Monday, January 5, 2009

The Three Ages of Man

This is a topic I had considered writing about several weeks ago, prior to what could be termed my emotional meltdown. Somehow, with the onset of a new year and the reading I have been doing in the Conversations with God book series by Neale Donald Walsch, the time seems right to return to this notion and set down my thoughts.

First, let me say that I am not speaking of historical eras, such as the Industrial Age. No, the three ages of man that I am concerned with are internal components of each one of us. Those three ages are: emotional, intellectual, and physical. Together, the make up what could be termed our relative age.

In some respect, each of these ages are moving targets, and they are not always advancing upward, not even our physical age. For instance, how often have you heard someone say they feel like a kid again? Or, perhaps in the midst of an adrenaline rush, they are able to do something they had been unable to do for years.

For some of us, our physical age seems to advance exponentially rather than incrementally. I am 52, but there are days when I feel more like 72 due to occasional hip pain that extends into my knee. Stiffness in my back sometimes causes me to hobble around (at least until I am warmed up a bit) like someone much older.

With regard to intellectual age, how often have you said or heard someone else say "she's wise beyond her years" or "he has the mind of a child"? Then of course there is the child who is so brilliant mentally he or she is able to enter college at the age of 12 or 13. Physically and emotionally, this youngster is 12 or 13, but intellectually, he or she is 18 or 19 or even older.

Finally, there is the emotional age. Often, we hear about this age in a negative sense, such as when a parent admonishes a child for "acting like a two-year old." This age can also be impacted by trauma of some sort in the home, such as when a parent dies or when a child is excessively sheltered.

In my case, this is the age I have the most difficulty pinpointing. Because of my parent's divorce when I was five, followed by living in some fairly abusive relationships as a child accompanied by nearly complete withholding of human affection at times, my emotional age is nowhere near as advanced as my physical or intellectual age.

I often have trouble connecting with people or getting close to them for that matter. In fact, the closest friendship I currently have would likely have never developed if it had not been for e-mail. Face to face, I move much more slowly and defensively, to the point that most people don't take the time, and I don't blame them.

I also suspect that I can, at times, behave in a manner more befitting a 15-year old with a crush than a 52-year old adult. My emotional development has been stifled in some regards, so that it is sometimes difficult for me to know or to recognize when a line has been crossed and behavior begins to border on the inappropriate.

This is an issue I struggle with (as do many, I suspect) as I begin to get more accustomed to the simple idea of feeling and expressing feeling. The balance is not yet there, but with the help of friends, family, and professionals, it will come in time.

The Conversations with God books talk about the idea that there is really no such thing as time, that now is all there is. The implication in this is that each moment is made up of past, present, and future, and that they are in some ways interchangeable. When I think of the fluid nature of age when thought of in terms of the three ages I have discussed here, that whole notion seems to make much more sense.

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