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Stress and Aging

by on March 4, 2023

By Br. Mark Dohle

When I was young, even up to my middle sixties, stress seemed to focus me, and allow me to do what I needed to do without fuss, though it did cost me a lot of energy to swim in stressful situations. Many of the situations were interior, but there were also demanding times from the external world as well. We all see this aspect of reality within ourselves I am sure, and many experience this deeper than others.

It probably has to do with my aging body, as well as with my brain/mind connection. I think that is why I am so much more in touch with anxiety. When younger I had no idea that I could even get really anxious, since I always seemed to move towards what was not pleasant, and needed assertiveness. Now stress can scatter me, and bring on a deep disquiet that I can feel in my chest area. It has the feeling of a rolled-up ball of barbwire. It forces me to slow down, and it has helped me in my prayer life. I have learned that much of my inner anger flows from this apprehension. It is a fear that things will fall apart. Rooted in my past experiences when very young. I am thankful for this, for perhaps we all need a goad in our lives to push us forward. Sloth is something that can numb me, but when in the midst of that I feel more dead than alive. 

While anxiety is for me the most unpleasant of inner experiences, I am still thankful that I am more in touch with it. Yet, I know that all that I know about myself is just the tip of a very large iceberg. So as I age I am more at peace with not knowing or understanding, but just try to get through the day without causing damage to others. I do not always succeed, but grace lifts me up and I continue.

I can see grace at work as I age. It leads me deeper into truth, some of these truths are not pleasant at all. Our inner worlds can be beautiful, but also harsh, and even at times have a nightmarish quality to them. There is a reason I believe that people love the horror genre in movies, as well as novels. It gives us a safe place to observe what we have within us. 

When on a path that seeks God, He will bring truth to us. It can be a painful time, but also one that is very fruitful. We seem to grow when we struggle, and yes suffer. I wish it was different, but we have to work within the system given to us.

For me ‘Trust’ is the key. When I feel shaky within, as I get older, I find that it is being in the presence of God that brings peace, and even integration. Again, I do not know how it works, but Trust again is the switch that allows this to happen. Trust in God, can be one of the freest actions we can make. It comes from deep within, far below the agitation, and pain that is often our lot.

Drugs and addictions of all sorts only slow this process down, but eventually, it must all be faced. Prayer and a loving relationship with God can allow us to do that. Psalm 91, as well as Psalms 23, and 139 can be helpful in times of inner turmoil. A slow prayer reading of these prayers can focus us and deepen our rootedness in Christ Jesus. 

Our humanity is not to be feared. Allowing ourselves to sink would be a very serious and at times fatal mistake. Our lives are serious business. Our culture wants us to ignore that, and just have a good time and be entertained. Being jaded can be its own hell. Facing our inner struggles, chaos, and pain, leads to inner joy and peace, though a trek through the desert can be a long one. No matter what we choose, the trek may be very long indeed.-Br.MD

Old Age, Faith, and the Last Things

By Br. Mark Dohle

“Oh, when evening falls may they think of coming to My embrace, their hearts overflowing with gratitude, asking Me to come again with new blessings. And I will come again. And in this way, we shall approach the end of life and the last of My blessings. “For this last blessing, My child, give Me your tender thanks now.”

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 4208-4211). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

I have come to see each day as a metaphor for a full lifetime. In the morning, when the day is fresh, we can begin with hope and joy. Even when that is missing, it is still a beginning that we partake in. As the day progresses things can wear down, we get tired, even cranky, and yes fatigue sets in. Yet we must do what needs to be done. Not keeping going, can only increase our inner weariness. Then evening, and hopefully rest.

Our lives are like that I believe. Old age is not easy, nor always pleasant, but we arrive there in the evening of our lives. Or as a friend told me in a humorous tone, now that I am 73, I am in the midwinter of my life.

Each stage of life has its challenges, as well as gifts that are bestowed on us. In old age, I believe we are called to do one very important thing. To learn to let go of what we took for granted in our younger years. Perhaps what we took for granted even yesterday. Another calling is to be patient with physical pain, understanding that after we do what we can, we will still have some. I know of very few older people who do not have some form of chronic pain, but are manageable. I have known some who have pain that is severe and has to be lived with because nothing can be done for it. That can be tragic. Yet, they do deal with it. With some, you do not even know they are in pain if they do not tell you.

