Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Don't Be a Pathetic Old Person

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I like to find ways to enjoy myself, to make myself feel happy and optimistic. Don't you know a lot of old people who complain all the time, who always have a million things wrong in their lives and no hesitation about sharing? They always seems so pathetic, even when they genuinely do have a lot of problems. Most of us have a natural instinct to avoid others who are needy and depressing.

One important tenet in practicing stealth frugality is to not seem pathetic. Seeming needy, pitiable, and unhappy can be an easy trap to fall into, especially when you're old, definitely not feeling 21 any more, and trying to live on a small income. But pathos is just not necessary, even when you have a lot to be sad or worried about. Optimism is a learned skill, and using it benefits both you and everyone around you.

I guess old people have always been infamous for harping on their illnesses, aches, and pains. I can remember family gatherings back when I was a kid, wondering why the old folks talked so much abut their infirmities. It was puzzling and a little repellent to me at the time. Nowadays, it doesn't surprise me all that much, but I still find it somewhere between annoying and repellent. What ever happened to the virtues of stoicism? Do some folks think it's no longer operative when you hit 65? Has their world become so small and involuted that they don't have anything to talk about but their illnesses, aches, medications, and doctor's appointments?

I've been thinking about this recently, because a friend's birthday fell on Thursday of last week. And I really, really did not want to call her. I steeled myself and did it anyway. Sure enough, after a cursory "And how are you, my dear?" she was off and running with a litany of health problems, financial problems, and complaints about her children. The children, of course, have as little to do with her as possible. And who can blame them? First they have to listen to tales of her health woes, many exaggerated in hopes of engendering sympathy, and then they are hit up for money.

I just don't ever want to be that way, no matter how bad things get. I don't think it's prideful to want NOT to seem pathetic or a leech. That's not to say that we should never ask others for help if we need it, by the way. But we haven't obtained a free pass for mooching and grumbling and general selfcenteredness just by virtue of having lived for more than 60 years. Instead, it's fully my own responsibility to do my best to keep myself healthy, happy, and solvent.

Next week, I'll write about some of the ways I've found to avoid becoming a pathetic old person. It really does make life nicer for everyone.

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