Hello again from the last frontier!
Today is Mom-in-law Nancy’s birthday (Hi Mom! Happy Birthday!), she’s over the age of seventy though you’d never guess it. How old is old? I remember as a kid that old was anyone roughly over the age of thirty. That border has been pushed further and further along as I have aged. But what’s odd to me is that I know folks who are forty who I consider old and folks in their fifties, sixties, seventies, even eighties that I think of as ‘spring chickens’. So what makes a person old and how does it happen? Well, as a kind of public service, I’ve compiled this handy guide entitled…
How to be Old – Four Easy Steps
Step One – Stop learning
Have you ever heard this before, “Well, that’s just the way I’ve always done it”? I love this one. This is what people say when they know their way of doing something is outdated, inefficient, unsafe, or downright stupid but they refuse to learn another way. If you want to get real old, real fast then throw your hands over your ears whenever someone tries to show you something new.
All of the young old people that I know have one quality in common – they are willing to learn, willing to try new things, willing to say, “Hey, maybe there’s a better way.” Tap Tapley, longtime Baja visitor, co-founder of NOLS and the guy who brought Outward Bound to North America, is about eighty-seven years young and happily accepts new ideas. I’ve heard the Prez give him tips on the tennis court (yes, he still plays) and Tap listens intently then says, “I’ll have to try that!”…and he does. He is the youngest old person I know; his enthusiasm for learning is the reason why, I’m positive of that.
I’m not sure why we decide that we know enough, that no more input is necessary. Yes, learning is work but the rewards can be so great. Just ask Miss Sue who played her first game of Texas Hold Em Poker last week, drew a straight flush and kicked all our butts (including that of her husband, All-in-Jim).
Step Two – Stay in the Box
Now that you’ve figured out the universe and realize there is nothing further that life can teach you it’s time to hunker down well inside of your comfort zone. DO NOT travel to new places! DO NOT try to meet new people! DO NOT do anything to upset the status quo!!! If learning is bad, the unknown is a hundred times worse.
I’m so proud of my sister Kelly. After years of plugging away at the same job, in the same place, she leapt outside the box and moved to a new store and a new position. Now she tells me that she’s applied for another, better, position and has a good chance of getting it. WAY TO GO KELLY!! I must confess that I thought she’d be working the same job, unhappy but chained to her pension and vacation time, for the rest of her life. Since her big change, I’ve noticed a little spark in her emails, an excitement long missing from her life. My sister seems to have grown younger right before my very eyes!
It is easy to settle in, to get comfortable and never stir even when you’re miserable. Yes, you can’t stand your ________________(fill in the blank with: job, love life, house, weight, appearance, social life, etc.) but better the devil you know than the devil you don’t right? Yes, you could change but then there’s all those “What ifs” and they are terrifying.
Step Three – Take It All For Granted
This is perhaps the easiest step along the path to oldness. Even I, adventurer and regular box-stepper-out-of-er, fall into this one time and time again. Having Sis-in-Law Becky here visiting has made that abundantly clear to me. So much of Baja has become so everyday to the Prez and me that we don’t even notice it anymore. After a few weeks you just get used to the fact that the sun shines every day, the water is at your doorstep and your life is a kind of permanent vacation. Then along comes a woman who is on a real, and much needed, vacation, and who is practically bursting at the seams with wonder and excitement over every little detail.
“Look!! Look!!” Becky squeals as a school of Sergeant Majors swim under the boat; neither the Prez nor I so much as raise an eyebrow – we’ve seen thousands of them. Are we jaded? Well, we’re certainly not going to jump up and down every time we see one of those tiny striped fish or we’d be jumping up and down every time we went near the water but it’s good to see it all through new eyes, to take a moment and acknowledge how cool this stuff is.
The truly old don’t look for beauty and wonder and so they never find them, even when they are all around.
Step Four – Expect the Worst
The glass is not just half empty folks, it has a leak and pretty soon all the water will run out before you have a chance to drink it, and knowing your luck the glass will tip over and break and you’ll never get another one again as long as you live and so you will spend the rest of your dreary existence thirsty. The old have an uncanny ability to see the negative, to expect the worst in any situation.
It’s true I am a bit of a black-hat thinker at times but mostly that’s because the Prez is so damn yellow-hat he never even considers the possibility that things could go wrong or what the consequences might be (I love that about him, don’t get me wrong), and I don’t let my knowledge of what might happen prevent me from moving forward.
If you look at my little profile on the top left of the screen, you will see that I’ve quoted Helen Keller, “Life is a daring risk or nothing at all”. Think you’ve got it bad? Imagine going through life blind, deaf and mute! Every moment, even the smallest tasks, were a risk for this woman.
Focusing on the negative is like sitting in a box of wet cement – it’s only a matter of time before you’re stuck, watching life pass you by. But all really old people know this.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my little guide, now you too can become old and cranky! If I’ve missed anything or you have some other ideas on how to be old, I’d love to hear them. In the meantime, take a moment to raise your glasses to my mom Nancy, one of the truly young!
p.s. – I also have to insert a shameless congratulation to nephew Scotty who won two golds and a silver in his very first tae kwon do tournament! Good going Scooter!!! And also to niece Reva (Becky’s daughter) who won first place for her skit and designed some fabulous costumes at Cos-Play, a kind of anime/manga convention (hope I got that right) Hooray Reva!!!
p.p.s – I won first place in our weekly Texas Hold Em Poker tournament! Yippee for me!
p.p.p.s – Emily has done nothing worth writing about at all.
p.p.p.p.s – Check out the new photos in the Baja 2006 photo album
p.p.p.p.p.s – Prez was stung by a scorpion. He is expected to live, the scorpion was not so lucky.
Until next week, I hope this finds you all healthy, happy and lovin’ life!