"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Post-sixty worries

Last Friday I turned 60. It didn't feel any different than any other day of the week. I didn't feel older. Each day passes and I never feel older. I ride my horses and lift heavy things and climb up chairs to reach cabinet shelves and laugh and talk and don't feel the years accumulating.

Still, I have an increasing worry.

I recently went through a "thing" with a friend. They were a good friend, and then a few things happened to make me feel awkward and they felt offended and it went downhill from there. We managed to patch things up, in the following way:

1. Everytime I discussed my pain, I was told that my feelings were wrong (or nonexistent), and that this person hurt more.

2. Everytime they discussed their feelings, I tried very hard to acknowledge them without feeling like I was responsible for the way they felt. This is hard for me, since I think I'm supposed to make everyone feel good and be happy and like me.

We agreed to let go of the past, and I will, and I also accept that I'm not going to change this person and I can't be the boss of them.

Here's the thing: I've been noticing that this person has become more self-centered as they grow older and I'm frightened that I will become the same. Our conversations revolve around their news, their activities. They become increasingly irritated over things that don't go their way. I spend more and more time with them being less and less engaged.

There have been a couple of news articles about middle-age and narcissism. I can see how an older person might think, "My time here is winding down. I'm only here for a few more years. I deserve to move to the front of the line."

But I don't want to, at least to demand it. I explained this all to my husband, who said, "Everyone gets to be a cranky old person."

I don't want to be that person. I don't want to give the stink-eye to a young mother with a screaming child because I've forgotten what it's like to be that mom. I don't want to hear other people's woes as a competition to prove my aches and pains are worse than theirs. I don't want to lose my empathy, my humanity.

Can I ask for your help? If I start to become that person, will you tell me? From all indications, I may defend myself. I may fight you. You might have to be braver than you ever thought you could be. But trust me, I want to be saved.

I want my tombstone to say, "She was a real human being," not "She was a pissy old broad." Oh, and "She was really, really old" would be good.


Tameri Etherton said...

Pffft! I look forward to the day I can shake my cane at the young 'uns and yell, 'Get off my lawn!'. In fact, my son practices with me. Yeah, we're weird.

I promise you Gayle, if you ever start getting uppity, I'll let you know. But I seriously doubt if you could ever be grouchy. You're just way too nice.

Me, on the other hand, sheesh. Smack me if I ever get too narcissistic. For real.

Gayle Carline said...

I can just see the both of us, tremendously old, bent-over, wrinkled ladies, having a slapping contest. Then forgetting why we were slapping each other.

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.