Hopefully, for those who believe that we have an immortal aspect of our existence, that is made in the image and likeness of God, we will spend more time deepening our love and trust in God. Yes, old age is a very important part of our lives, perhaps the most important, though all stages are ‘most important’ when lived through. 

Death can be a gift. It makes us understand that we have little time on this planet. I do believe that the old truly understand this. Once old age is arrived at, it can be experienced with a certain sense of ‘surprise’. What! I am old already, how did that happen! It happens to us all, who are lucky enough to arrive there.

Suffering, struggle, pain, fear, and the many others bumps in life that must be dealt with, can seem overwhelming, and some are of course. However, all we need to do, which is almost never easy, is just to get through the day, do the best we can, and at the end of the day, hopefully, be a little more loving than when we started. If not, well there is always the next moment, minute, day, or week, to begin again. 

Those who do make God, and their inner life with God central to their lives, discover an intimacy that would seem impossible when young. It is something that has to be experienced, not taught, or really preached about. This can give tremendous peace, as well as strengthen one for the journey.

One aspect of aging that can also be healing, is that in prayer we begin to see that my ‘me’, is every ‘me’, and connected intimately with the eternal “Me’

Faith is not always easy, life can get dark, and seem absurd, yet to believe, and trust, is a choice, just as unbelief is. Once we actually understand that, we can proceed. Also, this can make us understand those better who make a choice other than the one we made.-Br.MD

My “me” is God nor do I recognize any other “me” except my God himself.-Catherine of Genoa


From → Guest Authors

  1. Michael Stamm permalink

    “Why do we have to die?”
    “To make life important.”
    –Six Feet Under


    • Yes, death gives us a time frame. We have little time, which makes it precious.


    • Dana permalink

      That’s a terrific quote, Mike, and one for my quote journal. Six Feet Under has been one of my favorite series, although I haven’t watched in many years. There might be a different perspective now that I’m older, and have learned so much about Death & Dying from Marco. It is so well done, with some of the best dark humor I’ve seen.


  2. Dana permalink

    Thanks for sharing these essays, Br. Mark. They spoke to me during an especially stressful time, and I feel it is really important to discuss mental health and aging.

    I’ve lived with anxiety all my life, although in my early childhood I didn’t know exactly what those feelings were. There always seemed to be “butterflies,” especially when it was time for rest. I would lie awake at night, unable to sleep, using imagination to try and calm myself. I still do that! At the time there was domestic violence in the home and more, so generalized anxiety was probably to be expected. When I was in the second or third grade I discovered that reading when I was wide awake and anxious helped me escape. Books, music and exploring nature were my best friends and my anxiety medication.

    Despite being a non-theist, my inner spiritual world is still rich, although it
    doesn’t always alleviate the stress and overwhelming feelings. Tonight I walked through my neighborhood after work, spending a few moments in a nearby Episcopal church courtyard. It was a chance to breathe and forget the cares of the day. Breathing properly is so important, although I find myself holding my breath much of the time. That usually means I’m hurrying about when life really needs to slow down. It seems the rushing around is neverending, but taking a moment to stop and enjoy a beautiful scene helps.

    The physical aspect of aging is not a welcome one for me, and I’m beginning to feel it. Yet I can appreciate what I’ve learned thus far, significantly in the past decade. I’m looking forward to more of that since learning and self-awareness is a lifelong process.

    What you said about getting through the day without damaging others is something I will carry with me everywhere I go. I can have a really sharp tongue sometimes, although I don’t intentionally try to hurt others. Even so, my lack of a filter carries the potential for hurting others, something I hate to do. Being kind and not impulsively speaking unkind words are areas I have to work on all the time. This is especially critical in the workplace. I work with the public, which is absolutely the opposite of what is comfortable for me. I’m trying to use it as a means for improving how I communicate with others until I figure out the next phase of life.

    Well, I’ve gone on long enough. Thanks again for your insight, and for helping to keep this treasured and meaningful site active (as well as the minds who visit it).


    • Dana permalink

      This reply is from Br. Mark,

      “Thank you Dana. Your transparency is truly amazing and it is actually a childlike trait.

