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Thursday, 03 May 2012

Some Oddities of Being Old (from 2007)

EDITORIAL NOTE: Time Goes By Sunday Elder Music columnist, Peter Tibbles and his Assistant Musicologist are visiting from Melbourne for a few days.

While they are here, in place of new posts are some vintage TGB stories that I kind of like and hope you will enjoy them in rerun. I won't disappear entirely. I'll be checking in now and then to see how it's going and perhaps join in the comments.

And, IMPORTANT, all Elder Storytelling Place stories linked at the bottom of these repeats are NEW.


category_bug_journal2.gif It is the oddest thing, sometimes, being old.

I have often taken issue with such statements as, “I’m 65, but I don’t feel that old.” Huh? Since no one has been 65 before they get there, whatever they feel must be how it feels. What people really mean is, “This isn’t nearly as terrible as I believed 65 would be.”

But the feeling is more complex than that. It draws on unconscious ageism, misunderstandings of what old age is like, denial of one’s age, knowing but not “grokking” that you are nearing the end of life, and most of all that whatever number of years you have reached, you are still and can feel, when you close your eyes, all the ages that have come before.

Any number of occurrences can slam you back to age 10 or 25 or 50: an aroma, for example, a taste, a piece of music you haven’t heard in decades. When it happens, for a moment or a few minutes, it is more than a memory; you are there again.

It happened to me last fall at my first T’ai Chi class. The large, empty room, a full wall of mirrors, the polished wood floor and suddenly I was in ballet class again on the day I first accomplished a relatively competent series of pirouettes en pointe.

In that T’ai Chi room, I felt my calf muscle stretch up and down and the snap of my head during each turn, the thrill at controlling my balance through eight, ten, twelve turns along with the Wow! – how good I look doing it in the mirror. It was an important day 50-odd years ago, and I lived it again as both new and a memory in that T’ai Chi room. For those moments, I was 13 years old.

Even if you haven’t worked at it much, by 50 or 60 and more, you’ve gained a lot of knowledge. One of the most important things you’ve learned is how little you know and that continues to be more true as the years pass.

I always told myself that I’d wait until my old age to re-read all of Shakespeare. I’d save studying the philosophers for then too along with digging deeper into the history of the Middle Ages, and spending the time necessary to really understand Wagner’s music.

Yeah, right. In additional to all that, there’s always something new to learn and on the day I die, the list of what I wish I understood will be longer than it is now (and undoubtedly still include those items in the immediately preceding paragraph).

On the other hand, so much of life is easier in later years because of the knowledge, experience and judgment gained, sometimes without noticing it’s there until you need it. Practical stuff like what’s essential to ask when buying a house and how to give dinners and parties without panic. And when it’s a better idea to pay someone to do it than making yourself nuts doing it yourself.

By late life, you have answered a few of the big questions too: you know you can’t solve friends’ problems, but that listening, really listening, is almost as good. And you’ve learned how to mourn. It doesn’t take the pain of loss away, but you know how to feel your way through the darkness and that there will, eventually, again be light.

These are good things, but that other list of what I would like to know keeps growing even though I haven’t a chance of fulfilling it.

Then there is a paradox I have mentioned here before, one that becomes increasingly puzzling the more I ponder it.

In my youth and mid-years, I was always in a hurry. Rush, rush, rush so I could get on to the next thing to rush through – and woe unto anyone who slowed my progress. I still get irritated when my time is wasted unnecessarily (the only thing of value we own is our time), but the oddest thing has happened in recent years: it makes no sense to me that as my time on earth gets shorter, I am more willing to postpone almost anything (sometimes never to return) when another catches my fancy.

There’s no telling how many unfinished books there are around the house. And some of them even interest me.

Other elders I’ve spoken with have noticed the same phenomenon and are equally puzzled. Why, when there are so many things we still want to do and know, do we lollygag along telling ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow?

It makes no sense.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today – Jackie Harrison: Dandelions and Sunflowers


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I think you must have posted this before I became one of your admiring followers. At least I don't remember reading it before.

You really nailed it. All of the above rings true for me.

Absolutely spot on, Ronni! For example, I, too have shelves of unread books--purchased over the years with the intent to "stock up" for the years when I could not so readily afford to buy--but the "new crop" of books is so enticing, so I'm still buying!! Some of those pre-purchased may never be read, at least not by me. I'm having fun lollygagging though. If I get to it, fine, and if not, that's fine, too. When I'm gone, I probably won't remember what I didn't do! :)

"Why, when there are so many things we still want to do and know, do we lollygag along telling ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow?"

