Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Movin' On

One stereotype of ageing is the inevitable descent into curmudgeonhood.  "Hey you kids, get offa my lawn!"  "My yard, my ball!"  For years I looked forward to this state.  I loved the idea of dropping my filters and just letting fly whenever something irritated me.  It seemed like it would take less energy than suppressing the annoyance that's inevitably generated by social interactions.  What I didn't count on is that I'm getting less and less fussed by things as I get older.

I mean, it makes sense right?  The older you get the more practice you get in dealing with the common annoyances.  When I was younger I felt that the petty shit would eventually wear me down.  It never occurred to me that I would instead get better and better at dealing with these things.

Part of it comes from being able to see that in daily life most people don't do things "to" me they do things "at" me.  The only concretely objective action that one could do "to" me would involve physical force done against my will.  A punch, slap or tickle for instance.  I'm in the fortunate situation where words can only be done "at" me.  But not everybody is in my privileged situation of course.

It's pure victim blaming to say that words can never hurt one.  Of course they can, and it's almost impossible to keep from reacting negatively to some words.  People who've been badly hurt often have triggers that crash them right back into a harmful emotional state.  A phrase or a tone of voice that's intimately associated with painful past experiences is often such a trigger.  For myself, the sound of cutlery or china being bashed immediately tenses me up.   It makes me feel like the person doing it is mad at me regardless of whether or not they actually are.  I don't think I have any trigger words though, and such words could be considered a "to" rather than an "at".

One of the big privileges of ageing is that things that are done "at" one get easier and easier to deal with.  Insults hold no weight when you've heard them many times before.  Provided of course you've also thought honestly about whether or not there's any truth to them.  The moods of others are less affecting too, it's so much easier to see when someone's anger or sadness has nothing at all to do with you.

My future fantasy with those inaccurate ball throwing kids has changed dramatically.  I don't think anymore that I'm likely to end up cornering the neighbourhood market in sporting projectiles.  My hope is that while I'm throwing it back I can think of something to say that'll make 'em laugh, or groan.  After all, the bad pun is the province of dads everywhere and dammit, I'm not one to drop that particular ball.

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