      Being childlike is what allows for growth to happen, even in the midst of great inner struggle. Life is good, even with all the aspects that do cause us to suffer.

      I once asked a friend of mine, who is a professional therapist, why I like to get silly, and funny. When I get tired it goes into overdrive. He told me it is my seeking balance since my inner journey is so intense. I believe that we are always seeking balance in our relationships with ourselves and the reality that we call the exterior world……they tend to bleed into one another. To know oneself, as little as that might be, helps us to navigate our lives better.

      God is not a being, nor a thing, nor something that is part of the world around us, but one with everything, beyond comprehension. Our deepest longings can help to understand the reality of the Infinite Mind just enough to keep moving forward. I believe our deepest longing is simply to be seen, as well as loved, in spite of what we find out about ourselves.

      One of our saints said this:
      Everything Is Grace” is based on a quote by St. Therese of Lisieux out of “Her Last Conversations” that reads:

      “Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father’s love – difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs – everything because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events – to the heart that loves, all is well.”

      II do believe that it spite of your struggles and sufferings all will be well, and is well. Not sure if being a theist or a non-theist is all that important since we theists can really make the theistic God look pretty bad, and that is putting it lightly.

      Marco has the gift of attracting the most precious people, and you Dana, or top of the list.”


      • Dana permalink

        Thank you for the kind words and wisdom, Br. Mark. I do agree with what you’ve said about Marco’s community of friends. Not only precious, but interesting, intelligent and kind human beings. I feel grateful and humbled to have this experience, and feel this is exactly how it was supposed to be.

        Through the midst of some very dark and troubling times I’m sometimes still able to laugh. Like you, I can get very giddy and silly, which can be a helpful coping mechanism. Laughter can bring comic relief we need. This past week has been especially sad, but a phone call last night with a caring friend helped. She has the ability to make me laugh without trying, and I needed that after a tearful day and lifetime of worry. Sometimes I wonder how I can do that, but one can cry and worry only so much.

        My idea of God is “everything,’ and not a being. Gazing out my window I see a comforting, favorite tree in the front yard with squirrels who chase each other all around it. That is God, but not in a “Creator” or higher power sense.

        Since everything is One, I can’t imagine anyone.or anything being at the top of Oneness in a hierarchy. For the same reason I strongly disagree humans are any more important than the rest of our planet. I am no more important than the tree and squirrels outside my window.

        Thanks again for the encouragement. If I didn’t imagine anything would get better even momentarily, I would probably not be here today. PTSD and generalized anxiety have robbed me of a lot, but I’m still here. And this community has helped with that more than I can adequately express.


        • mkdohle permalink

          I love interacting with people who do not believe the way I do, it makes me stretch a bit. Life is a deep mystery, and by that I mean, it is something we can know, but never get to the bottom of it. Thank you for your in throughful comment, they are also enriching for me.



          • Dana permalink

            Mark, I didn’t always enjoy interacting with those who have different views from my own. Discussions often lead to arguments, unlike the vast majority of the conversations here. I used to wish I could change other’s opinions and have them see things “my way.” I’ve learned a lot from you, and thank you for that.

            I would have responded earlier but forgot. My apologies for the late reply.


  3. Dana permalink

    This comment is from Marco, Br. Mark:

    “Thank you, Mark. Your wisdom is timeless and deeply meaningful even to those who do not accept the idea of a personified God. For example, wherever you use the word God I can substitute Plan and derive what I feel is the same message and wisdom. That, in my view, elevates your thoughts far above those who wish to impose a theocratic dictatorship upon us. “Marco


    • Dana permalink

      Marco, your comment explains so much with few words. Along with rejecting the idea of a personified God, mosr of my life I could not accept there is a cosmic plan for me. As for the latter, only in the past decade have I begun to realize that a plan makes sense.

      Further, there have been quite a number of instances where I knew what some of the major events would be. In the third grade when I visited Vancouver I knew that I would live in a large metropolis as an adult. It was never s goal, and yet somehow it happened.

      Therefore I have to trust that everything is unfolding as it should. Perhaps this will help with concerns about the future as I age. Whiile I might be anxious about what comes next, I can feel reassured everything is as it’s supposed to be.


    • mkdohle permalink

      Thank you Marco. One of your many gifts is being able to understand that we each use language differently, one reason I feel comfortable posting here.



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