Friday, August 28, 2009

Senior Citizen Malaise

I'm driving the volunteer ambulance tonight for the first time in six months. After ten years of intensive volunteering and management activity at the ambulance corps, I took a break. Surprisingly, I found it easy to fill productively the 80-90 hours each month that I had devoted to that activity. Now I've returned, but not to resume that schedule. Mostly, it's because of the "been there, done that" syndrome. As I've aged, I've found that many previously interesting activities fall into that category. Maybe it's senior citizen malaise.

Some people love a routine and feel lost if their schedule is disrupted. Some people are fearful of the new, or of the unfamiliar, or of the difficult, or of the emotionally-charged. Not me. I love the interruption, the unexpected, the challenge, and the conflict. Those things force me to extend myself, to learn, to win or lose, or to settle something. I'm living if I'm doing these things, but age tends to reduce the opportunities for adventures of all kinds.

This summer I've been back on the Appalachian Trail, which has become more of a struggle with the elements and my endurance but is mostly just the same hard slog interrupted by chance meetings with interesting people. I also water-skiied and did not fall, and kayaked, and sailed a little sailboat, and played some golf, and I dove into a lake and swam awhile. I rode a horse for the first time in twenty years yesterday. And, I'm working out on a regular basis and seeing my muscles start to bulge again. But, none of this was new. I enjoyed all of it, but there was no thrill. I miss the thrill.

The season is beginning to change. The sun is setting earlier, and the grass is wet with dew in the morning. Farmers are cutting their hay and harvesting many of their vegetables. Fall brings a change in routine, with activities put on hold for the summer now resuming. But they are the same activities. I need something new.

Maybe I'll try Pilates or yoga, both of which would require concentration and exertion. Perhaps I'll find a way to mentor some kid who needs help. Or, it might be fun to attempt some serious writing, because I know I'd have to study composition in order to produce even a barely acceptable product. And, thinking "out of the box", there's a chance I could learn some mechanical skill even though I'm not very handy; I'd like to know how to make blades very sharp, for example. There's a world of the new out there, so it's just a matter of getting excited about something. I've got to be purposeful about finding that something, or two, or three.

Senior citizen malaise is a common problem. Many of us Medicare-eligible folks seem to be concerned only about our medical problem of the day, or counting our money over and over again, or complaining about why today's world isn't as good as yesterday's. I don't want to fall into that syndrome. If I can stay future-oriented, constantly looking for the next thing, I'll be alive regardless of how long I live. Being thrilled would be a bonus!


ThomasLB said...

The way I catagorize people as "young" or "old" is to ask them, "Tell me about yourself."

Young people talk about the music they love and the art they like and their philosophies and dreams; old people just tell you what their job is.

You're still young. :)

Ron Davison said...

Or maybe you could teach classes on overcoming senior citizen malaise. It seems like there would be a market for it. Or should be.