Friday, February 22, 2008

The Older Perspective

Several years ago, I was mentoring a teenage girl. At the same time I was also visiting an elderly woman in a retirement facility.

THe visits with the older woman were often comprised of her telling me stories about her life and her past. I would often tell her about the details of my days. SHe was always interested (or pretended to be) and seemed amazed by how busy I was. I must admit, that a fair amount of my time was probably spent almost complaining about my burdens and my work load. Life is busy, after all, and it's all important to me. THere never seemed to be enough time to get it all done!

One day, I was just about to enter the retirement home to visit my friend when my cell phone rang. It was my teenager. She was extremely upset and was having trouble even getting whole sentences out as she tried to tell me what was wrong. SHe had a lot of homework to do... more than she could get done. She was being pressured to try out for cheerleading by her parents, but didn't really want to. There were many other burdens and responsibilities that she was struggling to juggle. It was all SO SERIOUS... and she was feeling terribly overwhelmed.

As I let her vent her frustrations and we discussed some ways to approach her current dillema, I started to wonder about something. None of her problems were actually earth shattering. From my 30-something perspective, most of what she was upset about really didn't matter. I knew that before long, the cares of this day would be forgotten. She couldn't see that in the midst of her overwhelm, but from my vantage point, having lived a bit longer, I knew this to be true.

I started to wonder if I sounded to my elderly friend the way my teenager sounded to me? How much of what I was SOOOOO CONCERNED about really was completely unimportant in the long term? Was my older, wiser, woman friend internally smiling to herself at my youthful lack of persepctive?

That day changed me. I started to carefully consider the subjects I brought up with my elderly friend. I no longer wanted to rattle on about things that really weren't important. I wanted to train myself to understand that many things simply don't matter as much as I think they do!

Whenever I would start to 'spin up' on something, I would remember how my teenager sounded when she described her life and the utter hopelessness of it all. I encouraged myself to look at my own situation through the lens of awareness that I had about hers. Not to take anything away from the agony that my young friend was experiencing. I know she truly 'felt' that her life was out of control. The truth is, however, that it wasn't really out of control. Nor was mine.

I've had many 'teenage' moments since then, but I'm quicker to recover from them now. I can often 'catch myself' and remind myself that when I'm in my 80's or 90's, I'll look back fondly on the crazy days of my 40's... so busy and stressful.

I might as well enjoy them for all they are worth... instead of lamenting the burden of them.

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