Making Peace with Your Aging
An internal dialogue to help you focus on constructive thoughts and actions.
Posted February 7, 2015
Perhaps the hardest thing to accept is your aging. Each sign of decline is a reminder that you’re moving ever closer to the end, and the closer you get, the more limited your powers and the more likely you’ll be in pain.
Yet accept it we must because, even if you take good care of yourself, decline and end are inevitable.
But it’s a lot easier to say “Accept it,” than to accept it. Perhaps this internal dialogue will help.
Person: Every time I see or feel a sign of aging, I catastrophize it and am reminded of my accelerating decrepitude.
Alter ego: Remember what your doctor said. Unless a pain is scary severe or lasts at least a week, it’s probably nothing.
Person: But there are a lot of signs of aging that almost assuredly are something. It’s just that I don’t want to see a doctor about it. Chances are, they can’t do much about it anyway. And if they can, too often the treatment is as bad as the disease. And that assumes they don’t screw up. I can’t get that statistic out of my mind that hospitals alone, kill 200,000-400,000 patients EVERY YEAR and countless more hospital patients suffer excess morbidity—unnecessarily long recoveries and pain. And what about all the out-patients? Unless I’m having a heart attack or some horrible pain, I just need to avoid the damn doctors.
Alter ego: Then you have to work on breaking your chain of spiraling, depressing thoughts: When you notice a symptom, unless it’s scary severe or has lasted at least a week, you have to distract yourself and focus on something constructive. Otherwise you taint whatever time you do have left.
Person: But how do I do that?
Alter ego: Ultimately, despite all those books on how to motivate yourself, in the end, it comes down to accepting that senescence is the natural order of things and that you must have the willpower to distract yourself---and to keep distracting yourself every time you have one of those aging-related thoughts. Eventually, that will become more automatic.
Person: I wish I believed in an afterlife. That would make it easier.
Alter ego: But you know you can’t buy that so don’t waste your time thinking about that or any other wishful thinking. Remember that what matters to you is being productive and if you waste any time thinking about your inevitable decline and fall, you’re not being productive. Make the most of each minute, dude. And who knows, maybe if you force yourself to not think so much about your death, you might be a happier person.
Person: I doubt it—that feels hard-wired—but I suppose I have nothing to lose by trying it.
Alter ego: You must make yourself so immersed in other things, especially important things, that there’s less room in your brain to focus on dying.
Person: Like what?
Alter ego: Like writing another book, maybe about aging.
Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia.