Sunday, December 29, 2013


How old were you when you calmed down?  Or maybe you haven’t calmed down yet.  No worries; it’ll come along soon enough.

It’s an odd question, isn’t it, my asking you when you calmed down.  I mean it in the best sense, just asking your age when you came to realize that you can’t change everything.  And perhaps in some way accepting that you can’t change anything or anyone other than yourself.
When did you finally realize that it was time to stop pushing as hard as you could against doors that were clearly marked “Pull to Open”?  And then when you finally gave those doors a pull and they opened easily and you said “Ahhh….I should have known this years ago!”  When was that?

Acceptance of one’s imperfections, of one’s fallibilities, of one’s inability to control the world is the entry point to adulthood.  Not the adulthood of being age 21, or even age 31 or age 41, I suppose.  Not the adulthood marked by boxes and pages on a calendar, but the adulthood of accepting one’s mortality and smallness.  Not smallness in the sense of bad behavior and pettiness, but smallness in the universe.  The smallness that causes you to do good things for those you care about rather than trying to save the world; and a faith that if everyone does small, good things the maybe the world will be better.
It happened to me the first time when I was in my late 40s.  In a flash I knew that I didn’t want to continue living on airplanes, chasing one business meeting after another at the cost of being apart from my family.  I quit that day.

And it happens again every year after Christmas Day and before New Year’s Day.  I resolve that I am not in control, and I accept that.  I can’t fix every problem, but I can listen when loved ones share theirs.  I can’t change the world, but I can change myself.  I don’t need to be in the social register, or to go to the right parties with the right people.  I don’t need to have the big house, the new cars, or the showy aspirational things.
Accepting that one can’t have everything is the first step on the path to having the things that truly matter.


deborah said...

Relatively recently. Blessed are those with lowered expectations because they'll tend not to be disappointed. I'm very grateful for my kids and what I have, but I can exert little control over things.

Lem said...

For me, it has been in my late 40's also.

Lydia said...

This from Catholic blogger Heather King seems related:

"Store up your treasure in heaven. No-one can take away or diminish our inner life. That is where the real riches lie. But no-one can cultivate the inner life for us either. That is worked out alone, with God, in fear, trembling, anguish, sorrow, and of course joy. Joy that's always a surprise because in comes in ways we wouldn't have looked for, imagined or anticipated (while the ways we did imagine or long for--no, joy never seems to come that way)."

Aridog said...

I suppose I began to accept that I couldn't just beat down everything that got in my way around age 55 when I was advised to give up equestrian sports and alpine snow skiing if I didn't want to be the next Chris Reeves. Okay.

It took until my mid-60's to determine that I couldn't bash government folly (I worked there) and win every time....the "wins" (and there were some) were less frequent. So I retired.

Still to this day, at age 71, I am not sure I accept a modicum of success as enough. One thing only ... I know that I am foolish more often than not.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Hm. Well, I'm not sure that I've calmed down as much as I would like, but I do believe that the awareness that I needed to calm down came around age 28 or so, or five-six years ago. I consider that a win.

bagoh20 said...

I never had grand plans, or believed myself capable doing powerful stuff. I just wanted to have modest levels of fascination and discovery, and find ways to help where I could. I try to balance treating others and treating myself, and I want it pretty much right down the middle between the two. The really great stuff is that which does both at the same time. I try to make all of life work out like good sex.

As for ambition and control: although I'm not confident enough to recommend it as a strategy, I seem to have been more successful when I wasn't trying as hard. There is a lot to say for being happy first, for following even tiny scents of bliss, when they are part of something decent and good. The targets really are to do good and be happy. You just aim at it, and keep shooting.

I'm just some strange solitary guy, but I'm just about as happy as I can possibly imagine with life everyday and what I've accomplished. I can't even think of how to make it much better, so I'll just keep shooting.

One thing would be lower taxes, which would make it quite a bit better, since I could just do what I'm doing that much, harder, longer and uncut.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I calmed down too young to remember. Certainly before high school.

bagoh20 said...

