Jim Selman, a 70-something-year-old guy, is determined not to let the cultural conversation of what it means to grow older and what is and isn’t possible as we age define the rest of his life.
As long as I can remember, people have been telling me to relax, enjoy the moment, smell the roses and just take it easy – to live life one day at a time. That’s a challenge when we’re younger, when we have many goals and not a lot of history under our belt. As we age, we eventually realize we’re not going to accomplish everything. So what happens when we realize there are a lot of expectations we have that will never be fulfilled?
In my experience, my “ego” (or what I call my “internal conversation”) is really a time machine whose primary job seems to be to remember stuff (real or imagined) from my past and project it into the future in the form of expectations and predictions. My mind’s idea of the future, in turn, informs my thinking and decisions, which results in my doing more variations of what I have already done. This, in turn, produces the results I expected and, when my expectations go unfulfilled, gives me the opportunity to make up reasonable explanations for why things didn’t work out or to fall into an ‘upset’. With my ego in charge, I can end up hanging onto a lot of memories, moods and explanations from the past, and still keep projecting my unfulfilled expectations into the future.
When we hang onto our expectations, we are resisting being “present” with what is. We do this in a thousand ways – from reliving the past to fearing the future, from trying to control everyone and everything in sight to suffering, struggling and falling into a labyrinth of moods and negative conversations about everything.
Obviously, we can’t be present when we’re upset. Even as a matter of logic and common sense, the present moment is all there is. Tomorrow isn’t here and yesterday has disappeared.
Today is all there is.
If we can learn to live without expectations, to be conscious and aware of what is real and who we are, we can begin to “be here now”. We can be more selective about what we want and appreciate it more when we get it. We can accept “what is”, surrender to the moment and just BE. If we are lucky enough to live into our Elder years, we can take on old age with enthusiasm and share our wisdom by eldering younger generations. We can live one day at a time.
In the words of George Bernard Shaw:
“I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Let us know your attitude towards ageing in the comment section below.
This article was written in partnership with Over60.