Wednesday, September 8, 2021

What does it feel like to be old?

I wrote the following on Quora in reply to “What does it feel like to be old?” and I thought I’d throw it on the pile here. 
Physically: recall a time when you were sick and you had to go out and do something, but weren't completely sure you could physically handle it. There's a teetery feeling, straight from your gut, as it dawns on you, in waves of horror and disgust, that you may not actually be able to do what you set out to do. As you quit, you're left feeling weak and frail. That's what the frailty of old age feels like. It's only horrific if you fight against it - i.e. fail to lower your own expectations and let go of the frustration. If you've prepared by practicing surrender (e.g. via meditation), there's much less anguish.

Psychologically: have you ever been in a household where small children were throwing a tantrum over some minor preference - like who they get to sit next to at the dinner table? Once the parents sort that out, they look up at you and ask where YOU'D like to sit, and you hasten to reply "Anywhere! I'll just sit anywhere! Doesn't matter!" That's what the psychological perspective of old age feels like. People around you seem like needy spoiled children chasing after ridiculously petty goals with no sense of proportion. You yourself need much less; you're more content just within yourself. That's why old people often decline to express preferences and insist that people not worry too much about them.
There are, of course, exceptions (as with any observations about humanity). But this is how I see it as I, myself, age, and as I've carefully watched how people's minds work.

1 comment:

mom said...

I've never heard it expressed better: and this from someone who is miraculously healthy, but in her 80s. Bravo Jim.

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