“Ahhh….I should have known this years ago!”

I hit that realization more often every year. Most of the time it involves lost opportunities due to fear, misplaced loyalty, or unchallenged beliefs. There should be a surgery or medication available for that. Something like liposuction where you could get the dumb sucked right out you in one day, and then go about your life reshaped.

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Trooper York said...

I finally learned that I don't have to be in charge all the time. I mean I think I can probably do it better but you have to let other people carry the ball now and then.

Sometimes you should just check your ego at the door and let other people take over.

Dust Bunny Queen said...
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edutcher said...

I was painfully aware of my flaws probably before I was 5.

I learned to appreciate the good stuff (and, more to the point, the good people) early on.

ndspinelli said...

Focus on what's important. People, your health, your faith, not much else matters.

Aridog said...

Thinking about Bagoh20's and Trooper's comments, I realize that "being in charge" never meant much to me, and neither did solitary power. I liked having influence on those topics I had some expertise about, but just doing the best I could with what I had, where I was, under the circumstances extant, and not letting those around me down....that was most important.

sakredkow said...
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Christy said...

Over four decades ago the SAT essay subject that year was accepting limitations being the first step to maturity. My essay was about how nothing can be accomplished if one accepts limitations.

I recognize the need; I just cannot make the transition. I'm still too young.

Sydney said...

I was 50, which is to say about a year ago. Not sure which influenced the acceptance most - menopause or circumstances.

virgil xenophon said...

At age 69 I'm still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up..

Revenant said...

How old were you when you calmed down?


deborah said...

Let me add to my answer. The above stands as when I accepted I have no real control over others and events, and can only stand by and with support, be it praise or consolation.

But the calming down part came at age 30 when I adopted the 'mind your own business rule' with my sisters. We had been fussing at each other over how we were raising our infants, and I said 'look, if it's something like letting your kid eat a bag of candy, we don't say anything. If it's something very serious the other might not be aware of, we can mention it. It's worked out well over the years, and rarely used :)

At approximately the same time, at our joint baby shower, I became very upset my mom got me a baby monitor. She and our non-pregnant sister were to go in together on it, because I was worried about mom spending too much money...$50. So, at the very same time I realized the 'mind your own business rule' it occurred to me that if mom could afford smokes and lottery tickets, she could afford a $50 baby monitor lol

Unknown said...

I'm still too woozy to write with big sentences.

Unknown said...

I still llup when I should pull and I hsup when I should push.

When it comes to politics, I refuse to remain calm. As the authoritarian leftists drag me off to the ovens, I will scream and kick all the way.

Other areas of my life are calmer, but I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

I have learned that envy and jealousy are useless emotions and are nothing but a waste of time. & I try not to succumb to the 7 deadly sins. Other than that I'm a mess. In a sort of OCD self medication I repeat the word LOVE over and over in my brain. It's really all that matters. The Beatles were right.

Aridog said...

Deborah...that's twice in two threads that you've cited "powerlessness." You/we are never powerless because we can influence others without a need to control said others. It is only when you or anyone feels "control" per se is essential to success that we have problems.

IMO that "control" issue is Obama's Achilles Heel.

Truth be told, the government administration bureaucracy moves ahead with or without an qualified executive leader. If Obama decides to go against the institutionalized bureaucracy, I assure you he will be hung out on a yardarm to rot. He is just barely bright enough to know that.

Aridog said...

Said another way....when I read here, with or without commenting (the most frequent occurrence) it is so that I can learn from others, absorb their ideas, effect, be influenced by others. Why else bother?

You might be surprised how often my mind set is changed or modified by the comments of others, even those who you'd guess could never influence me.

deborah said...

Ari, I'm going through a 'thing.' Thanks for bringing that to my attention :)

" As the authoritarian leftists drag me off to the ovens, I will scream and kick all the way."

It's those damn do-gooders. The introverts will be overcome by busy-bodies.

Drink plenty of water and take 2000 mg vitamin C and call me in the morning.

deborah said...

Same here, Ari.