Posted by fxckfeelings on September 4, 2014Share This Post
For something that’s both incredibly intangible and subjective, potential is remarkably admired. At least money can buy you lunch and loved ones can share dessert; potential is usually only valuable in absentia, when you’re either mourning it’s loss or praying for it’s arrival. Instead of pining for how you could have been, or used to be, a “contender,” stay focused on meeting your daily priorities with the things that have actual value, like work, friendships, and family. Whether your potential was really lost or was never there to lose, you can always respect what you’ve done if it’s worthwhile and ignore what could have been.
I used to believe in seizing the day and not thinking too much about the future, but now that I’m in my sixties, I find the things that bother me just don’t go away— seizing the day is too hard, and thinking about the future too painful. I’ve got bad knees that make it very hard to climb stairs or get through an airport without a wheelchair and my monthly medications cost serious money. Feeling helpless is the first step to feeling hopeless, so I find myself thinking depressing thoughts and feeling depressed a lot of the time. My goal is to figure out a way to not let pain and negative thinking wear me down.
When you rely on a “seize the day” philosophy to get the most out of life, you often forget that many days have nothing much to seize. On other days, you may be forced to seize moments of eating shit and compromising in order to keep your promises or protect your future security. Crap-e Diem, indeed.
If seizing the day is what really matters, then yes, as you get older, there’s less that’s new and exciting, and your seizing opportunities are fewer. If, on the other hand, you also value the less glorious and not always enjoyable parts of life, like making a living, raising kids, and being a friend, then aging just means there’s less to seize and more to savor.
As you age, you may find it easier to be patient because you care less what others think and are more certain about the standards you’ve developed from your own experience. Aging may be more painful physically, but it can ease the mind if you can get better at accepting others and yourself.
No, it’s never fun to deal with chronic pain, weakness, and the humiliation of not having enough money. It’s never too late, however, to pay attention to values other than grace and excitement.
If your goal is to maintain relationships and interests, and make the most of them in spite of pain, then your greatest accomplishments are yet to come. They won’t be measured in pleasure or excitement, but more in the satisfaction of doing a good enough job when the days are slower and less seize-able.
“I feel like life has much less excitement to offer and much more pain as I get older, but I have never let pain stop me from living my life and keeping my commitments. I will stay focused on what matters, other than feeling good, and take pride in what I’m able to keep doing regardless of what age is doing to me.”
I wonder when my brother is ever going to go grow up, because he’s already 30 but he’s never thought seriously about having a career or any real responsibilities. He’s smart, funny, and friendly, but he’s always switching jobs, cities and girlfriends on what seems like a whim. He hates to ask for a handout, but he spends money without thinking when he has work, and then sells his possessions when he’s broke, so when he asks for money he really needs it. Still, he’s getting a little old for this routine, and my patience and ability to help him are both wearing thin. My goal is to figure out how to help him grow up and whether giving him money does any good.
It’s easy to think that someone who can’t settle down is afraid to grow up; they seem to be acting like kids on the cusp of adulthood who just can’t make the transition from messing around to getting a minivan. That’s certainly the man-boy narrative in too many movies and television shows, where the transformation from frat to family man seems like a basic right of passage. It’s nice to think they have a choice and can eventually get it together, but in real life, choice is probably as far removed from the situation as a mortgage application.
The truth is, many people who seem immature aren’t making a bad choice, they just have some bad wiring. They don’t see what they’re doing wrong, no matter how much good advice they receive from parents, teachers, friends and shrinks, and their impulses are less controllable than the weather.
They make constant changes because they feel certain that it’s important; they believe there’s really something bad and unacceptable about the current job, city, or girlfriend that can only be corrected by moving on. They simply can’t separate abstract goals and values from their feelings.
If your brother hasn’t responded yet to your advice or the natural lessons he’s learned from repeated losses, moves, and financial crises, you should probably assume he’s not going to and that no one is going to wind up knowing why. That’s just the way he’s made; he’s not incapable of commitment, just getting his brain to commit to anything but his current lifestyle.
Your goal, then, isn’t to help him grow up. It’s to protect him only when necessary (to the degree you can afford to), knowing there’s nothing you can do to prevent the next crisis and no point in talking about it. Enjoy his friendliness and respect your willingness to watch out for him, knowing how little you can really help him. He may never become responsible, but that doesn’t make him your responsibility.
“I feel my brother wrecks his life and blows off people who most care about him, but I know he can’t see what he’s doing. I’ll protect myself from getting too close while offering him help only when necessary, which won’t be often.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname