Age can magnify both our best and worst traits – End of the Day for April 30, 2014 – End of the Day for May 2, 2014

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As I get older, I have noticed something that is happening both to me and those around me. While we all have certain inherent traits and behaviors that stay with us throughout our lives, it seems that all of these traits can get magnified — or distilled, if you will — by time. More importantly, these happens to both our our best traits and our worse ones. As we get older we can tend to move towards extremes in our behavior. Now that I have noticed this, I don’t really like it. I have always prided myself on at least attempting some balance in my life, but I can feel myself being pulled further and further to the extremes in my nature. Of course, noticing something — paying attention to it — is the best way to decide if and how you might want to change, so I guess that is a good first step.

For me, I know that one bad trait that is being more and more prominent is my desire to sequester myself away from people and life in general. Well, not really people, per se, but it it more like to trying to avoid the complications and conflicts of life. While I feel healthier than I have in years physically, mentally – in specific situations — I can feel very, very tired. I have always hated dealing with billing mistakes and other company errors, difference of opinions with friends and neighbors and anything unpleasant that can use up my mental and emotional energy. Perhaps it is because of my empathetic nature, but becoming involved in a disagreement, no matter how small can trigger visceral, physical changes in my body. Where others might be invigorated by the discussion, I am used up, agitated and even physically ill. As you might imagine, this can often cause me to try and avoid such situations, no matter how innocuous they might seem. I simply don’t feel I have the energy to engage in the interaction and so avoid it.

Window to the Soul

Photo: Premasagar Rose via Flickr, under Creative Commons License

Seeing this magnification/distillation effect in yourself can be troubling, but seeing it others — especially those close to you – can be troubling as well. We all like to the think the best of those around us, but I know I have started to see the effects in others my age, too. Low-level paranoia seems to be ubiquitous in many people of all ages these days, but especially those in middle age. Everything is trying to kill them. Everyone is trying to screw them over. Everything they hear is probably a lie. Now, I certainly won’t deny that there are things that are dangerous, people who are evil and lots of lies out there, but I refuse to believe that it is anything but the minority of my life. Still, mainstream media today is quite to point out a lot of what/might/could happen rather than what IS happening. This leads to low-level paranoia for everyone. You wouldn’t feel paranoid if everything they read or saw made them believe that 99% of what they heard and saw was a lie.

For me, I can’t live that way. That is why, many years ago, I stopped reading mainstream newspapers and watching local news. I can follow the happenings of the world online as needed and also disconnect, as needed. I know that a ferry capsized in South Korea — and even some of the specifics — but I need not dedicate my life to ingesting every tidbit produced by news sources. I used to do that, but I found it gave me no solace, no detailed information, no better understanding. All it gave me was nervousness, paranoia, and depression — 3 things I certainly don’t need in my life.

Unfortunately, this has meant that there are certain people I can no longer interact with on a regular basis. There behaviors have swung so far out of balance that I don’t feel I can have a normal conversation with them anymore. At some point the conversion always derails into the latest conspiracy theory, political rhetoric or outright, blatant fear of living. Again, I know enough about myself that if I want to try to keep my own life in balance, there are certain places, events and people I need to avoid our of shear self-preservation. I know I am going to try and be better about swinging to the ends of my emotional spectrum in the coming months and I hope others will see the need, too. I often wonder what we could really accomplish if we could find somewhere in the middle to meet — and hopefully — solve some of the problems we are facing.

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