Aging isn’t all bad.
As they say, the days are long, but the years are short. In this slow creep toward the Great Beyond, I’ve noticed some perks. Of course, you have to be on the lookout. They hide underneath what we generally disparage as the downsides of aging, many of which seem to be physical, such as realizing you’ll never be able to take a selfie you’re happy about without adding all the filters of the rainbow, and keeping the phone as far from your face as possible. Mile-long selfie stick, anybody?
Granted, it’s challenging to not focus on the downsides of aging. But if we can step inside the brain and the heart for a moment, there’s something to be said about the inevitable progression through the decades.
A few thoughts:
Less judgy wudgy and more kindness: The more life we live, the more experiences we acquire. I’d wager some of them have been pretty rough and possibly required a hard decision. Heart-wrenching choices can break you open. But as poet and musician Leonard Cohen wrote: “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Once you experience one of those, you look a little more kindly on the choices other people make. Earth travelers, including you, are most likely doing the best they can and making the best choice they can at any given moment. Empathy and compassion are a worthy replacement for the wrinkles and growing inability to tolerate spicy foods.
Passage of time: As anybody who’s been around a few decades will tell you, time inexplicably speeds the older you get. It’s a head spinner. But there’s a potential upside to this. When life hits a rough patch, it might pass more quickly than it did when we were younger and it felt like a lifetime between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The situation and accompanying feelings will resolve themselves as the days spin away like a whirling dervish and you collect more of them under your belt. Everybody knows time is the great healer. I’m not positive about this theory — I haven’t checked my math — but it seems a possibility.
Deactivating the purple people pleaser: Maybe this isn’t a thing for you, and if not, good on you. But it has been for me. Making other people happy at the expense of your happiness is a surefire road to Sadsville. Looking back, I can’t believe some of the things I said yes to because I wanted to seem like an easygoing, always helpful, self-effacing girl. Why did I think it was important to be seen that way? I’m not sure, but I do think women have a harder time with this. We want to be seen as nice and often give up our self-agency to achieve it. The word “no” is a beautiful gift to us humans. For many of us, it’s a lifelong lesson in learning how to say it in a kind yet firm way. I’m not perfect at all this, but I’m getting better. As a sidebar, I also no longer feel the need to open my front door if somebody knocks on it. For starters, it’s not safe. But mostly, I’ve realized I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. Opening the door to the unknown being one of them.
I yam what I yam: This goes hand in hand with the people-pleasing stuff. After all of these years of being me, this is what you get. I’ve learned to love some of it, accept much of it and continue to work on embracing the rest of it. I’ve become much less attached to what others think of me through the years. If you like, you like. If you don’t, you don’t. That’s OK, too. This is the weird stuff I do and think. I’m sure you have plenty, too, so let’s have a laugh about it.
Let somebody cross the street in front of you: I mean this literally and metaphorically. Having worked downtown for the past few years, and being almost hit several times, like most of my colleagues, I see how hard it is for drivers to let pedestrians cross the street, even when it’s their turn. Is it our hurry-up culture? Is it ego? Is it feeling more powerful than a biped when you’re behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound car? It is plain unkindness? Give people the space to amble. It costs nothing and it’s a small kindness. Some days those are all we have to get by. Let people into your lane whenever you can. Let other people go first. It won’t kill you. Sometimes in yoga class, when your neighbor’s mat is close and the sun salutations are flowing, a yogi will insist on sweeping her arms out to the sides, smacking her neighbors in the process. There’s no need for that. There are other ways to do it so you don’t hit somebody. But invariably the culprit is a very young person, and I think: Ah, they simply haven’t learned yet to let other people cross the street. They will someday.
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