Singer-songwriter David LaFlamme (the band was called It’s a Beautiful Day, in the 60’s) wrote a song called “Time”. The lyrics are actually a riff on a piece of classical literature, but LaFlamme took a piece of ‘classic’ art and made it accessible to anyone and everyone that has wigged-out about the passage of time. His opening lines…
Time is too slow for those who wait;
And time is too swift for those who fear.
Time is too long for those who grieve;
And time is too short for those that laugh
In other words, Time is never what we want it to be: too little or too much. I like the argument that ‘Time’ itself is just an artificial construct; but I see something going on when I look in the mirror – letting me know that days turn into months and months into years.
Growing older is one way of marking time. Making peace with the fact that 20 turns into 30, 30 into 40, and so on doesn’t need to create personal or professional panic. Aside from all of the media-hype (now “Goop Labs” on Netflix – great: if I can’t afford plasma injections I’m going to turn into a hag), the fundamental truth about growing older really involves a lot of good news. Here are are few (only 5 – there are many more) Reasons to Stop Stressing About Getting Older and feel happier:
1. Your 20’s might feel like a train-wreck: your career, your love life, your personal identity, your appearance, your parents, your friends, your insecurities and self-worth issues. Check out any book on developmental human psychology in your local bookstore or library. You’ll see that this stage of adult life is the one that we all struggle to survive, regardless of what kind of environments we were born into. When I graduated from high school, I was a shy nerd from a disjointed family. I didn’t have the confidence to apply for high-octane scholarships and colleges. Instead, I did the plod from community college to university and achieved a 4.0 throughout. I chose a safe route, based on what I knew I needed. By contrast, I had friends that rocketed straight from high school into ivy league colleges. They either crashed-and-burned, or, they degree’d successfully but grew way too serious, way too fast. Accept what science has to say about this time of life: there’s optimism and all kinds of energy, but also a lot of flailing, through trial and error. You have a lot of company, despite the swagger you see on and in the media.
2.Career success, relationship success, power and presence in the world, and money are all admirable goals and components of a well-lived life. But we all see – we can’t help but see – the many examples of people who’ve achieved these things and then, over time, lost one or more of them. There’s no code or mandate that “by the time I’m 30 / 40 I should have…”. That’s crazy-talk. Why? Because if you’re living your life authentically – being true to who you are and what you want – your timing is your own. Try not to compare yourself with others. Practice compassion and patience – with your Self.
3.No one escapes gravity. Almost everyone on social media has discovered and uses Beauty Face. Even Gwyneth Paltrow (I’m picking on her, having just read a Review of “Goop Lab”) is going to have to accede that Time changes all things physical. You have one of two choices: get it ‘lifted’, colored, abraded, sculpted, tucked or enhanced; or, learn to love every little crease and pooch and scar that Time gives you. Remember: no one gets out of this experience called Life alive. Do the best you can do to stay healthy and fit, whatever that means to you. Allow yourself to find your own best routines: they may not involve Lululemon. Obsessing over the changes in your body and face is a downward spiral.
4.Where feelings and emotions are concerned, Time can indeed heal, if we let it. I don’t know of any adult – ‘regular’ person, or celebrity; rich or poor; super-intellect or average thinker; professional or blue collar; young or old – who hasn’t made mistakes and who hasn’t accumulated regret. Everyone has skeletons-in-the closet, embarrassments, bad memories of astonishingly- stupid moments. It really helps to think of our Lifetime as a process, instead of a road leading to some kind of glorious and happy ending. The whole idea is to make mistakes, but to learn from them and make a little progress by tomorrow. Yes, I know: there is horrible suffering out there in people’s lives. Mental illness, addictions, extreme poverty and abuse. I have personal knowledge and experience – through my family – with these issues. Sometimes the process is day-by-day. Sometimes it’s minute-by-minute. The will to survive cannot be underestimated.
5.Geriatric specialist Dr. Louise Aronson (in her 50’s now) has made a broad study, in collaboration with a lot of other health practitioners, of the passage of time known as Aging. In her new book, “Elderhood”, she disputes the use of the word ‘old’ because, she says, there are so many shades of ‘age’. Have you ever met someone who’s in their 20’s but thinks and acts like they’re at least 45? Yes, Aronson says, there’s Young-Old; Old-Young; and everything in between. This is because chronology (actual age), mental attitude (outlook), emotional stability and the general sense of well-being are not mutually exclusive when it comes to defining whether or not Time has been resisted, or embraced. In fact, she says (based on her and her colleagues’ studies), “Most people are in their 60’s before they achieve a sense of wellbeing” that is usually attributed to the carefree days of early adulthood. This is because, with the passage of Time, in general, our “tolerance for ambiguity and complexity” increases dramatically. We don’t sweat the small stuff as much; we learn to roll with it; we don’t take ourselves so seriously; we laugh more and aren’t afraid to be afraid. In other words, Life just makes more sense because our approach to it changes…relaxes.
Whatever stepping-stone of Time you’re on, take a minute, or maybe longer, to linger in your own idea of how you want to Spend Time. There is a finite amount of it, for each one of us, but we get to decide how to best enjoy it.