24 votes

An open discussion related to time and/or the aging process

I just finished Elena Ferrante's "Neapolitan Novels" and am grappling with this idea of time and the aging process.

Some themes that I find peculiar are:

  • Those pesky things our parents told us in adolescents, which we often absentmindedly or hotheadedly disregarded, make much more sense as an adult. And, sometimes, we don't get the chance to share our revelations with them.
  • The things we wanted to dissociate from/ we found disgusting as youths are things we may cling to for comfort as an adult. (Be that as it may, sometimes the things they say are atrocious, which makes one think, what atrocious things am I saying now?).
  • Sometimes the things we fear are inevitable.
  • Things we said and our attitude towards our parents were harsh. As we grow older and become the receiver of such harshness, we grow to have compassion for them (possibly after they have passed) and wish we were kinder to them.
  • Quarrels between friends and family members seem so important at the time of the incident, however, as space and time grow, those quarrels fall to the backdrop. Human connection is craved and desired more as we age. This makes me feel that grudges are so wasteful (although I am guilty of holding them and am holding them currently - That's an internal battle I am fighting).

There's more I can say about this, but I should hold back from rambling. So, what do you think of when you think of time and/or the aging process?

22 comments

  1. [7]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    I don't know if this is part of aging or just simply my own unique emotional situation, but the amplitudes of my emotions have compacted over time. When I was younger, my low points were 0s and...

    I don't know if this is part of aging or just simply my own unique emotional situation, but the amplitudes of my emotions have compacted over time. When I was younger, my low points were 0s and they were absolutely devastating. Meanwhile, my high points were 10s and they were breathtaking.

    Now I've settled more into what feels like the 4 to 7 range. I still have relative lows and highs, but they're nowhere near the magnitude of what they used to be, good or bad. Undoubtedly major life events have the ability to push me outside of those limits (e.g. when COVID-19 first started spreading in the United States I dropped well below a 4), but outside of major, significant happenings, I coast in what is, ultimately, a very comfortable range.

    It sounds like I've been deadened somewhat, but I actually prefer it -- especially because a lot of my earlier life was filled with a lot more lows than highs. Where I'm at is comfortable, manageable, and expected, and that's very much my speed.

    16 votes
    1. ChuckS
      Link Parent
      I've got kids, and when my oldest was a baby I realized that something that's disappointing to him could be trivial to me but is literally the most disappointing thing to have happened in his...

      I've got kids, and when my oldest was a baby I realized that something that's disappointing to him could be trivial to me but is literally the most disappointing thing to have happened in his entire life.

      It gave me some perspective on my own feelings, because I realized that the emotional highs and lows aren't less than what they used to be, they're just more familiar. I think it's pushed me to try different things, so I can have the same feelings but in a different context.

      6 votes
    2. [5]
      georgebcrawford
      Link Parent
      I know what you mean - perhaps our minds are better at simply smoothing things out as we get older. I’m in my mid-30s, I noticed my own 4-7 range a couple of years ago. There can be many other...

      I know what you mean - perhaps our minds are better at simply smoothing things out as we get older. I’m in my mid-30s, I noticed my own 4-7 range a couple of years ago.

      There can be many other factors at play though, such as relationship status, job/career paths, finances being somewhat more stable, etc.

      4 votes
      1. joplin
        Link Parent
        There's also being off the teenage testosterone train for men. Since we don't have any outward signs of our hormonal changes in the same way that women do, it's a lot less obvious that's what's...

        There's also being off the teenage testosterone train for men. Since we don't have any outward signs of our hormonal changes in the same way that women do, it's a lot less obvious that's what's affecting you. But I've since figured out that the various physiological changes that occur as your testosterone levels change over (even a short period of) time can cause a lot of psychological changes, too. It's unfortunate that men don't get more information about this at a younger age.

        10 votes
      2. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        But also we've experienced better and worse. A sunset with a serious romantic partner? It can be the most intense wonderful experience you've ever had... once. After that, it's one in a set of...

