What’s So Great About Getting Older?
We finally learn it's not personal.
Posted Jun 28, 2016
What’s so great about getting older?
A lot, actually. But of all the things I have learned in my lifetime, one stands out the most. Taking things personally can lead to all kinds of complications.
Milk gets spilled. Clouds form. Missteps happen. People misbehave (or behave differently than we would have them to). Siblings squabble. Pets die. Rain falls.
In other words, stuff happens.
Over the course of our lives, tons of things occur that we simply can’t anticipate. Did we think Great Britian’s populace would vote to exit the European Union? Did we ever consider a buffoon like Donald Trump would make it this far in the Presidential race? Since when are there tornadoes in Hamburg, Germany?
We can’t control anything other than ourselves and even then we sometimes have a hard time with self-control too. So why do we feel so driven to control things at all?
The desire for control stems from our primordial instincts of survival. The prepared survive. The unprepared don’t. Today preparation looks very different than our simplistic lifestyle back in the days of the dinosaurs. But even in modern times with our access to a billion shades of grey, our black and white thinking remains.
The other day I met with a new friend who is about my age. We have a lot in common, including our names and our appearance. In fact, I met her because someone else mistook me for this woman. We discovered we had the same attitude about life and how we manage conflict.
“Why get upset over that which I can’t control?” she said to me as if she were reading my mind.
She admitted that twenty years ago she couldn’t possibly have the same perspective. Stuck in a traffic jam on a bus for eight hours the night before, she decided to surrender to the situation. She identified how quickly time seemed to flow now that she had reached a certain age. Why would she spend those units of time on something as unpleasant as rage?
That is not to say we can’t or shouldn’t feel rage when appropriate. I am a fan of letting it all hang out when you need to. But the sooner you do, the sooner you can regain your inner equilibrium.
Possible ingredients for calm:
- Acceptance. Certain things will never change. Understand your role in affecting change where you can.
- Surrender. This ingredient differs from acceptance because you are literally giving in to the situation, releasing any thought or expectation about it.
- Big Picture. When something unexpected happens, zoom out to the larger landscape of things. How big of an issue is this really?
- Golden Nugget. Silver Lining. Gift Wrapped in Barbed Wire. Whatever you call it, remember this thing needs to happen so the next, better thing can emerge.
- Gratitude. We tend to focus on the negative (it has to do with our primordial programming). So what if two shitty things happened today? How many good things can you count that happened too? Focus on them instead.
- Connection. Sometimes we need friends to pull us out of our funk. Talk to someone who cares about you. They may not tell you what you want to hear, but cherish their perspective for what it is – their perspective. Maybe it will lead you in the right direction, which is back to yourself where the upset began.
It is indeed marvelous to get older. Life has a way of sandpapering our rough edges for a smoother, more glorious ride into infinity.