Have you noticed we tend to become more ourselves as we grow older? I call it The Calcifying Effect.
A friend says, “Our veneer wears thin and we can’t hide our true selves anymore.” Those impatient, glass-half-empty personalities become grouchier after they turn 50 (then 60, 70 … ), and positive-minded people become annoyingly sunny. Either way, we’re all more difficult to live with. I know it’s happening to me, too.
An ol’ misery-guts guy I know has always fumed at people who chat with the cashier, holding up the line. But he never said anything to them; you’d never know his blood pressure boiled. Three years ago, he began sighing gustily at the backs of their heads. Last year, he added audible black mutterings. Now he’s shouting, “Save the chat for the parking lot!” behind his hand, then whirling around as if someone behind him said it. Who knows what he’ll do next?
As for those overly-positive ones, there’s a tiny lady who used to sweetly smile, saying “Isn’t it a lovely day!” during deluging downpours, gale-force windstorms and 115- degree heat waves. Currently she’s patting on the head everyone she can reach, and pressing candy into our hands whether we want it or not, while chirping “You Are My Sunshine” in her high, ear-numbing voice. Everyone stares as she trots away. She makes my teeth ache.
All this behavior in others is amusing, but when you notice yourself veering there, it’s downright scary. I’ve seen my own traits become more-so, usually worse. An innocent, subconscious action can instantly become a serious habit. Last week I ate a Hershey’s candy bar. Next day, I found myself asking “OK, where’s my chocolate?” Conversely, good habits, like washing the car just once a month, are rascally, nearly impossible to corral into my lifestyle.
As you can tell, it’s increasingly difficult to harden my self-discipline. Dislike for doing housework has taken its toll in my personal environment to a bizarre extent, and I fear I’m addicted to reading novels, albeit historical ones. (Seven years ago I ended my cable television membership largely because I had so little self-control in turning that darn thing off, or not turning it on in the first place. Now look!)
I’ve also become socially unpolitical and nonreligious. Won’t discuss the topics, never listen to other people’s diatribes. They can’t seem to respect other’s ideas or be circumspect, and “discussion” speedily becomes ranting. I refuse to go there. But I know what I think, believe and feel on these topics, and I follow my conscience. Yeah, I’m a real grump about it.
I’d better cease my whining, accept or ignore unpleasantness as I age. Quit complaining about illnesses, dog smells, fog. Learn to body-hug good habits. Brush my teeth after every meal, walk a hard hour every day, absolutely ignore cheesecake. (Instead of treating myself weekly, a new habit. For shame.)
So if we become more ourselves, I’m beginning to realize I must be . . . hey, curmudgeon is a cool word.