RULES FOR AGING
By Jo Strausz Rosen
The writer Roger Rosenblatt, editor-at-large of Time, Inc., winner of two George Polk Awards, a Peabody, an Emmy, and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize, penned a book of Rules for Aging, suggesting to us that we should resist our normal impulses to live longer and attain perfection in ourselves or others. Here are a few of his rules:
It doesn’t matter. “Whatever you think matters, doesn’t.”
“Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life. It doesn’t matter if you are late, or early; if you are here, or there; if you said it, or did not say it; if you were clever, or if you were stupid; if you are having a bad hair day, or a no hair day; It doesn’t matter. “
Nobody is thinking about you. “I promise you; nobody is thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves – just like you.”
Do not attempt to improve anyone, especially when you know it will help.
My father corrected me throughout my life. My husband politely points it out when I’m doing it to him. And when reminded, I am working on changing. I promise. No really, I am. How many of us feel the need to criticize others in the name of teaching or helping them? It’s a horrible feeling to be criticized. My father used to say to me, “Your way and the right way.” Yes, my dad said that to me. No wonder I grew up to be a critic. I critique myself most harshly. And dear old dad’s voice in my head still comments critically about whatever I am doing. I think we’re all just trying to do the best we can. Especially as we age.
Do you label and critique other’s behaviors and trespasses? Or your own? My mother used to refer to me as “a glutton.” So of course, at every meal now I hear that if I indulge too much. It’s time to give up the labels. I’m always working on being kind to myself and others.
Rosenblatt says, “There is a friend, a relative, an employee, an employer, a colleague, whose behavior flaws are so evident to everyone but themselves, you just know that a straightforward, no-punches-pulled conversation with them will show them the errors of their ways. They will in turn see the light at once and be forever grateful that only as good and caring a person as yourself would be so kind and so brave as to confront them.”
It’s natural to believe that from the moment you inform them about the correct way to load the dishwasher, fold the laundry, use a knife, drive the car, speak up, or any not-good-enough-action, they will reform on the spot. Their lives will be redeemed, and they will owe their renewed selves and all future happiness to you because you’re so generously being honest, frank, and open.
Rosenblatt’s good advice: “I implore you: When the muse of improvement whispers in your ear… SWAT IT. Nobody is thinking about you – unless you tell them about their faults. Then you may be sure that they are thinking about you. They are thinking of killing you.”