Hell, folks. "Ya'll" can wallow in age-hate. I'm gonna eat that shit for breakfast.
The above titular comment was found on Twitter, natch. Of course it was. However you can find this and far worse thrown at anyone in general past a Certain Age, lobbed at nobody in particular but definitely intended to do harm. The lobber-in-chief was someone far younger than I am. Well of course it was.
To that all I can say, to quote the late, great George Carlin, is wait a while.
I've been having a lot of fun with this kind of stuff lately. The more I see it, the less it irks me. Used to. I got all het up and self-righteous and would take that person to task and list all my badass creds.
Like they care, right? As if I'm going to change anyone's mind.
Really. Nobody cares, other than those who have similar journeys, battles, goals and desired outcomes. Those folks are my peeps. Likely we are all searching for better answers (I have a few, below, YAAY) and a better life in a world where idiot insults like this abound.
I sure wasted a lot of bandwidth, headspace and valuable time trying to back folks down. They won't. Until, of course, they get to middle age, then to old age, and somehow just can't understand where all this age hate came from.
Perhaps one sign of advancing maturity (bwahahahahaha) is when we really do just stop trying so hard to change the minds of anyone who offends us in some way. Rather, like a group of folks I just read about in a research project, from here on out I'm going to choose to use that as rocket fuel.
Sure took me long enough.
The research project was described in this book I've been inhaling, and have been hinting at to my Saga supporters (have you bought it yet? DO IT NOW). I've rarely been so validated and so supremely embarrassed in other areas where I have been so spectacularly WRONG about certain things.
And that is a fine thing.
Where I have been made really wrong, the news is really, really good.
Here's the book:
The book is all about how our expectations can change our outcomes. Sounds very New Age, very The Secret. Having drop-kicked both of those to the curb a while back as both tended to imply all you hadda do is..... this book is a big lungful of fresh air, for its focus on the research. Real science, real research, real results.
I'm all in.
I've already fired this recommendation off to Saga supporters Jim and Nurit, and now that I am almost at the end of this I am ready to discuss it with all of you.
While many of you read me because I write about Aging Vibrantly and my focus on fitness, you also know that one of the recurring themes both in my life and in my resume is overcoming. Resilience comes of overcoming, and in my case there have been some ugly-bombs to recover from. Nalini MacNab knows something about that, having overcome a debilitating stroke. At some point at some age, we've all overcome plenty.
Perhaps the difference is how we frame it, which is part of the trick. Anyone familiar with Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP knows this term. The book takes reframing into account as well.
That said, there is this powerful question: why did my big brother take his life (thirteen years ago next month) but I am still around? He was vastly more talented in every single thing and then some, and people were slavishly devoted to him. I can't relate to either. But he gave up.
What was it about people who pull more than their share of Jokers out of the card deck but they hang out and are happy anyway?
This book has a lot of those answers for me. Perhaps far more importantly, each chapter includes a how-to, with exercises and challenges that appear so simple as to be discarded as meaningless.
Don't do that. Because a good bit of what we can do IS that simple. Reframing, rethinking and redirecting do not have to take heroic effort. That said, we still have to do the work even if the exercises are simple.
Robson walks us through a raft of research around how our expectations can dictate our experiences across a whole range of topics right through how teachers' and managers' expectations of us can torpedo a fine career. Sound familiar?
In my case it was math. I was a straight-A math student for four years. Then, the mother of a fellow student at St. Joseph's was our math teacher for fifth grade. She took such a terrible dislike to me that I ended up hospitalized with stomach pains so severe my folks were terrified.
Mom figured it out. I got moved to public school. The pains went away. So did my math skills. After that I failed at math, despite having a natural ability to suss out the problems. The book explains the gender-specific aspects of this as well as how to rewire the patterns. I still claim I'm bad at math. But...
It's a bald-faced LIE.
Boy, it sure makes you want to ask how many other lies we've been told, whether by a traumatized self, a bad parent, a creepy priest? Society and all those who drink society's Koolaid, and worst of all profit when we drink it?
Ya'll middle-aged lames.
Oh hell, she was addressing people a lot younger'n I am, too.
