Embracing My Obsoleteness

I’m not sure how the topic came up but Rick and I were talking about Jimmy Stewart, the actor when it suddenly crossed my mind that half the population probably had no idea who he was. He was in all the black and white movies…one of the better known leading men. Now, a wisp of a memory that evokes puzzlement from the newest generation of young adults…though he was celebrated in western Pennsylvania and they even has a museum in his name, he is now a “once was” actor. Even the more modern men of early color TV are dying off or getting close to it…Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and Clint Eastwood were the names of my time…geezers, today. The leading men of my adult age are now considered old. People like Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

As one gets older, the divided between realities of the younger generation get wider…even when you try to keep up with them. Things I knew and loved as a child were no longer relevant. My music, the movies I enjoyed, the cartoons I watched…they are all so different from what is popular today. When I hear of upcoming awards shows, whether music or television/movies…I have no idea who these people are or what their show is like. The closest I’ve come to staying relevant to what the world is tuned into is by watching digital streaming or shows that gained such huge popularity that I decided to give it a tried as the third or fourth season was airing…Lost and Breaking Bad fall into that category. I seem to do better with the cable/ streaming shows and actually caught some of the good ones right from the start…House of Cards, Homeland and Stranger things come to mind.

Never mind the differences in a generation that grew up with the digital world. People who have no reality on life without computers, iPhones and robots. Our entertainment came from the outdoors, from creative play and physical recreation. No one had a cell phone but most carried a dime in their shoe…in case they needed to make a call home, using the nearest pay phone. We had no Google…we had encyclopedias that would be out of date every ten years or so because so much change had occurred. Things needed to be added to it – the space program, a man walking on the Moon, the Vietnam War, Kennedy’s assassination, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King’s movement for equality and the hippie movement were all major milestones of my youth.

With change we always introduce new problems. Instant access to media results in constant bad news being disseminated which makes the world seem very dangerous. After all, what media would share things which are not controversial? The term “grass roots” in which something grew into popularity by word of mouth has change to “going viral” the instant repeating of some common theme. The digital world has eliminated time from the equation. Yet time is often a healer.

It’s also created a world of people who want instant gratification, people who no longer see that time, hard work and strong ethics build character. The idea of community has eroded to the point that most people don’t know their neighbors and helping a stranger could be deadly. No longer are keys left in the ignition for convenience…there aren’t even keys, these days.

Household doors that once used to be unlocked are bolted tight with security cameras inside and out…and even on your phones, eager to pay witness to someone’s misdeeds. All instantly available on social media for the whole world to see…where the court of public opinion now rules over the court of law…and guilty before innocent, is the rule of land. Snippets of information take favor over the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Where bullying is no longer confined to actions occurring behind the gymnasium. Now they are spread across the entire school and to all friends and family on social media where the mob agreement mentality really hit home with their cynical comments instilling the certainty of your worthlessness as a human being. I’m forever grateful that all of my stupid behavior occurred pre-digital age. Some closets should just stay closed, skeletons be damned.

With instant gratification comes higher crime, more debt and drug abuse. So many of our youth have chosen to take what is yours rather than work for it…even if it causes you great harm. I don’t think I’d ever hear of a carjacking before I was fifty. Illegal drugs that steal your body and soul have become popular…seeking that instant euphoria. Dealers pedaling their death so they can make instant profits. Profits so huge that honest men become corrupt just to gain some of the reward. The pharmaceutical companies (legalized dealers) pour in the profits as the next pill goes out to market…seeking the latest instant cure. So hungry are people for instant gratification that they seem to dismiss the litany off side affects that come with each pill…side affects that are more serious and even deadly than the disease they are suppose to make better. Though to be fair to the medical industry, not all change has been bad. Many changes in medicine have been extraordinary and have allowed treatment to be more effective and less invasive, particularly surgery and immunotherapies dealing in Cancer treatments. Stem cell research has opened the door to many more possibilities.

I’ve always known that change was a constant and that ones ability to embrace change influenced how one felt connected to the world. As a child, preteens, I never quite connected fully with other people’s reality. I had plenty of friends, even the popular ones but I was never popular. Even in my teens when I accidentally stumbled upon a boy who liked me, who was very popular. It didn’t last long, my popular girlfriend started going out with him. Even in high school, my boyfriend never broke up with me, he just started going out with another girlfriend…I guess I wasn’t a very exciting person. I didn’t know how to engage. Often I found myself following others for my cue on what to do.

I was a sheep!

