As we age, we’re supposed to grow wiser. That’s what we always heard would be the reward, that we would know more, have more experiences to draw from, and maybe even have more patience with the little things because we’d seen it all. So in theory, we would not get as upset about things or at least, we would let the little things upset us as much.
That’s the theory. I’m still waiting on that to kick in.
Granted, there are a lot of things I don’t worry about anymore, which is a very good thing. I attempt an acceptable level of hygiene, but I don’t get too wound up about a wrinkled pair of jeans or the different shades of skin that cover my legs. I actually have moments in the car when the tailgating hot rod behind me doesn’t send me into fits of bad language. I can let it go when I have to step over a present a neighbor’s pet left for me. Okay. That’s all quite evolved.
But I’m finding that other things really are like sand in the vaseline. Irritants that my soul just can’t abide. And maybe surprisingly, it’s directed quite often at other baby boomers and beyond. Because surely they should know better!
For example, I don’t understand:
• How can you still think you are better than someone else, just because you happen to be born a certain color?
• How can you still make inappropriate jokes that demean other human beings? Or let your friends do the same and not say something?
• How can it be okay with you to attend church each Sunday and then give your allegiance to a politician who advocates lies, sexual misconduct, hatred, greed and disregard for people whose profession is checking on the government and reporting the truth back to the people?
• How can you visit a beautiful, pristine wilderness area and toss your garbage out the car window, leave your campfire smoldering in a fire danger zone, blast your iPod on trail, and honk at a fawn that isn’t crossing the road fast enough for you?
• How can you think cheating someone else is okay, whether it’s through cheap tipping, cutting them off in line, or not letting them into your club/neighborhood/place of worship/swimming pool?
I just don’t understand. We’re older. We’ve lived. We’ve been hurt. We’ve learned how hard life can be sometimes. How fragile we all are, and how we have no idea if the person next to us is dealing with a disease, a major loss, fears or worse. And since we don’t know, we should know by now to err on the side of kindness.
Because we know how easily that person could be us.
These things irritate me, I admit it. Which I don’t think is a bad thing, because the day they stop bothering me, i will know that I have really checked out on the world.
I know there are those who will say well it doesn’t really matter, as long as you don’t actually hurt someone, you can do or say what you please. I disagree. I think you are hurting someone. I believe that principle that the ripple of a butterfly’s wings really does eventually reach the rainforest.
And I think we who are showing some gray have a responsibility to add some gentility to the universe. Not just for each other, but for ourselves as well. According to Random Acts of Kindness:
“Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re in anxious or shy in a social situation….According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high…. Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!”
Of course the irony is that I’m getting irritated at how hateful other people are. So I need to chill, right? Like I said, I’m trying. But I’m also hoping maybe others will stop a minute to think about the impact they are having on younger people. The example they are setting for their grandchildren. And how they are affecting their own health.
Wisdom is a gift. Let’s use it for the greater good. And maybe all of us can see in each other a soul that has walked a journey we can’t imagine, but we can respect.
Life is short.
And maybe if we stop clenching our fists and holding on so tight, we can receive even more. It’s way past time to worry about what the “other guy” is getting that we didn’t. That’s kinda what progress is all about it, right? That the next generation has it a bit easier? And for sure, that next generation isn’t going to look exactly like us. I’m all for that.
Just some things to think about. I’m going to work harder myself, especially when the internet goes out again.
Breathe. Just breathe. It’s worked before. I have a lot of practice at it.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau