This is a big question! I would imagine AARP magazine is filled with articles on how to thrive at this time of your life. In those articles you might find hints like:
- Find a new hobby
- Make new friends
- Join a club or church
- Spend more time with grandchildren
I personally like each of these and have begun to do some. But let’s slow down the “Stay Busy” train just for a moment and consider something a little deeper. Why might you get grumpy in the first place? What is going on inside or around you that would cause you to be such a prickly pear? Let’s consider a few possibilities.
Unresolved pain. I am not talking about the dull throb you still have from the knee replacement. I am talking the kind of pain that comes from dreams unmet, relationships lost, and hopes crushed. These kind of pains can linger for a very long time and chip away at even the most positive of attitudes.
Examples of this kind of unresolved pain are legion. A child that took a wrong turn and has not returned; a marriage that was destroyed and dissolved; an injury or illness that turned a life upside down; or a failed career or business are just a few possibilities.
When you planned your life out when you were in your 20’s, these were not on the schedule. Yet, when they happen, one’s resilience is challenged. You recognize what you have control over and what you don’t. You are faced with letting go of the things you had no control over and learning from them all.
What you really need to be careful of is when the pain gets stuck in the mire of resentment or negative self-talk (I’m a failure, not good enough, worthless, etc.). This will rob all joy from your life and it is probably the #1 reason why old people get grumpy.
The solution: Identify and resolve the issues. Put a name to whatever is still in your gut and put it to rest. It is slowly killing you from the inside out. LET IT GO.
Loneliness. It used to be said that women had a larger social network than men, so men would end up more alone than women as they grew older. While the statistics will continue to prove this as true, my experience is that even women today are finding themselves with fewer friends with which to enjoy their retirement years.
I use to laugh at the group of old men sitting in the restaurant taking up space sipping on their coffee one day a week without miss. Then I realized how important that time is for them. They probably have known each other for years from working together, going to church together, or even graduating the 6th grade with each other. It doesn’t matter how they found each other, the fact that they gather and laugh together is priceless.
As I recall some of my favorite times in my life, it was when I was with a bunch of guys just having fun. The float trips in Arkansas; the weekly breakfasts with some of the guys I was working with; the nights sipping wine and laughing with the Johnnie and Janie, Cathy and Rusty. We need community. We are built to be with others.
Solution: Connect, join, and initiate contact. Find people to do life with and refuse to allow yourself to be that isolated person that comes out of their house only to check their shadow once a year.
Selfishness. It is all about you. Poor you. It is about your aches, your pains, your disappointments. Do you notice that in the conversations you might have had with others that you end up high jacking it to focus on you?
Get out of yourself! Listen deeply to others and make it all about them. Volunteer at the hospitals or other agencies that serve others.
I knew of a lady in her 80’s that every holiday since her husband died, she would get extremely depressed. Then one Thanksgiving she decided to help serving meals at the Salvation Army. That same Christmas she wrapped Christmas presents at a local agency that was preparing to give them to less fortunate children. These service projects changed this older woman’s life. She began to make it about others. Joy revisited her again.
Negative Attitude. This might be when the thinking habits of a lifetime really begin to become glaring. Are you a negative person or a positive one? Before you answer that, ask the people who are around you most about how they see you. You might be surprised by the answer.
Turn off the news. Read the comics. Listen to uplifting music (60’s hits were great).Take walks, talk to people and smile at everyone. Be playful with the child in the next booth. Little things can help us shine light into our own dark souls as well as in others. You might not be able to keep a bird from flying over your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair. Don’t let negative thoughts put up an occupied sign in your brain. Sweep it out and replace it quickly with something positive and beautiful.
If you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be glad to give you a part of a book from Dr. Daniel Amen that he has given me permission to share. It is called ANT Therapy (Automatic Negative Thoughts). You may enjoy it.
Hopefully you will find some help here on how to avoid being that grumpy old man or woman that no one wants to be around. I would love to hear what advice you would give if asked the same question.