        But also we've experienced better and worse. A sunset with a serious romantic partner? It can be the most intense wonderful experience you've ever had... once. After that, it's one in a set of other great experiences of its type. An accident with a major, painful injury? They're never fun, but only one of them can really be the worst experience you've ever had.

        As we have more experiences our measuring bar broadens, so it makes sense that more of life will fall into the middle range.

        7 votes
      3. [2]
        Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        Someone once made a humorous observation about a very young child throwing a tantrum about a seemingly unimportant situation: Thinking about that, I think a lot of experiences from our youth are...

        Someone once made a humorous observation about a very young child throwing a tantrum about a seemingly unimportant situation:

        They're freaking out because to them, that is literally the worst thing that has ever happened to them in their so far short life, and they have no idea how to contextualize it

        Thinking about that, I think a lot of experiences from our youth are like that. At the time they happen, they are literally the best or worst thing that has ever happened to us up to that point and so we remember them vividly. As we grow older we have more experiences (and also observe others) and can contextualize better, and in doing so what was once remarkable now becomes more mundane. We also learn (hopefully healthy) coping mechanisms.

        6 votes
        1. cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Children's brains are also still physically developing, which is a huge factor here as well. When my nephew was born I read a bunch of child development/neuropsychiatry/neurobiology and...

          Children's brains are also still physically developing, which is a huge factor here as well. When my nephew was born I read a bunch of child development/neuropsychiatry/neurobiology and science-based parenting strategy books, and one that really stuck with me was The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Dan Siegel (clinical prof. of psychiatry at UCLA) and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson (child development specialist).

          In it they talked about what they call the "upstairs brain" (prefrontal cortex), which helps regulate our emotions (amongst other things), and how that doesn't really start developing until adolescence and is not fully developed until our mid-20s. So kids especially, but even teens as well, are actually far less physically capable of regulating their emotions than us adults are, which is why emotional outbursts and highs/lows at those ages are often far more intense than what we experience later in life.

          It's a pretty fascinating and enlightening book that covers the basics of child development, as well as effective strategies to productively and effectively deal with common parenting issues at various ages, and I highly recommend it. It's pretty basic and broad in comparison to some of the other books I read later that covered each individual related subject in more depth, but it was a great starting point.

          3 votes
  2. Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    I could ramble, too, but I'll just say this. Mid-50s now; the older I get, the more I realize and understand how horribly inaccurate human memory is, while simultaneously feeling deceptively accurate.

    I could ramble, too, but I'll just say this. Mid-50s now; the older I get, the more I realize and understand how horribly inaccurate human memory is, while simultaneously feeling deceptively accurate.

    13 votes
  3. [4]
    joplin
    (edited )
    Link
    Yeah, I've heard this throughout my life and I find it to be absolute nonsense. I didn't need to cut my hair to get a job. I don't need to set an alarm to get up at a particular time each morning....

    Those pesky things our parents told us in adolescents, which we often absentmindedly or hotheadedly disregarded, make much more sense as an adult.

    Yeah, I've heard this throughout my life and I find it to be absolute nonsense. I didn't need to cut my hair to get a job. I don't need to set an alarm to get up at a particular time each morning. I don't need to scrape and save so much that having the front door open for 30 seconds when the air conditioning is on is going to bankrupt me.

    The things we wanted to dissociate from/ we found disgusting as youths are things we may cling to for comfort as an adult.

    Eh, sort of. I wouldn't say "cling to." But sometimes we find that something that once disgusted us no longer does. Or we get insight into something and it turns out our notion of it was wrong and it's not so bad. Also there are physical and physiological changes we go through that change how we perceive the world. Things that once tasted bad no longer do, for example. Things that once looked really cool now seem gaudy. It happens.

    Things we said and our attitude towards our parents were harsh. As we grow older and become the receiver of such harshness, we grow to have compassion for them

    I've seen this happen when people treat their own kids shitty and then want to feel better about themselves. (Think, "Now I understand why you hit me as a child!") Personally, I don't feel any compassion for the shittiness of my parents.

    Human connection is craved and desired more as we age.

