Aging Gratefully


I went to market Monday. It was after my morning coffee, and catching up on the world via my iPad.

I wasn’t buying much. Especially compared to when I cooked dinner every night for my wife and whomever was around. I made daily trips to the market. Now, once or twice a week at the most.

When I got to the self-service checkout, after I scanned my purchases, and bagged them, I realized I didn’t have my wallet.

Anxiety coursed through me as I wondered if I forgot it or lost it. I paid for my coffee with my iPhone so I decided the wallet wasn’t at Starbucks.

I explained my situation to the clerk, left my bag for him to restock, and walked the two blocks home, where my wallet was sitting on the hall table. Where I always leave it.

I pumped my fist and said, “yes!” Then I took a minute to reflect how I would have felt if the wallet hadn’t been there. I savored the fact that my life hadn’t been disrupted and was still in kilter.

I’m at a stage in my journey, where I no longer take positive outcomes for granted. I have come to accept that no matter how hard I try, bad things will happen.

That is a huge change for me. When I was younger I only had high expectations. When life didn’t live up to my expectations, disappointment was my typical response.

I spent an inordinate amount of my life disappointed.

Now I am changing how I react to the good and the bad. Discarding expectations.

For example, taking a moment to savor the moment  I catch a dinnerplate I almost dropped, so the next time, when I’m sweeping up broken pieces, I don’t wonder why bad things always happen to me.

In the past, when I called customer service for something and the experience didn’t meet my expectations I was quick to escalate.

Now, when I have a positive experience, I am even quicker to let a supervisor know how valuable the customer service representative is to their organization. It takes a a little effort, but I am cognizant of the positive effect it can have in a corporate hierarchy. And it makes me feel good.

It occurs to me that accepting good and bad as inevitabilities is a central theme of the book, “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron.

The book is a roadmap for a better way of dealing with life’s challenges, large and small. Given to me  in the midst of the end of my marriage, I recommend it for anyone working on their own journey.

Changing my perspective isn’t binary. Sometimes I fall back into old habits. I get it will take a lifetime of practice. And I’m grateful to have the opportunity.

3 thoughts on “Aging Gratefully

    1. Good point Adam. I have a challenging relationship with anger, to say the least. For an extended period of time it was one of the most common complaints I heard from those closest to me.

      “You sound so angry!”

      “Do you hear your tone?”

      Eventually, those exchanges became part of the soundtrack. Even when I would say something innocuous, I’d be accused of being angry. I feel like I’m in a very different place now but with adult children who I don’t see often, the challenge remains to help them see that the soundtrack is outdated.

      And there you have it.


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