Wait a while.
Here's a way to think about this. I lived in Australia for four years, and heard a lot about Aboriginal culture. There was a common understanding that Aboriginal tribes' medicine men could point a bone or stick at someone in the tribe, utter a curse, and within days that person would expire. Not making this up.
In one of my favorite movies, Master and Commander, the weakest member of the officer's crew is cursed by the crew and ends up committing suicide. Superstition, yes. But no less potent or powerful.
There is great truth to these things, superstitions powerfully invested in, beliefs that we are touched by and/or which are supported by rituals or certain powers.
Part of the book that made me so magnificently wrong was about talismans and superstitions. I have been a little too haughty about such things, disregarding the very real science behind it. Serena and many other top athletes use rituals before they compete. Research shows that they DO have power, as long as we believe they do. That is precisely the point.
It doesn't matter whether we pray to God or Buddha or The Great Pumpkin. What matters is our belief. Right down to the cellular level something different happens.
That may also be why what works for you doesn't work for me, for our rituals and superstitions have different origins. We really need to believe.
So back to those Lame-ass folks. I am supposed to be one of them.
I could, and often have, pointed to the chances I've taken, the prices I've paid and the adventures I've had. Something inside me absolutely, positively trusts my ability to recover. Or, if I happen to land at the bottom of a monkey pile, heal my way back.
That unshakeable faith didn't come easily. However, as Robson writes, the more of those experiences I had which allowed me to experience myself as competent, the more powerful my belief that I am competent. That's the self-fufilling prophecy.
I still have doubts, butterflies and the willies. Damned right I do. And that tells me that I am still humble enough to respect the conditions. I may be wrong, but I believe that's part of what keeps me competent.
Same goes for how we feel about aging. The more I push the envelope, the older I get, the more I am reinforced about my ability to age well. I still wrinkle. But I don't wobble like an ancient and I still fall.
In fact, I fall a lot- emotionally, spiritually, physically. It's not the falls. It's never the falls themselves. It's how fast you and I bounce back up that makes us fearless in striding forward. I don't fear the falling. Where on earth would I get comedy material otherwise?
That's part of what Robson addresses. That said, I have a lot of work to do in other aspects of my life to clean up where ageism has crept in, where I let too much societal sewage touch my thoughts, beliefs and actions. The conditioning is overwhelming, and hard to avoid.
Here's a pdf link that might be worth exploring if you're interested in the book:
Robson specifically calls out something that one of my Saga supporters commented about privately. Karen wrote me that she was challenging the thought that age was making it hard for her to remember names. She called crap on that and started practicing. Lo and behold, the muscle worked again.
This is a perfect example of what Robson discusses in the book. We don't forget because of age. We stop practicing. That goes for a great many things.
As it relates to our own aging process, Robson validated my constant - and likely irritating- claim that age begins between the ears. Another Saga supporter, Maggie, sent me a link to psychologist Ellen Langer's work at Harvard. This is worth looking up. It's also discussed in the book.
Langer's work, conducted at the time with a very small sampling, has been expanded to the point where we now understand that virtually all aspects of aging are affected by our attitudes about it.
Even right down to arthritic inflammation. So you can bet that I am now looking at what I say, write, the stories I tell myself about my body, all of it under a microscope. And to the best of my ability I am installing a bullshit meter when ageist language shows up in my thinking or writing or conversation.
I am still combing through this book, which like a few others has left me energized, positive, excited and very happy. Because Robson also mentions this woman:
At nearly ninety, there she is. And there could we all be, some amazing version of ourselves, if we but would give ourselves over to what's possible, should we work at it mind body and soul.
I'm all in.
If you are too, I invite you to investigate this book, see how it supports who you are and what you want out of life. I would love to hear your impressions, your thoughts, and most especially, how these ideas play out in your lives. Kindly, I don't make a red cent if you buy it. But I sure will be happy if it does for you a fraction of what it is doing for me.
So instead of allowing those folks to get my goat, I'm going to use those goads to get me going to my G.O.A.T. Life.
How about you?
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
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However you decide to partake of my writing, thank you.