    That certainly runs counter to the other stereotype of old people being cranky and wanting people to "get off their lawn." But I guess if your friends and family were dying off, you'd still want to have someone to talk to and interact with. I find myself being more introverted over time.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      mrbig
      Link Parent
      One could easily interpret this hostility as a reaction to this very lack of affection. Human beings are prone to this kind of apparent contradiction.

      That certainly runs counter to the other stereotype of old people being cranky and wanting people to "get off their lawn."

      One could easily interpret this hostility as a reaction to this very lack of affection. Human beings are prone to this kind of apparent contradiction.

      10 votes
      1. joplin
        Link Parent
        That's a really interesting point. I hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks for the insight!

        That's a really interesting point. I hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks for the insight!

        7 votes
    2. vord
      Link Parent
      Yup. For me it was that my parents would still treat me like a young child even as I entered my mid-30s. That and the gaslighting and other emotional abuse. Silver lining is that cutting them out...

      I've seen this happen when people treat their own kids shitty and then want to feel better about themselves.

      Yup. For me it was that my parents would still treat me like a young child even as I entered my mid-30s. That and the gaslighting and other emotional abuse.

      Silver lining is that cutting them out has made them act less shitty to my siblings.

      Since having a kid I do have a bit more sympathy for my mother's plight of raising 4 kids while my dad would work overseas for months/years. Doesn't excuse her behavior, but I at least comprehend why it happened. Stress will fuck people up who aren't well equipped to deal with it.

      5 votes
  4. [2]
    krg
    Link
    Haven't read any Ferrante, but judging by those themes I think I may have to, soon. Especially the idea of greater appreciation for parents and regret for being snotty kids as we age. Some people...

    Haven't read any Ferrante, but judging by those themes I think I may have to, soon. Especially the idea of greater appreciation for parents and regret for being snotty kids as we age.

    Some people may feel a sort of imposter syndrome as they age. That is, they don't have their shit together like a model adult should. But that adult model is formed when we're young dumbasses and revere adults. They are strong and smart providers and protectors. We follow their lead. Then we grow up and wonder where our strength is. Why don't we have all the answers like the adults of our youth did? Well, they didn't. They had the same fears and doubts that us emerging adults have. No one knows what they hell they're doing, yet look how far we've come!

    I have never felt more adult than that moment, a few days ago, when I seriously cared about what new shower curtain and bathroom rug I would be purchasing.

    10 votes
    1. mrbig
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      When I was in film school, many of my colleagues loved going to bars, smoking imported cigarettes, drinking foreign beer and talking about serious matters. They liked Coltrane, Godard, Wong Kar...

      When I was in film school, many of my colleagues loved going to bars, smoking imported cigarettes, drinking foreign beer and talking about serious matters. They liked Coltrane, Godard, Wong Kar Wai, hard drugs, and absinth. I liked many of the same stuff, minus the intoxication (for the most part). I also loved Spielberg, Hitchcock, George Lucas, James Cameron and Nora Ephron. I was able to like all those things while remaining a regular dude. To me, they looked pretentious, and I created a name for that: they were doing “grown-up theater”, a tiresome imposture of what they thought being an adult looked like. I much preferred being the same silly kid, at least in my demeanor. Yes, of course I faced responsibility, but why should I be some Humphrey Bogart caricature in my time of leisure? So I decided to remain silly to the day I die, thank you very much!

