With old age, there isn’t much to keep us awake at night (well, kids continue to do that). We have endured many challenges, and we have survived, so we learn to relativize circumstances.
We get selective about the fights we choose to fight and when it’s not worth the trouble we just say “I’m too old for this.”
What matters most is the work. Does it give you pleasure, or hope? Does it sustain your soul? My work as a climate activist is the hardest and most fascinating I’ve ever done. I’m too old for the dark forces, for hopelessness and despair. If everyone just kept their eyes on the ball, and followed through each swing, we’d all be more productive, and not just on the golf course.
The key to life is resilience, and I’m old enough to make such a bald statement. We will always be knocked down. It’s the getting up that counts. By the time you reach upper middle age, you have started over, and over again.
And, I might add, resilience is the key to feeling 15 again. Which is actually how I feel most of the time.
But I am too old to try to change people. By now I’ve learned, the very hard way, that what you see in someone at the beginning is what you get forevermore. Most of us are receptive to a bit of behavior modification. But through decades of listening to people complain about marriages or lovers, I hear the same refrains.
I have come to realize that there is comfort in the predictability, even the ritualization, of relationship problems. They become a dance step; each partner can twirl through familiar moves, and do-si-do until the music stops.
Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? I’m simply walking away; I have little fight left in me. It’s easier all around to accept that friendships have ebbs and flows, and indeed, there’s something quite beautiful about the organic nature of love.
I used to think that one didn’t make friends as one got older, but I’ve learned that the opposite happens. Sometimes, unaccountably, a new person walks into your life, and you find you are never too old to love again. And again. (See resilience.)
One is never too old for desire. Having entered the twilight of my dating years, I can tell you it is much easier to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of anticipation and disappointment when you’ve had plenty of experience with the shoals and eddies of shallow waters. Emphasis on shallow. By now, we know deep.
Take a pass on bad manners, on thoughtlessness, on unreliability, on carelessness and on all the other ways people distinguish themselves as unappealing specimens. Take a pass on your own unappealing behavior, too: the pining, yearning, longing and otherwise frittering away of valuable brainwaves that could be spent on Sudoku, or at least a jigsaw puzzle, if not that Beethoven sonata you loved so well in college.
My new mantra is liberating. At least once a week I encounter a situation that in the old (young) days would have knocked me to my knees or otherwise spun my life off center.
Now I can spot trouble 10 feet away (believe me, this is a big improvement), and I can say to myself: Too old for this. I spare myself a great deal of suffering, and as we all know, there is plenty of that to be had without looking for more.
If there can be such a thing as a best-selling app like Yo, which satisfies so many urges to boldly announce ourselves, I want one called 2old4this. A signature kiss-off to all that was once vexatious. A goodbye to all that has done nothing but hold us back. That would be an app worth having. But, thankfully, I’m too old to need such a thing.