Sunday, 21 August 2016

Big fib

As you grow older you're supposed to leave behind all those excruc-iating anxieties and uncertain-ties and naiveties of childhood and become sophisticated, confident and fearless. Well, I'm still waiting for that magical transformation - so far there's precious little sign of it.

Judging by what I hear, I suspect that's the case with most people. They may look to have morphed into emotional and mental maturity, but only because they've learnt to hide all the helpless fumbling and put on a public front of seamless self-assurance.

It seems to me that instead of vanishing, those crippling anxieties and certainties simply revolve around something different. Instead of anxieties about sexual inexperience or exam questions, you uncover anxieties about losing your job or defaulting on the mortgage. Or if you're getting on a bit, anxieties about declining health or all your friends dying.

The idea that adulthood brings poised cool-headedness is no doubt a soothing belief when you're in the midst of teenage angst and desperately wanting it to end, but the reality is rather different. In any case, you only have to look at your own flustered, confused parents to realise there's no such enviable maturity to look forward to.

But it's somewhat reassuring to learn that since most people you meet are secretly haunted by nagging anxieties and doubts of their own, you can feel entirely equal to them and not be fooled by their phoney aplomb.

I don't think I ever seriously believed I would miraculously blossom into a perfectly composed adult sailing through every tricky situation. It was pretty obviously a big fib, along with the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the man in the moon.

22 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

No I never believed in that kind of Utopian elder bliss. I truly believe that it's a long slog to get to that place of contentment I wrote about on my most recent post. With steps backwards along the way.
XO
WWW

helen devries said...

I learned when a child not to show a reaction...it has stood me in good stead down the years...

tammy j said...

LOL!
waiting for wisdom?
i'm not sure when it dawned on me...
sometime in my late 40's I think...
that adults were simply older children.
if one watches the political realm especially. it's like a playground in middle school at recess. even name calling and ball hogging!
it's no wonder saints could rise above it in the past...
they didn't put themselves around PEOPLE!!! :D
it might be easier to be wise on a mountaintop.

Rummuser said...

There is nothing phony about coming to terms with one's own insecurities in later years. Quite how this translates into behaviour with others is subject to other factors and influences and very very contextual. Aplomb need not necessarily hide internal turmoil. It could be self assurance arising out of overcoming difficult situations and living a life of contentment.

Nick said...

www: I think contentment is elusive at any age, given the pressures we're all under nowadays. There's always some new problem lurking in the shadows.

Helen: Not showing a reaction can get you out of an awful lot of trouble.

Nick said...

Tammy: You're right, we're all just older children, still muddling our way through but getting better at pretending we're on top of everything. Yes, if we lived on a mountaintop, we might be able to transcend all those everyday quandaries.

Ramana: I suppose aplomb and self-assurance can be genuine, and based on successfully meeting life's challenges, as you say. But I still think that's the exception rather than the rule.

CheerfulMonk said...

I agree with Rummuser. If I had to choose two words to describe myself right now I would pick resourceful and happy. Yes, I'm dealing with challenges, so what else is new? I've had a lot of practice. I mostly don't worry about how I appear to others.

Secret Agent Woman said...

You might like this quote from the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield:

"‎If you can sit quietly after difficult news; if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm; if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy; if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate; if you can fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill; if you can always find contentment just where you are: you are probably a dog."

Nick said...

Jean: It sounds like you have truly matured with age and are able to deal with life's challenges much more easily than when you were young. Not worrying about other people's reactions certainly helps.

Agent: Ha ha! Wonderful punchline. Mind you, I think dogs have anxieties of their own - Where has my mistress gone? Is she ever coming back? Has she forgotten my dinner? Has she forgotten my daily walk? Has she accidentally locked me out again?

Bijoux said...

Maturity is a work in progress. But I don't think it's immature to get upset over major issues.

kylie said...

I'm not anxiety free, in fact I think life is more problematic now than it ever has been before. Or maybe I have forgotten.
BUT I do have better perspective and more ability to carry on without melting under pressure.

My problem is, I'm a slow learner so I'm running out of time. I am already half way through my life if I am very lucky and live a long time so I need to up the ante a bit

Nick said...

Bijoux: Neither do I. But the myth is that as we age, we find we can sail through anything with a sort of all-knowing nonchalance. Ha ha.

Kylie: That's good that you're less likely to melt under pressure. I still melt all too easily! Yes, life moves on and we have to try and develop our coping strategies and our capacity for joy while there's still time.

Ms Scarlet said...

Now I'm anxious about leaving a sensible comment....
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet: You could always leave a senseless one.

mia more said...

I grew up in Namibia and lived with my parents amongst a bushmen clan. I never had any anxiety in my childhood. I had my parents and many bushmen moms and dads too. So always feel protected and cherished. This was probably the basement for my positive view of life, I take care twice a week of Syrian refugees mostly young persons and I feel how much the terrible events they got through influence their mental stability. How anxious they are when a loud noise occurs etc.So I suppose that the life you have or had and the experiences you go through will for sure make you more or less anxious.Sorry but I lack the appropriate vocabulary in English. Hope you understand though.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: I understand perfectly! I think you're right that your previous experiences, both as a child and as an adult, soak into your psyche and make you either secure and confident or insecure and anxious. It's great that you look after Syrian refugees. The British government couldn't care less about them and try to keep them out of the country. I'm not surprised they're alarmed by loud noises and anything that recalls the sheer horror of ceaseless warfare.

By basement I think you mean basis, by the way!

Hattie said...

I'm not a big worrier, never have been. It's my brain that drives me insane, all those wheels going round and round! And getting older does not help me with that!

Nick said...

Hattie: You're lucky not to be a worrier. I had that impression, that you're a relentless thinker and your brain never lets up! My brain works in fits and starts, sometimes I'm totally vacant and just staring into space.

John Gray said...

If you dont learn after years of interacting with people
Then you are either a bit dim,
You dont care
Or slightly autistic

Nick said...

John: Hmmm, what are you implying? But maybe I'm more worldly-wise than I think I am. Maybe I exaggerate the helpless fumbling....

Hattie said...

Wow! You're lucky, Nick! What I wouldn't give to be able to turn off the old brain!

Nick said...

Hattie: It's a design fault. Our brains should have been equipped with an on-off switch. Then there'd be no need for mindfulness, meditation etc.