      5 votes
  5. [4]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm not wise but I speak less and maybe that's a form of wisdom. I take long breaths before saying anything of consequence. Sometimes I say things that sound deep and poetic without even trying....
    • I'm not wise but I speak less and maybe that's a form of wisdom. I take long breaths before saying anything of consequence.
    • Sometimes I say things that sound deep and poetic without even trying. It’s really kinda surprising. Maybe I did learn something about life in the last 35+ years. Very useful on dates.
    • I'm more pessimistic, even though I'm still optimistic overall.
    • The notion of what constitutes success (and failure) was readjusted -- young @mrbig was a megalomaniac asshole.
    • 40-year-old women are hot now.
    • I'm kinder and refrain from judgment. People are not "losers" or "winners" anymore. They're just people, with their own particular issues and circumstances I don't pretend to know.
      • Related: I grew suspicious of first impressions and black and white thinking. Now I try to take nuance and complexity (or at least what I consider to be nuanced and complex) into account in pretty much everything.
    • I now understand that respecting my partner's freedom and independence is in my best interest.
    • Being in love feels exactly the same, but I refrain from imprudence. It's easier to let things grow.
    • My attention span is terribly shorter as a consequence of the complication of severe ADHD.
    • I stopped drinking years ago and don't feel compelled to change that. This had positive effects on my mental health and reduced impulsive behavior, but also severely reduced my social life.
    • I don't necessarily erase the mistakes of my parents, but they are certainly in context. Maybe I'm in a unique position because both my parents greatly improved on themselves, becoming radically better human beings with age. So any possible grudge was overcome by their own merit.
    9 votes
    1. [3]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      What's the old saying? "Better to leave your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt" or something like that? I could have learned that one earlier in life. I...

      I'm not wise but I speak less and maybe that's a form of wisdom. I take long breaths before saying anything of consequence.

      What's the old saying? "Better to leave your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt" or something like that? I could have learned that one earlier in life.

      40-year-old women are hot now.

      I cannot argue with that!

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        mrbig
        Link Parent
        Yes my friend. Whenever I breathe before talking, I either replace what I was going to say with something better, or realize I should say nothing at all. That’s a win-win in my book!

        Yes my friend. Whenever I breathe before talking, I either replace what I was going to say with something better, or realize I should say nothing at all. That’s a win-win in my book!

        4 votes
        1. UniquelyGeneric
          Link Parent

          Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools speak because they have to say something.

          3 votes
  6. vord
    Link
    Time dilation always trips me up. As you age, each subsequent year is a smaller fraction of your overall life. 0-18 was a hell of a lot longer in my mind than 18-36. I'm generally agreeing with...

    Time dilation always trips me up.

    As you age, each subsequent year is a smaller fraction of your overall life.

    0-18 was a hell of a lot longer in my mind than 18-36.

    I'm generally agreeing with the 4-7 range others have pointed out, although sometimes I wonder if that's just a byproduct of having to spend so many of our waking hours trudging through a workday and not being with our families/friends/neighbors.

    7 votes
  7. MonkeyPants
    Link
    When my old man was about the age that I am now, and I was a little shit, I gave him a birthday card. It said "Congrats! Another year older! Notice that your posture is worse, your skin is more...

    When my old man was about the age that I am now, and I was a little shit, I gave him a birthday card. It said "Congrats! Another year older! Notice that your posture is worse, your skin is more wrinkled and your hair is greyer? Of course not! You are losing your eyesight!"

    Much later in life, after he was retired, the old codger came over to help me with flooring. He was never one to share stories or offer advice, so I asked questions in a roundabout kind of way. I asked him, regarding children, which age range is most enjoyable and which age range is most challenging. He looked at me while he was laying down my flooring and said "I don't know which age is the most enjoyable, but probably about your current age is the most difficult."

    So don't worry. Things usually only seem bad in the moment. Then before you know it, time has flown by, and you stop thinking in terms of left knee/right knee and start thinking in terms of bad knee/worse knee and thinking maybe you shouldn't have told your son that of course you don't need knee pads.

    4 votes
  8. [2]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    I guess I'll be the one to ask for clarification and give uninformed opinions. (_= typo check, because.) Sure enough, everyone calls their teen/young/younger self an ignorant mongrel eventually...

    I guess I'll be the one to ask for clarification and give uninformed opinions.

    Those pesky things our parents told us in adolescence, which we often absentmindedly or hotheadedly disregarded, make much more sense as an adult. And, sometimes, we don't get the chance to share our revelations with them.

    (_= typo check, because.)

    Sure enough, everyone calls their teen/young/younger self an ignorant mongrel eventually (moderately hyperbolic, also not for no reason) but how often does the latter occur? I know cancer and freak accidents and US Healthcare are very real but how often does it happen?

