Sunday, October 14, 2012

How Not to Grow Bitter as You Grow Older

There comes a point in life where a person has to choose to either let Life grind them down -- or not.

In some cases, it happens early in life. When a young person suffers some horrible tragedy or when a person's spirit is just not up to grappling with the obstacles that Life throws a them, they may give into bitterness and cynicism at a very young age. In my experience, these people tend to become toxic personalities, both to themselves and to those around them.

More commonly, the wounds from the knocks that Life delivers, if not either deflected or dealt with immediately, accumulate gradually until the person sinks into the kind of backward-facing, bitterness  exhibited by many old people.

It doesn't have to be that way. I have been inspired many times by elderly folks who radiate happiness, and bring joy to others. I was privileged a few years ago to have known a woman who was 92 at the time. She still drove. She was very alert and remarkably healthy. She did volunteer work every week at her church and once a month at a children's shelter home. She was anything but the stereotypical church lady. She had lived long and faced much tragedy. She was a tough old bird in many ways. In fact, she could be a regular hell-cat when provoked (and, sometimes, it didn't take much to provoke her). But, she always came into the office wearing a smile (until somebody pissed her off). Usually the first words out of her mouth when she entered my office were, "How are you today, my dear? Can I help you with something?"  She was a joy to be around, and she inspired me to want to be strong, too.

When she was 92, a tornado destroyed her home, while she was inside. After the storm passed she crawled through the rubble that had been her house, seeking shelter with a neighbor.

That week she missed her day of volunteering in the church office, but she was back the following week, as chipper as ever. Everyone who heard the story was amazed. She didn't understand why other people thought it was such a big deal. She did what she needed to do to survive, and then went back to living her life. Just as she had been doing for 92 years.

One of my goals as I navigate this new phase of my life is to somehow manage to avoid becoming a crotchety old bitch, which would be so easy to do. Instead, I want to be a Crone (think Grandmother Willow) passing along the wisdom of experience with a smile, even if it's enveloped in wrinkles. I've never had a particularly sunny disposition, so I know I'm going to have to work at it. But, I think it will be worth it.

This post by Olin Morales at Courage 2 Create gives step-by-step instructions for how to steer clear of the Slough of Despond. This is one of those blog posts that I have book marked both on my laptop and on my phone for ready reference whenever I may feel myself being sucked into the bog.  

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