Getting older doesn’t automatically make you wiser, but there’s more experience to draw on. One theory suggests that this is why we appear to think more slowly as we age–the dataset is bigger but the processor speed is the same.
Sign me up for cybernetic processor enhancement.
Forties (mid, edging into late) is still youngish, and I feel young, despite more than a few gray whiskers in my beard. As long as I eat my berries, anyway. 100% foraged, either from my backyard or the shelves of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Here are a few of my hard-earned wisdom nuggets from the last few years, for your entertainment (and possibly +1 to your WIS score).
1. Help the right amount.
What’s the right amount? It’s hard for me to find a balance. There’s an impulse to go “all in” and really commit to helping a person solve their problem, no matter the cost in time, money, and emotional stress. I guess that’s the bleeding heart liberal in me. But there’s an equally strong impulse to cut somebody off entirely if I feel that person is taking advantage of my goodwill in even the slightest way.
I’m happiest when I listen to neither impulse, and find a middle ground where I can share expertise, resources, and emotional support, but stop well short of the point when I feel resentful or drained.
2. Find the most direct route to fixing unhappiness, and take action.
What does direct route mean? It means not trying to fix a miserable job situation with vitamins. And the converse; don’t break up with family, friends, or lovers because your gut bacteria are making you grumpy.
I don’t need to be in a constant state of ecstatic joy; I’m happy if I’m not unhappy. When the latter state occurs (usually manifesting as anxiety and/or low-grade depression), I have enough experience to identify a likely cause. Repeating motifs seem to be: not eating well or exercising enough; not spending enough time with friends; not going on enough dates with my wife; not writing; not committing deeply enough to my creative work; getting along poorly with my kid; the house is a mess.
For me, unhappiness is a like a broken appliance: something is broken, missing, clogged, misaligned, needs attention, etc. There’s a specific issue (or more than one). Identify and fix.
3. Obstacles crumble in the face of intelligent persistence. But I have to know where I’m going, and be hungry to improve.
I started this blog in 2009 with the idea that I wanted to be more than a casual writer. A few hundred posts and several million page views later and I can reasonably call myself a blogger. But I want to be a novelist. I’ve written about twenty short stories and sold a couple at pro rates. I’ve written four novels, decided two were worth finishing, and now I’ve submitted one for publication for the first time. I’m still a “baby writer”–I didn’t get serious about the work until my fourth decade on this planet. But I know where I want to be.
Persistence isn’t enough. I have to find ways to write better. But the two feed each other; improving gives me energy and inspiration.
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, the #1 ranked pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world, just defended his title for the 10th time (a world record). After a definitive win, his first question to his coaches was “What did I do wrong?”
Even at the top, he wants to get better. And he’s only thirty.
4. Drink less.
I’m happy to have left my dance music event promoting days behind me. It was stressful to host parties for hundreds of people every week, worry if people would show up, have a good time, like the music, not try to steal art off the walls (someone tried this once, at 111 Minna), etc.
In those days I drank too much, at least on those nights, and I was never 100% the next day. I also developed a habit of drinking most evenings, even if not to excess.
In recent years I’ve experimented with extended breaks from alcohol, and overall I drink much less. It’s a good feeling to almost always wake up clear-headed and energetic, with all mental and physical cylinders firing.
And I need all of those cylinders, to do the things I want to do, and to fulfill my responsibilities. I don’t have the slack in my life to be hungover for half a day or more each week.
5. Forgive quickly, but don’t keep putting my hand on the hot burner.
I have some idea what to expect from the people I know best. People don’t change that much, so I try not to expect them to. Those people are in my life because I love them, or because the people I love, love them. But we’re all imperfect, and in close proximity.
So when my buttons get pushed, I try to get over it quickly. That person in my life probably didn’t do it on purpose, and I don’t have the time or emotional energy for grudges. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the forgiver.
At the same time, I try to get out of the way if the behavioral trajectory is predictable. The Kidpower program calls it “using your walk away power”. Good stuff, and I wish I’d learned that one as a kid. I don’t necessarily have to fight OR stand there and be in a situation I don’t like. I can take the third option: get out of the way.
And it works. I’m proud of my many multi-decade friendships and relationships. They’re the main substance of my life.
There’s more, but I’ll leave it at five for now.
What wisdom have you gleaned from your current decade? Share in the comments below (all ages welcome).
Shameless Self-Promotion and Plugs
I have a new techno release out with Spesh. Pick it up for a few bucks and help us crack the Top 100. We’re back to making music most Monday nights and it’s looking to be a productive year for Jondi & Spesh.
Subscribe to Cosmic Roots And Eldritch Shores for 2017 ($12). This fine science fiction and fantasy online magazine is on the cusp of SFWA pro market qualification. A few more subscriptions will put them over the top. Plus you can read my recent “blood writing” story “The Fo’dekai Artifact”.