Our ability to adapt has no end to it, if we pay attention the appropriate response is at hand for every situation. Deepak Chopra, Creating Health, Beyond Prevention, Toward Perfection
Recently I sat in front of the television, drank three glasses of red wine in quick succession and ate a small feta-cheese pizza. Next came a bowl of potato chips, several ginger cookies, and chocolate – lots of it. This response to stress is familiar. Once upon a time such behavior felt shameful, but that reaction is old. Now, I am curious: Why do I prefer to poison my mind and my system, rather than attend to subconscious signals of alarm?
Martin Seligman offers a clue in his book What You Can Change and What You Can’t when he compares anxiety to the flashing of a car’s oil light. If we respond appropriately, the signal goes quiet. If we ignore it, the flashing light intensifies and we experience tension, worry and increased heart rate. Drinking and overeating acts as a dimmer switch that provides temporary relief from these symptoms.
Still, I wonder what is it about anxiety that stimulates an avoidance reaction. Dr. Chopra says it is a fear response based on thought patterns which have little to do with reality. In other words, what we think about the events in our lives is often more influential than the actual experience.
The precipitating event in my case, was my husband. Not him directly – he is a nice man – but an incident he experienced while walking on the beach. The day was lovely – fresh with salt and sunshine. He felt exhilarated until he got in the way of a group playing kick ball. When one young man complained, his friend said “Don’t worry about it, he’s just an old man.”
There was not a hint of threat to my husband. However, the beauty of the day dissolved like a mirage when he heard the words ‘old man.’ For the first time, he thought about his age and aging and what it might mean for him. That led us into a discussion about our lives and our dreams.
By definition we are seniors, but we do not think of ourselves as old. Both of us lead active lives and find enjoyment in what life brings our way. We travel, embrace learning, and enjoy new experiences. Yes, the mirror reflects our ages, but our attitudes remain young. Of course, our concept of youthful probably appears old-fashioned to the young. That brings me to my main point.
The students in my CRWR 1240 Course, Writing for New Forms and Media, speak a different language. They read Manga comic books, play foreign sounding online games, use Facebook like a private club and seem far more self-confident than I was at their age. They welcome me – that is not an issue at all – it is my increasing awareness of the passage of time that troubles me.
In particular, I wonder, what took me so long to find my way here and how do I make up for lost time.