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RULE NUMBER ONE


Mrs. Lauderback 2
“Mrs. Lauderback at the Opera” Terra Cotta sculpture by KSR

It’s a fact that we grow older every day. I have had a great ambition not to be a cranky old battle-axe, but then I never wanted to be boring either. I’m trying to make a bigtime play at being old and interesting. If you’re going to be halfway interesting you can’t go around moaning abut your aches and pains. Do you think that’s easy?

You might tell yourself defensively that you aren’t boring you’re just focused. Pain can do that to you. When you develop a body part which doesn’t seem to work properly, it becomes the most interesting and important thing in the universe. Sort of like potty training when your kids were babies and it’s all you could talk about. I do understand that, we all did it.

Pain is different though. You begin listening to people discussing their aches and pains, and you think “Gosh, I have that too. What’s the big deal?” Do they think everyone wants to listen to that? On the other hand shared pain is a conversation starter. You meet all kinds of interesting people and begin to acquire illnesses you never heard of.

But there’s no denying that the discussion of pain is a real downer, and it’s contagious. You begin by feeling sorry for the other person, and end up feeling sorry for yourself. It leads to making excuses for poor performance.

On the other hand, it does absolutely no good for someone who feels like they’re ready to run a marathon to try to pep up the situation. In fact, it may lead to the end of a perfect friendship. Sometimes it feels good to just wallow in your own miserablness, but be forewarned—don’t do it.

Years ago my daughter was caught in a storm which ripped out the road in front of her mountain home. To get out, she had to scramble down a ravine with her two small boys before she could get to relative safety at our home. I was in bed with flu at the time, feeling like death warmed over, but my ever-cheerful husband took me in hand and told me not to make them feel any worse than they do. “No one wants to see your pitiful face.” And you know, he was right. They appeared at our door muddy and disheveled and hungry, and in trying to remedy their situation, I found that I forgot about the flu bug.

On another occasion when I was down with another flu bug, a second daughter in her “previous” life announced that she wanted to get married in a month.

At home.

That may be the fastest I ever jumped out of bed in my life. But again, thinking of someone else instead of yourself was the cure. There’s only so much room in your brain, and it’s truly uncreative to fill it with yourself.

Every month or so I have lunch with a group of my high school friends, all of whom claim to be 86 years old. There are a few canes in evidence, but they all live alone and drive to where we have decided to eat. I am the youngest by a year, and I am the only one fortunate to still have a husband. These are vibrant, interesting women with varied interests. We have made it a rule to begin each meeting by asking if there are any new health problems they need to discuss. If not, the rule is to forget them all for the duration of the lunch. It’s a good rule because everyone has something.

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13 comments on “RULE NUMBER ONE

  1. Yes, you could be right. Leave the aches and pains in the umbrella basket just near the door and wipe your feet!
    I am reminded of a PG Woodehouse quote. “A melancholy-looking man, he had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle”.

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  2. That quote is right on target. You just don’t want to be around them. On the other hand, we can’t get enough of people who never seem to complain. Gives us something to strive for.

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  3. I forgot to mention the lovely sculpture. Those gloves and opera glasses? Wonderful and whimsy.

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  4. Thank you Gerard. I often them to market. It keeps them on their toes.

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  5. Do you know I’m of an age to have worn elbow-length gloves? I suppose if I were British aristocracy I might still be doing so, but the gloves have gone the way of the pearl chokers and sweater clips.

    It’s really a tightrope we walk, isn’t it? I’ve learned a good bit of fortitude for the simple reason that I do physical labor, I’m self-employed, and if I don’t work, there’s no money. There’s a motivator for you! When I do something foolish, like tear a rotator cuff, there’s nothing for it but to keep on keeping on. Now, granted, I may keep on only at quarter speed, but that’s because I’m smart.

    What’s funny is that I don’t mind hearing someone with real problems complain, but I hate whining. When my Mom had shingles – oh, my. That was something terrible, and I was willing to let her go on and on. She had reason. But when I hear some lovely complain that she had to wait TEN minutes to get through a checkout line and it wasn’t doing her back one bit of good? Well, that’s when I go to my happy place and think of something other than how irritated I am.

    One thing you can cross off your to-do list is getting to be old and interesting. You already are – and you certainly have Mrs. Lauderback beat for attractiveness. 😉

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    • You would like my group of high school friends. One is a former ballet dancer. Both San Francisco and New York. One still designs masterful floral arrangements for clients, And so on. None are “old”., it isn’t even discussed. Far too maning interesting currents events to tear apart. Another too common affliction of some people old or not, the famous “guilt trip”. Though I saw her daily, my late mother-in-law always greeted me with “Hello Stranger!”.

      Have you seen Jeff Koon’s wonderful Hanging Heart sculpture in the Crystal Bridges Museum? 3,000 # hanging over your head!

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  6. My favourite part of this delightful post is the last paragraph, about your vital, interesting group of friends, all in their mid-80’s. Oh, and Mrs. Lauderback: she’s wonderful!

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  7. I do like your Mrs. Lauderback – she has a lot of character. Also – to be able to meet high school friends… you know in France we do not keep track of high-school friends, or college friends for that matter – no year book, no prom, no high school football or dances. I’d love to know what happened to some of my high school friends. I enjoyed visiting your blog.

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  8. Love this post. Many memorable lines and wise thoughts. I liked this one esp, “it’s truly uncreative to fill it with yourself”, and also the cranky old battleaxe 🙂 I once asked a friend 15 years older than me her secret to growing older and she said, “Live dangerously”. Rehearsing my troubles and sorrows often has me live far too carefully. xx

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  9. Your friend is so right. Ones life is bound to change somewhat at each plateau in your life, but unless you have been a timid, complaining young person, there’s no reason to change into a frightened old harridan. Our personalities remain much to same throughout our lives, only more so. I have liked my life so far, and plan to continue taking more bites of it than I can chew.

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