I believe that one of the biggest signs of growing old or aging, if you prefer, is the inability, or at least the ingrained grouch-ability, of adjusting from an old routine to a new one. It is tough to change and rearrange when we know that the old way, the familiar way, the tried and true way is the best. Sometimes it is not even the best way but it is part of a pattern and repetitive procedure that we have plodded along with for years. And sometimes it is not even close to the best way as new ideas and technologies have intervened, but this does not mean that we convert with open arms and a happy attitude. Sometimes ornery cantankerousness just kicks in.
An example is loading the dishwasher. As we all know there are special ways of packing it up tight so that water is saved, that dishes are run every few days, and that the job is well, or at least semi-well, done. Then along comes a wise son who states, “Mom, you are packing the dishes too tightly. Give them some airspace. And run them every day! Do you really want rotting food particles inches from your cooking area and dinner table?” Perhaps he is right and he definitely has good intentions, but am I really ready for this abrupt exit from an accustomed method? Maybe for today as he continues his visit with me I will comply and then tomorrow when he is gone I can revert to my old habits.
Another example is paying bills. I love my checkbook and pen and I am thrilled when new stamps are offered at the post office. Because of this as each bill rolls in, I write the check, stick my stamp, and pop the envelope into my mailbox. It is a customary procedure and it feels good. My daughter on the other hand is astonished at my old-style bill-pay methodology and frequently offers advice: “Mom, it is so simple to set everything up on-line so that some bills are paid automatically and others, although you must write the amount, are quick to complete and are sent on the day that you request. No more wondering if your old-fashioned route arrived on time.”
Well, this appears to be an uncomplicated fix, especially as she is home for enough days to get all matters set up on-line with my bank. We practice together and I take copious notes (I guess that is pretty outdated, too). When she leaves I am confident in my new routine, confident, that is, until the first bill. The number of steps and clicks seem to have multiplied since the time my daughter and I worked together and now instead of a clear-cut highway I discover an unwieldy maze. The remedy, you wonder? The check and stamp trick which I will continue until her next visit when I pretend that the bill-pay dilemma just arose.
A final example is my swimming schedule. I began swimming laps about seven years ago and every Tuesday and Thursday since then I have jumped out of bed, donned my suit, and entered the pool by 5:30 am. Occasionally I had to go at mid-day or in the evening, but typically the early morning found me paddling away. Suddenly the old guard retired and the new guard settled into the position. One of his first moves was to adjust the lap hours. Now the first opportunity is at 6am and the early entry that used to be 11:30 is now noon, and the evening session – good luck. I realize that these changes are not astoundingly enormous or even that inconvenient, however, I am having trouble adjusting my mindset with my old habit and linking them in a positive fashion to the new times.
The first week I grumbled extensively and that is how I began Week 2, thinking that my disgruntlement might move mountains, or at least times. It didn’t and so by Thursday instead of heading out so early, I enjoyed my extra half hour of coffee and the newspaper plus I even found a little spare writing time. I guess I will survive. The good news is that with this contented outlook I have decreased in age as well.
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