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Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Years Roll On

This year is winding to a close, and I say good riddance.  This seems to be what I say at the end of every year.  Why don't I ever say, "What a great year!  Sure would like to live it over again without changing a thing!"  Humans tend to focus on their hurts and the negative events.  Read the news - not much uplifting stuff in there, really.  There is quite a lot of hyperbolic, catastrophic prose designed to increase readership/viewership.  We love that bad news and we pick at our scabs.

One of the few advantages of getting older is you stop believing the hype, usually. Our reality usually isn't as bad as some people say.  Things are also generally not as great as the optimists claim.  Every era is Dickensian - "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

In youth and middle age, there are always so many plans to put in place and execute, children to raise, a world to save.   Getting stuff done is satisfying, of course, but the effort and focus takes heaps of energy.  As the years roll on, the planning time frame becomes shorter.  Some things can't get done with the remaining time and resources.  Content  older people embrace this and begin shedding those things that are no longer useful or possible.  Aging malcontents rail at the fading of the light, ruminate on past mistakes/missed opportunities, and spray negative crap on everyone.

Once you hit 50 or so, each passing year brings diminished physical abilities and endurance.  Yes, one can fight back via diet and exercise, but the slide will happen no matter how hard one resists it. The alleged offset to physical decline is the popular cliche' - aging brings wisdom.  I say, bullshit to that - wisdom comes from the right experiences at the right time.  There are wise teenagers and foolish octogenarians. If you are reasonably self-aware, you do learn to waste less time on anger and worry as you age.  Since many humans are in a constant state of angry fretfulness, the fact that old folks have let go of that mode of living makes them appear to be wise.

An interesting piece appeared in the New York Times a few days ago that ponders the reality of getting old.  The article quoted the great neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks, who died in the summer of this year:

“And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself.”

So as the years roll on, may we all follow Dr. Sacks' path and focus on finding that sense of peace.

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