iAge

Changing how we see aging

If I Were to Be Young Again

If I could send a letter to myself in the past.

I am already following my advice. Lie.

Never tell the truth. The truth will get you in trouble. Never, ever tell the truth. Only drunks and children tell the truth. At work, at home, in a court of law, anywhere, ever. The truth is a commodity. You never give that commodity out completely. You present it to the outside world as it benefits you. Present the truth. Never ever present it raw for the benefit of people. People cannot digest raw truth anymore. We are too civilized. Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Julian Assange. All the way back to Socrates who could not deal with lying to the Athenian jury and made himself drink the hemlock poison that killed him. You cannot tell the truth. Our communities do not teach use how to accept raw truth. When is the last time you heard a raw truth and thought that they are not crazy? Never tell the whole truth.

Whereas lying will get you, and your family promoted. Lying is a process of making truth palatable. All you have to do is look at successful people and how their story of ascent is littered with so many lies, deceit, and political holes. Such consistency indicates that this is not a failure but a rite of passage. You have to show that you are competent enough to make truth palatable. The list of liars is infinitely longer than that for those who shove raw truth at us. James Frey, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Baron Manchhausen…The list seems infinite.

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I must come clean after that list. I am not an old fart. I am just 54, and aging is my business. I write about it, I teach it, I research it and I am living it. So, before I too, become “past it” what advice do I have? And “past it” does not refer to being too old to think, or too old to verbalize and write my thoughts down. No. Because I could probably do that till my last day on earth. By “past it “ I mean giving a shit. Caring about other people’s livelihood, happiness and wellbeing. I am getting there. Every day I see the world through rose-colored barbs. People's consistent little selfish behaviors amount to a rejection of our social shared space. I am becoming more understanding that no one cares about what I have to say, and I am becoming less motivated to say it.

So Lie. Lie to everyone but not to yourself. Nobody loves you as much as you do. If you do not love yourself, no one will love you more. Congratulations. Build up the equity in your self worth. Learn about who you are, about the incredible capacity of your body and mind. And start loving yourself. Start now. Stop reading and thank your body and mind for being there for you when, in all honesty, your body and your mind should just give up. So far your body and mind have tried to comply to beliefs about what you should be doing. Things that you were impregnated with (MTV, Facebook, Twitter etc). Close all your accounts. Lets see who you really are. Naked. Stop that digital masturbation. Stop it. Listen to your body, listen your brain. Keep the narration in your head quiet. Can you hear me now?

Listen. There are two parts to listening. First listen to yourself. That incessant narration in the background? That is you. Do not fight it, it is you and it will be there until you die. And the last words you hear will be that narration saying “I told you so.” Accept it. It will always be there. But you do not react. Think of it as shitting. Yes. Unpleasant as it is, but you have to do it. You do not look at your produce and mull over the experience. You do it, produce, flush. Same with the narration. It is going to be there, so accept it, and flush it away by tuning it out. It will be there, but now, muted. You can always go to the bathroom and let it flow out of you. Come out and leave it behind (please flush.)

Listen. The more difficult part of listening is to listen to others. People communicate through words. They want to fuck you, help you, tell you about themselves, express their love, desire and faults, and fuck you some more. Learn to distinguish what they are trying to communicate. This is difficult. When you are young you think you are brilliant. You are not. You might become brilliant, but right now you are fresh meat.

Remember. Most people come with an agenda. Similar to what you think you are but are not. They are hurt, dysfunctional, abused, and hurt some more. Listen to their plea. It is not about you it is about them. Listen and be aware that you do not have to accept them. You can move away. "Yes, I am aware of what happened to you, I understand what you need. I do not want to change you. You are perfect the way you are. I do not need to be part of this. Goodbye." Move away. No drama, no lectures. You do not know any better to lecture, except that they are not for you. So do not lecture. Listen.

Lie, Listen, Learn.

You will die. Your passage is longer than you anticipate, but by the time you get to go, it will seem short. Talk to an older person. Ask them how it feels. They were your age and know—know—the question. Your brain is the best organ you have. It is better than any science, science fiction, porn, avatar, digital game, love. It is the mother of all creation. It created god. Your brain is a product of millennium of development. An X-box of the future, provided without instructions. Learn to use it. It will give you infinite pleasure. Infinite joy. Do not try and control it. Let it be, learn from it. Use any technique to learn.  Listen and learn to distinguish the nuances the subtleties. Like any class. You will always learn something even if it is that this is not for you. You will always learn something if you try to learn. Do something. Engage. Do not listen to your peers. They are in the same position as you. Learn from those that have survived. Learn from older adults. Learn from people who have been there. Lived it. Ask questions about what people have done, and not what they think. Look at outcomes. What have you done? Do not judge. Ask.

And lastly, be gentle.

You will live longer than you think you will. You will likely die in pain. Most will die in an institution. It seems like a long time from now, but think about when you left high school/college. How long ago was that? Time is moving faster the older you get. Remember your physics class. Yes it comes back. Everything comes back. Postmodernist physics. Time is relative. Well it is not longer in the classroom. It is in real life. The older you get the faster time goes by. You are still growing and developing. Your brain right now is mush. But think about this: you will never be younger than now, and your family and friends will never be younger than now. Love them. Whatever you feel, let it out. You have a short lease on life. Use it well. Be gentle on yourself. You are not perfect. Neither is everyone else. Don't hurt yourself, no drugs, protect yourself from head trauma, sleep as much as you can, enjoy the company of people, have intimate and loving sex with people you care for, eat quality not quantity, earn your food, put yourself in new situations everyday, do not do repetitive things, find an exercise you enjoy and do it as often as you can, be active, use your body and most important of all, be gentle with yourself. You will fail and fuck up. Move on.

Lie, Listen, Learn and Be Gentle.

By the time you get to be an old fart you might have some stories to tell. But by then will younger generations listen to you? Pass it on.

© USA Copyrighted 2013 Mario D. Garrett

Mario Garrett, Ph.D., is a professor at the school of social work, San Diego State University.

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