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Stuck in Traffic or Just Pausing?
From:
Mary L. Flett, Ph.D. --  Aging Expert Mary L. Flett, Ph.D. -- Aging Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco, CA
Sunday, July 18, 2021

 

Here we are, half-way through 2021 and I feel like I am stuck in rush hour traffic on the 101. (For those of you who do not live in California, you can substitute whatever roadway bottleneck you have in your area that predictably ties up traffic.)  I am idling and unable to move forward until others have completed their tasks, and there are folks behind me who are waiting for me to move on so they can get to their destinations and time is passing at an ever-increasing pace!

I am a fickle waiter. Depending on my mood, blood sugar levels, available distractors, and what is causing the delay, I can be generous, judgmental, and/or downright snarky. Being placed on hold on the telephone will result in my snarky rising to the top. Waiting for wildlife to cross the road or a beautiful sunset to reveal itself brings out buckets of generosity. Anything in between these demarcation points falls into judge-y.

Opportunities for Personal Growth

To be clear, this relates exclusively to my own behavioral set of “opportunities-for-personal-growth”. For example, even though I am trained to be a good listener, all too often I find myself completing whole conversations in my head and interrupting the person I am conversing with because they are taking too long to come to the point. Turns out, this is not a good strategy. Seems as if I have, on occasion, been wrong in my inner dialogue and my comments misdirected or irrelevant.

I also seem to have a knack for finding the slowest line for check-outs. My technique is primarily visual. I try to find a line where there are the fewest individuals waiting. What seems to be faulty with this technique is that the number of individuals in a line apparently does not have any bearing on the number of items being checked out, the ability or inability of the customer to find ways to pay for the goods, and/or the capacity of the checker to scan, bag, and complete the transaction.

Then there is driving. Let me state for the record that I have been accused of being a lead-foot. I like speed. Over my many years of safe driving, I have had one or two occasions to spend time in the company of highway patrol officers who have encouraged me to enjoy the scenery at a slower pace. Advice, I assure you, I have taken to heart. At least until I am out of their radar range.

Since I live in a community that is both a tourist destination and dense with aging drivers, I have increased my capacity for tolerating odd driving habits. But it is proving to be particularly challenging at present. Between folks who are following disembodied voices on their GPS (and who have no clue where they are or where they are going), and locals who have well-established routes to get to points A and B, I frequently find myself crawling at a snail’s pace behind one or more of these drivers, my blood pressure stratospheric and my adult brain sending frantic instructions to my reactive brain to restrain myself from honking my horn and using sign language. I beg your forgiveness for playing on stereotypes here, and, certainly hold myself as an exception, having never gone slowly or gaped at the scenery.  Not ever.  Not once.

Double Standards Apply Here

I wish I was as perfect as I demand everybody else be. More often than not, I find I am able to catch myself in these behaviors and just smile. In these moments of awareness, my foot comes off the accelerator, my inner dialogue reverts to observations rather than judgments, and I take a bit of pride in being efficient and able to move on with my day.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have firmly held opinions. I have days when I am anything but forgiving. I struggle with setting appropriate boundaries and screwing up my courage to ask for what I need and not completely falling apart if I don’t receive it. I still swear out loud when I am frustrated with my own limitations. I know I disappoint myself and I strongly suspect I disappoint others at times.

I have a well-developed critical mind honed over many experiences in my decades of living. Now I am working on balancing it with an equally well-developed forgiving mind. In seeing my own imperfections, I am finding fewer in others. I am finding more space and capacity for the possibility that my first impression may have been slightly skewed. My jumping to conclusions covers less acreage and gives me more chance at recovery if I have misjudged. These are remarkable shifts that only come with age.

Fine wine needs to age in order to reach its full potential. Trees require stressors over time to deepen their roots and send their canopy skyward. Talent in childhood needs to be recognized, mentored and disciplined to fulfill its promise in adulthood. Life needs to be lived so that memories are created and recalled in later years. Wisdom does come with age.

What Are You Waiting For?

So, here I am stuck waiting. Because I can’t go forward at the pace I want and I can’t distract myself with creating care plans for the rest of the world, I am left with figuring out just what it is I am waiting for. And the answer to that question is depends on how I am feeling in the moment.

Sometimes I am waiting for things to be over; for pain to end, for sadness to lift, for anxiety to be replaced with a sense of control and safety. Sometimes I am waiting for the other shoe to drop or good news to arrive. Sometimes I am waiting for words to come or names to go with faces. Sometimes I am waiting to be loved again.

When I have tasks to accomplish, like writing this blog, or attending a class, or meeting up with friends, the waiting is easy. Without the tasks to distract me, my mind will often run away with catastrophic contingencies (especially at 3:00 am!) or else just drift off into a space that isn’t quite sleep, but isn’t being awake either.

Joy is found in the pauses.  Kind of like breathing.  When I inhale and hold my breath, there is moment just before the exhalation that is sweet anticipation of release.  And when I exhale completely, there is that sweet empty space where I can rest before filling up my lungs once again.  These pauses are just another form of waiting, but they are anything but stuck.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Mary L Flett, PhD.
Group: Five Pillars of Aging
Dateline: Sonoma, CA United States
Direct Phone: 707-938-5531
Cell Phone: 707-303-6517
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