On Becoming Easygoing

The Secret to Aging Well? Contentment. That recent New York Times article caught my eye, because clearly I’m aging and with luck, I’ll continue to age for another 30 years or so. My body and mind are likely to take hits along the way, so how can I age gracefully? What magic needs to take place in my mind so I’ll be accepting of inevitable changes, tolerant and easygoing when confronted with irritating people and situations, and content with the many good things in my life, if not joyful?

Hmmm. This might be harder than it sounds . . . . Ever since I was a girl, I’ve had a writer’s sensibility—noticing sensory details along with the quirks and nuance of how people behave. I’ve mentally recorded and searched for the words to describe all of what I see and experience.

For a writer, the capacity for analysis and the ability to think critically are assets. For example, I wrote the previous sentence five times before I found the right words, and I enjoyed that analytical process. I also analyzed the NYT’s author’s choice of “contentment” and concluded that “acceptance” and “being easygoing” would be more accurate word choices for the outlook he is recommending. But who asked me?!?

Because writing has been both my work and my passion for decades, I’ve honed my ability to see, remember, analyze, and define. Yet now the habit of noticing and articulating everything appears to be at cross purposes with the habits of being tolerant and accepting. Implied in my wish to become more patient and forbearing is the expectation that I’ll quit noticing stuff and letting it bother me.

The habits of a lifetime are hard to change. I will probably remain particular about writing. But I’ve already cultivated the power to notice without judging in some of the other areas of my life. For example, one of my friends always apologizes for her messy house. I can see that it is, but I don’t care. Mine’s messy too.

Another friend wears the same three shirts over and over, but I accept that although she has the money, she doesn’t care about clothes. And I definitely sympathize with her dislike of shopping.

Many of my friends and family are passionate about sports, while I remain lukewarm. No doubt the sports lovers are equally baffled by my passion for reading and gardening. They must wonder how I can get so excited about Barbara Kingsolver’s newest novel or why anybody cares at all about plants with variegated leaves!

Variegated

Variegated coleus

Perhaps the answer to my dilemma is to refocus my observational powers on seeing the good in life and finding the words for that. That sounds positive and cheerful, which is how I want to be. Maybe with practice I can flex those muscles and strengthen my capacity to be easygoing and accepting.

I figure I’m still young. I’ve still got a few years to get that right!

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2 thoughts on “On Becoming Easygoing

  1. I used to think that contentment was attainable in a series of moves away from the turmoil of the present. “Things will be fine as soon as I get a new car.” Or move into a new place, get the right job, find the right partner, etcetera. But those were only temporary fixes, and discontent has always resurfaced. Maybe it’s staying discontent that drives some of us.

    • I thought it was interesting how the comments about the NYT article about contentment ran. The comments seemed to reflect several different mindsets. Some saw contentment as complacency, so discontent was a driver, a way to keep striving, achieving, and enjoying. Others saw contentment as acceptance and advised that letting go and and accepting Buddha’s or Jesus’s teaching as the way to go. I’m more in the first camp than the second. I’m always tinkering with aspects of my life, trying to adjust or improve how I spend my time, how I react to events etc. But as for being easygoing, which is what I think the NYT author was really talking about, I’ve got a long way to go! The blog is about my aspirations 😉 Thanks again for pointing out the article to me–lots of food for thought!

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