Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Aging and Temperment
I have been noticing in myself and others lately that as we age we tend to get more "crotchety"...as in irritable, annoyed, and less tolerant. Any one else noticing this?
We have all observed some elderly people who seem bitter or angry towards the world...spouting off at someone in the street, dressing down a service person, or correcting bad behavior or grammar. "Sonny...when I was your age...". Unfortunately, I have heard my own tendencies of late with being a bit more ornery or condescending with people than I used to be. I'm just not as tolerant, patient, or understanding of "people" I once was. I am more choosy about people I want to be around or the activities I want to participate in. I find myself more opinionated (if that were possible)...and probably less tolerant or accepting of those who don't share my views. Maybe for me it is a conscious acknowledgment that I have fewer days left in this life and I am less interested in spending them doing things or being around people I don't particularly like or admire. I am morphing from a formerly objective person into someone much more subjective based on my past experiences and reactions to them. The main question at this point may be...is this good or bad?
As I grow older I find myself envious of the generally carefree attitude of the youth around me. Most of them seem to live only for today with little thought or concern for tomorrow. I used to live that way. Most of them have energy and vitality that doesn't seem directed in any particular direction that I can see. But I guess I used to have that kind of energy. Many youth today seem to live hard and fast, looking for the good times and not too interested in suffering for a cause...good or bad. I supposed I have done my share of that in my youth also.
I am at an age where I notice the rudeness and lack of etiquette in many of the younger people I see. A lot less "please" and "thank you" than I remember from my generation. Instead of "sir", it is often "hey man"...or "dude". When I try to jump into athletic activities with my 25 year old mindset and 54 year old body...my body now refuses to keep up. I find myself talking to myself more often...and often not in the most positive manner when I can't do what I used to physically.
I find myself reading the obituaries more often...almost daily in fact. I am getting concerned at the higher percentage of the deceased who are my age or younger. I find myself comparing what they have accomplished or what people say or observed about them with my perceived self. What will people say of me...and do I care?
I also remember observing my grandparents in their waning days...the slow loss of their faculties, their loss of independent living, their sadness or outright depression as they faced their inevitable ending of life as they knew it. I wonder how I will be when I come to that point in life. Will I be strong? Will I be bitter? Will I fight or be a wimp? I guess most of us don't really know until we get there.
Ah..."how morbid" you may be saying as you read this. Yet, I have the feeling that how I reason about these things now will directly impact my temperament when I get to those junctures in life. I really don't want to be helpless and hopeless when I am at the end of my time here. I want to always see the glass half full versus half empty. I do feel that if I died tonight I would have no regrets about how I've lived or spent my time...yet...there is so much more I have dreamed and strive to accomplish. I don't know if I will ever get "there". Maybe that will be the key to my longevity without living remorsefully...always pursuing "getting there". I hope so anyways.
Meanwhile, as I age I hope to keep my perspective and relevancy to the lives around me. May I not lose my patience when people around me don't measure up to my ideas of times and schedules or life's priorities. May I continue to live up to my own expectations without projecting them on to others. I hope I can remain flexible to the opportunities and events life brings my way...and may I remain discerning of how to best spend my remaining days without bitterness or short temperaments. Perhaps that hope is best summarized in the famous serenity prayer..."God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."