    The things we wanted to dissociate from/ we found disgusting as youths are things we may cling to for comfort as an adult. (Be that as it may, sometimes the things they say are atrocious, which makes one think, what atrocious things am I saying now?).

    What are you referring to exactly? Habits? People? Religion? Escapism?

    Sometimes the things we fear are inevitable.

    Partially related

    Things we said and our attitude towards our parents were harsh. As we grow older and become the receiver of such harshness, we grow to have compassion for them (possibly after they have passed) and wish we were kinder to them.

    I could definitely see this (I know I sometimes say that being born ~9 months after carnival is no surprise, a toxin of a joke), but do you receive it from children/young people or other adults?

    Quarrels between friends and family members seem so important at the time of the incident, however, as space and time grow, those quarrels fall to the backdrop. Human connection is craved and desired more as we age. This makes me feel that grudges are so wasteful (although I am guilty of holding them and am holding them currently - That's an internal battle I am fighting).

    Fair enough, my parents and other family members have been complaining about many things for my entire life and it definitely hasn't resulted in anything serious (which is not too surprising since when it has, it was pretty damn detrimental.)

    1. beanie
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Well, I didn't really want to make this personal, but I'll try my best to answer your questions. This was in reference to the book. The mother of the narrator past and as the main character grew...

      Well, I didn't really want to make this personal, but I'll try my best to answer your questions.

      I know cancer and freak accidents and US Healthcare are very real but how often does it happen?

      This was in reference to the book. The mother of the narrator past and as the main character grew older she started to see how her kids treated her and it hurt her (the main character). The narrator didn't directly say that "now I know how my mother might have felt". But some things that were previously said in the book can allow the reader to make that association. Or maybe I'm just projecting (probably that).

      My personal answer: Family estrangement. I was kicked out of the family. I'm slowly being brought in, I guess, not really. But there's a weird, unspoken rule: don't bring up that thing that made us kick you out the first time. So, the attitude and atmosphere in my family doesn't allow for open communication, vulnerability or acceptance. So, sharing revelations with them is kinda off the table. And they may also use it as a gambling chip, "you think I'm right with this, so, you should think I'm right with that." Some family members/interactions are toxic like that. It doesn't allow for open communication because what you say will be held against you.

      In general, in some households, open communication, vulnerability and acceptance just isn't a thing.

      Yeah, I'm not very good at explaining things. I hope that explanation helps.

      What are you referring to exactly?

      In reference to the book: the main character had a moment with her kids where her kids mocked her writing for the old/outdated/at that point cliched language she used. The narrator was a feminist writer and was toying and playing with the idea in her books. The reason why her kids mocked her because it was so obvious to them the things her mother used to write. But her mother was a product of her time. At the time she was writing those things, they were edgy. But to her kids, they aren't so. And she remembered a time where she'd mock her mother for the same outdated language she had used.

      The main character was consistently trying to dissociate from the family/neighborhood/friends she grew up in. She felt it was "wrong/backwards" whathaveyou. Being that I use to do that, and now that I've actually been kicked out of the family/culture, I'm realizing that family and friends is all you got in this world. Humans are social creatures. It's torture to be ostracized. And sometimes you need to make your own family via friends, but people are busy, they have their own lives. It's hard to make your own family. Can we accept our family for what they are as we wish to be accepted for who we are? Can we be a little more empathetic to the idea that people are a product of their time and try our best to educate our previous generations (instead of being ruthless <-- I'm talking about cancel culture)? And if the previous generations are a product of their time, aren't I a product of my time? What things am I saying now that in the future will be shown to be unacceptable/outdated?

      Hope this helps. I'm not sure it does. I'm not a writer or a book reviewer/commentator or anything. Just trying to learn stuff about myself.

      And I also know everyone's lives are different. Some people don't get the chance to be "brought back in the family". And it hurts to get kicked out. Yeah, so idk. Everyone's lives and situation is different and each individual has to do what's best for them.

      1 vote