Evidence to the Contrary

MiddleSister

There seems to be a mindset that aging is a bad thing and that the older we get the more we must take on an increasingly sedate and less active lifestyle.  For example, have you ever heard anyone say or imply some derivative of the following…

 “You know, when you turn <insert an age> you start to <insert bullet list of looming ailments and physical limitations that supposedly accompany aforementioned age>.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you turn <insert an age>.  That’s just the way life is.  What can you do about it?”

I reject this line of thinking for the single reason that I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary in the lives of multiple people I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with.

One of my favorite encounters occurred during a backpacking trip around the Three Sisters mountains in Central Oregon back in 2010.  My buddies and I met with 3 people on the trail riding horses:  An older gentleman, a lady and a guy in his late 20s to early 30s.  The gentleman leaned forward in his saddle with a relaxed yet confident posture as we all exchanged pleasantries.  “So, what are you all up to today?” I asked.  “Well,” the gentleman responded, “today is my 85th birthday.  This is my daughter” he said as he gestured to his right, “and this is my grandson.  We’re camping across the meadow down by…”

I was so blown away by what he said, and what I saw, that I don’t remember a thing he said after that.  This guy was celebrating his 85th birthday on horseback in the back country of the Three Sisters Wilderness, while other people several decades younger have a hard time getting off the sofa without getting gassed!

The one thing I remember most about this man, besides his comment, were his eyes.  It’s hard to describe, but it was as if they sparkled with the flame of life that was obviously burning bright behind them.

I never got his name, but I will never forget him, or the lesson he unintentionally taught me about aging that day.  We’re not required to adopt the mindset that tells us we should slow down or throttle back on what we enjoy doing, simply because we reach a certain age.  We have a choice not only in how we age, but in our attitude toward aging as well.

This 85 year-old-young guy was just one of many people I’ve meet who, through their continued active lives, are calling “BS” on the lie that as we age we need to slow down, do less, and become less.  I agree with them, and call “BS” as well; because through their examples, I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary.

How Not to be Crotchety

I believe that the daily realization and internalization of the following statement will keep you from turning into a crotchety old person, regardless of your age:  Everyone is not like you.

I know that’s obvious, but think about how often you’ve been frustrated or upset because someone:

  • Didn’t respond to something the way you thought they should have.
  • Didn’t say the exact words you wanted to hear
  • Didn’t show the same importance toward something as you thought it warranted.
  • Expressed a thought or idea that didn’t agree with the way you think.

These frustrations occur because we are not all alike.  Our experiences, environments, beliefs, and personalities are all different, which causes each of us to think, speak, act, and prioritize differently.

While we usually applaud our differences, I’ve realized recently that I’ve been allowing these differences to needlessly frustrate me.  With regard to colleagues or my spouse, I’ve allowed these differences to create frustration and impact how I respond to and treat others.  In short, it’s negatively impacted my attitude, and it’s time I change.

I realize that the lens I view situations through is not the same lens that everyone else uses.  In fact, the lenses for viewing the world are as varied as the people who inhabit it.  In light of that reality, how can we any of us expect others to always think and behave just like we do?

When I have the displeasure of meeting crotchety people of any age, there is usually a frustration expressed that the world, or at least their little part of it, is not as they would like it.  There is rigidity to their thinking that is unwilling to consider a different point of view.  They often feel that thinks would be better if everyone else just thought the same way about things as they do.  Not only is their mindset unrealistic, it leads to continued frustration and a negative attitude about the people around them.

I don’t want to be like that.  I’m making the decision to be aware of the differences between my thinking and the thinking of others, and to remove my expectation that others should be thinking the same way I do.  While that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone’s way of thinking, it does mean that I don’t have to be frustrated by it or have my attitude adversely impacted.  And that sounds good to me!