunities and maximized their benefits is another story. But the fact that you ever attracted opportunities in the first place means that they were in your script. Now—through the power of your remorse, humility and a sincere desire to get it right in areas where you might have gotten it wrong before—you will attract the same opportunities again, in another form. An all-merciful God has sent them around once more, with even bigger plans for how they can bless you and others now.
Do the rewrite carefully. Your character should not say, “I'm too old now,” but rather, “I'm just getting started.” “I'm too weak for this” can be, “I am strong.” “I blame them for what they did to me” can be, “I choose to forgive.” “What can I get from this situation?” can be, “What can I contribute?” And “What do I want to do?” can be, “Dear God, what would You have me do?” With every new thought, you're working a miracle—changing your script and changing your life.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON is an internationally acclaimed lecturer and the best-selling author of A Return to Love, The Healing of America, A Woman's Worth, and Illuminata, among other works. Williamson has done extensive charitable organizing throughout the country in service to people with life-challenging illnesses; and is the founder of The Peace Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots organization supporting the legislative initiative for a U.S. Department of Peace.
Excerpted from: The Age of Miracles Embracing the New Midlife by Marianne Williamson. Copyright © 2008 by Marianne Williamson. Published by Hay House, Inc.