I was a good little girl that didn’t make waves, a lesson learned when I was ten. Be quiet, be good, be invisible…and I was pretty good at it. Eventually, over time…I found my voice…I found me! But that is a whole different story, one with many chapters that evolved over a thirty year period…too long to elaborate on right now. But, suffice to say, there was a lot of good and bad during those years…the good being the foundation for the best years in my life.

As I pondered, Jimmy Stewart’s obsoleteness, I realized my own – which didn’t seem to bother me at all. I loved the sense of security and the community that we had before the digital age and I wonder if we lost something important…more important than progress and technology…integrity and ethics. Those aspects of society which seem to be less prevalent today…are the world I knew and loved. I embrace those experiences and am grateful to have know them. Normal, is what you are accustomed to and the current generation of our young adults will experience change and being obsolete one day. They will experience growing old.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to be aware of the declining years of your life and they start well before you become incapable. In life we begin, we grow, we decline and then we stop. Though I am far from the stop point of my life, I do see the decline aspect. I don’t count things like stiffness or soreness because I see young people with aches and pains. It’s more things like forgetfulness being more often, or having to have a “pill minder” to keep track of the daily dose of medicines and supplements one is now taking…something I swore I’d never do. One day I saw someone run up a staircase and I realized my running up staircases days were over, though I could still walk up them briskly.

A baby takes weeks and months to learn to roll over, crawl and walk. Eventually these milestones take less and less time to accomplish. As one enters their peak years activity and thought are instantaneous with very little effort. From there, the decline begins. It comes slowly, almost so slowly that you don’t realize it until you start seeing in others the ability you once had. Simple activities such as getting dressed take a lot longer time. You become aware that your pace has slowed down dramatically. As I watch my loved ones get older I see that their ability to move about becomes shaky and unstable, some even losing the ability to walk. If you’re lucky to live long enough you begin to need care doing those simple things we once took for granted such as bathing, washing your hair and even toileting.

Though I am not there yet, I see the future…less able than I am now. It could be a depressing future if one is not prepared for it or if one is alone.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, like me, it’s a future that doesn’t have to be scary. What makes it easier is that I have a partner who loves me completely and accepts me as I am…warts and all. He’s aging too, but the thing that keeps us young is our mind. you see, even though our bodies have grown old…our mind has not. We are both very alert and active in our ideas and dreams. Even though we move slower, we still do the things that our young mind does. We recognize our limitations and accept the pace our bodies demand…but we still move forward.

Expressing love is the other way we stay young. It may seem strange but we still act like teenagers when it comes to our appreciation and love for each other. He can still make me blush with an amorous comment or bring a smile to my face when he shows up unexpectedly. We still say, “I love you” on a daily basis and kiss each other at the start and end of each day. It’s the simple things we do to express our love that are often the most meaningful, like having a cup of coffee ready when he gets home from a hard days work at the house we’re building. Or finding a love note on a Post It, attached to the steering wheel of my car when I leave to go to work.

Aging doesn’t have to be this terrible event. It can be joyous and comforting and rewarding. All one needs to do is have someone in their life that they have a mutual respect and caring for…someone to be gracious to and grateful for their presence. The age of that “someone” doesn’t matter…it’s the character and mind that possess these qualities.

If you’re lucky enough to live a long, healthy life…free of debilitating pain and suffering, you will eventually recognize your obsoleteness. I look forward to growing old with Rick…to care for him and let him care for me as we become more and more dependent on others. I look forward to simple days of enjoying the sound of the birds singing, of children’s laughter and of sweet nothings shared between us and I am grateful to have him in my life. The world around you will be that which is made up of young people. Celebrate the goodness that has been in your life and share the compassion and caring with another. Gratitude is my way of embracing my obsoleteness.

Another way I embrace my obsoleteness is by writing. The written word seems to be one of the best ways to stay relevant. Despite their death, many movies and books are based on past ages and eras…and writers. We celebrate the words of Shakespeare and the times of Troy…they live, even if adulterated…in the future. Writing opened the door to communication during the prehistoric times the way the internet did in modern day. The main difference between the two is the amount of time it took to forward that communication to another. The vehicle that moved the message was slow in the beginning but gradually became faster and faster, not unlike the automobile. As each newer and faster method evolved, older ones became obsolete. Think of type setting to typewriters to word processing, or musical instruments, records tapes and eight track, CDs to iPods. But the communication itself never became obsolete, writing so far has not become obsolete…I hope it never does.