Accepting the Symptoms of Aging

One good thing about getting older is that you begin to disregard all those things that used to irk you. It’s like putting them forever in Spam. About two years ago I wrote a piece called “Retreat of the Elders” which listed some of the symptoms of a growing solitude as we age:

a penchant for eating at home; fewer visits with friends; a preference for books over TV; souring on politics and current affairs; pique with the common culture; not suffering fools gladly; and so on.

Lately I’ve discovered a few more things that aging permits us to dispense with. It’s not so much a withdrawal from the common culture as it is preserving one’s own equanimity. Here are a few big ones.

    • Leaving your house for social/cultural affairs. Your old motivations to party or attend an event don’t pull you out anymore. Home is comfort and convenience; parties are typically boring; and you could fall down on the way to a concert.
    • Driving. God, I used to love cars. Now they are an occasional convenience, nothing more. See “Old People Driving” for a full report. “Oldsters are naturally jealous about keeping their driving privileges, and they can get very testy about it.”
    • Drinking and eating. One’s appetite for both declines with age. Booze no longer has the effect it once had, and going out to eat is expensive and often disappointing.
    • Arguing with idiots. Actor Keanu Reeves “gave an interview about growing older and said he protects his peace by refusing to argue with anyone about anything. He said, ‘2+2 is 5? You are correct. Have a nice day.’” As we age our tendency is to avoid all bullshit if possible. Your drama is not my drama.

Now, the real test is to avoid being caught up emotionally with all the current Trump melodrama. The media constantly assaults us with the gravity of what’s at stake, the indictments, their historical relevance, the intransigence of MAGA, the folly of T’s clownish advisors—none of which we can do anything about.

Trump fatigue affects everybody, right and left. We’re stuck watching the same bad B-movie over and over with no end in sight. Or, pick your metaphor, you’re slogging through the desert with no water, cast adrift at sea, feasting on the sugar high of anger, etc.

We’re all confounded by Trump. But we don’t have to let him take over our lives. Older people have the luxury of memories, not just to escape the present chaos but to give us context for what we’re now living through. Better to be old these days than young.

6 Replies to “Accepting the Symptoms of Aging”

  1. I remember the previous “Elders” blog. This builds on it nicely. The last reason for thinking before leaving our house made me laugh.

  2. “…you could fall down on the way to a concert.” As an aficianado of NYT obits, I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen the following phrase – “…he was hospitalized after a fall.” As much as I dread the idea of moving, I’m pretty sure getting out of my two-story condo would be a smart thing to do. Thanks for some useful reminders about how much we elders can shed if we’ll let ourselves. Charlie P.

  3. Reminds me of Jim Breedlove. Just months before he died, he told me, ‘I don’t argue anymore. I have given it up.’ Wise man.

  4. In the Hindu tradition, a man having fulfilled his obligations as a householder, takes the begging bowl and enters the last phase of his life as a sanyasi- a wandering ascetic. Doesn’t sound so bad.

  5. Thanks for this blog, John. It enabled me to reflect on the numerous changes I’ve made in my own life, especially since I turn 73 in a few weeks.

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