Ronni: It seems clear to me. Perhaps because when we've "got it", we've had it.

There are several popular authors today who write about being in the NOW; staying in the present moment; there IS no past or future really, JUST the NOW. The key to superior mental health is staying present and alive to only this moment, so they say. I understand dwelling on sadness will only make you sadder, but the inverse is also true.
There is a therapeutic joy that old memories bring us. Especially when one is in physical pain; consciously drumming up old memories often feels good.

I'm pondering the word "resignation." Is it good or bad? "Can't" was never a word in my vocabulary; if I tried hard enough, my dreams always came true. I'm saying "can't" much more now, and it presents with a sinking feeling. Hard to accept.

OMG I needed this mail today!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am going to be 61 next month, and I am in the final year of my MFA in Web Design (taking it slowly to learn the most I can).... my BA is in Graphic Design achieved in 2009....I'm working on a "group project" with classmates and most of them are, well, let's just say I have shoes older then some of them!!!.... and a couple of the others are my daughters age.

We are at the end of a grueling semester and of course I am feeling the pinch as well as they are to get the final designs turned in.

I'm at a time, where I'm putting myself in extreme debt to get this degree so I can go out and work and gain enough experience to teach.... and right now this past week when I'm flapping my wings like "Chicken Little" saying, "...the sky is falling..." and all but two of them are ignoring me.. I had found myself questioning why I am even doing all this and am I an old fool doing something stupid and accumulating debt because of it?

Then I get this mail and this information and I feel so much better. I've joked about my Social Security paying my SallieMae loans, but seriously, it probably will... LOL

Prejudice runs rampant in this industry; sometimes I am met with the attitude that being older, I'm "old fashioned" or not "trendy" enough.... or one time I had one young man tell me, "You're almost 60, what the hell do you know?" when disagreeing with him..... oddly, he barely graduated while I walked the stage with double tassels, the only one in my graduating class with "highest honors" I even had one of my professors tell me that he would not hire me simply because of the age factor... talent wise if he didn't know my age sure.....but knowing my age, no.....he thought he was being kind telling me what he called "the truth".... and maybe it is for most employers....but hopefully not for all.

I see daily the things that our youth take for granted and we as older adults with life experience play down because we have lived in a society that doesn't relish or recognize the "Life Experience" factor that seems to round us all out...

Employers would be well suited to hire us....to them I say:

Not all of us are old in our thinking... I'm into video games, techy stuff owning all of it because I like it... we like all the things that the 20's and 30's all love too... I can't help it that I'm stuck in this old body with a young brain and youthful spirit....but I can tell you...the Employer that...I won't get pregnant and be on maternity leave when you need me most.... I don't call in sick a lot and never because of my kids.... I'm rarely late.... I never miss a deadline.... I can see past my own talent..... I can see into the future enough to see possible issues BEFORE they arise instead of being blindsided.... I am broadminded.... and I don't miss meetings, excessively talk on the phone or watch youTube while working.... (Love it at home though).... and I think with a huge databank of things stored in my brain that sometimes come in handy when least expected.... my attention to detail is usually greater than the "young ones".... and you can count on me... I won't come in at the final hour with excuses....

Sure I walk a little slower and can take a little longer at times to learn things, but once learned I'm solid....and while some will give you 5 or 6 hours in a day of actual work, I give you 12 (on salary) because I won't quit until its RIGHT. I never do "just enough to get by!"

I realize that I am not going to "set the world on fire" with my designs... most designers won't.... but I am a strong designer who will handle all the things that make the $$$$ that the youth find "BORING".... the websites for banks and hospitals and all the bread and butter things...and I'll cause a lot less trouble and hassle for you the Employer while doing it.

So let's hope in another year.... someone will have read this newsletter/article.... and will give me half a chance!!



We do develop a greater appreciation for "time" as we get older. If only we could somehow convey this to today's youth.

Very nicely presented Ronni.

Thank you again. You go ahead so you can tell me (& others) what it's like and that my feelings & thoughts are somewhat normal.

I lollygag along when I don't want to do something.

@ Julie Boelter: You rock. I love your comment. It takes guts to stand one's ground and remain positive and productive in an environment of often mostly ignorant, bigoted, arrogant, clueless people (of all ages).

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