Caught Off Guard



“If you are pining for youth I think it produces a stereotypical old man because you only live in  memory, you live in a place that doesn’t exist. I think aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” – David Bowie

It happens to all of us, often when we least expect it. Someone says or does something that catches us completely by surprise, and not in a good way. Or, we’re shocked that the price of gas, food, and restaurant meals has skyrocketed, even though we were forewarned. We feel blindsided and unprepared, unsure of how to respond or adapt.

Okay, so welcome to a day in the life of you, me, everyone. But I have been thinking about a different category of caught off guard experience, the type that’s more personal. Like the time my niece realized that she had crossed an invisible border:

Aunt Jean, my hair’s going gray.

No it isn’t. Don’t be ridiculous!

It is, look. See? Right there.

Are you sure it’s not just a highlight?  

It was the inevitable first-gray hair milestone.

Or in my case:

Seriously, I have put on weight.

No way. You are always thin; that’s just who you are.

Not anymore. Wait until you see my muffin top.

No way!

Clearly, denial goes both ways when it comes to recognizing and allowing for the fact that we all change, and we are always changing. Change is inevitable, whether it’s good, bad, or neutral. It is also downright startling because as it catches us off-guard, it forces us to see ourselves differently and to adapt our self-perception in some way.

Especially if it is related to aging.

I’ve had a lot of this type of change lately, and the pace and frequency is clearly accelerating. I’m not denying it, but I am also not liking it!  That’s not a good place to hang out in for long, I know. So. In the spirit of personal accountability, I’ve started to ask myself how I can broaden my perspective on age-related change. Instead of noticing only the less desirable changes, I’ve consciously shifted my focus and challenged myself to look for those caught off guard, aging-related changes that are indisputably positive. Here’s the really cool thing: I haven’t had to look as long or as hard as I thought I might. Instead, I have found that:

  • I pick my battles as carefully as I pick my friends
  • I catch judgmental thoughts and replace them with “They, like me, are doing the best they know to do” or, “Who am I to say?”
  • I don’t concern myself with looking the fool as long as my intentions are coming from the right place
  • I am ever-curious, never dismissive of the young
  • I forgive myself instead of relentlessly beating myself up
  • I root out envy on the regular – like housework
  • I am kinder to myself, period
  • I look for the good in everyone, even when it’s hiding out
  • I continue to seek the learning and the meaning in my life’s hardest experiences
  • I gratefully recognize that I am becoming the person I was meant to be.

Serendipitously, I recently stumbled upon David Bowie’s quote and looked at a framed photo of myself on my 40th birthday. Yeah, in some ways, I absolutely rocked. But I wouldn’t trade my “now” self for anything because aging “done” with care and attention does indeed bring us back to who we were meant to be.  I’ll take that.


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