I recently read about a study that seems to show that most people think they won’t change as much in the next ten years as they have in the past ten years: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/01/your-elusive-future-self.html.
It’s certainly hard to gauge how many changes you’ve made, but anticipating change is something I’m pretty bad at. The stylish Mrs. Poirier, my tenth grade English teacher posed this enigma, “The more things change, the more they remain the same” (a paraphrase of the original quote) and it took me until I was about 45 to get a handle on that one. So, apparently, not only can’t I anticipate change, I can’t talk about it very well either. But that’s what this posting is about.
I also read an amusing interview with Shirley MacLaine who is described as fumbling with her iphone and having trouble believing she’s 78 years old which raises the question of how can we possibly know what we’ll be like in the future when the warp speed of technology has so much to do with our daily lives and when we may grow physically old, but emotionally feel very young.
The study suggests that most people feel as if they’ve reached their peaks of judgment, preferences, etc., at whatever age they are, so the best way to predict who you’ll be in the future is to “ imagine yourself in the future, … to look at other people who are in the very future you’re imagining,” says Daniel T. Gilbert one of the authors of the study.
Personally, imagining my future self seems to be unsporting and, quite frankly, something I’d rather avoid. Of course, I look forward to another generation, to weddings, to real retirement (not this fake one I’ve got going on now). It’s the being old that I suppose is the big bump on this downward plunge.
But I couldn’t help but think of all this the other night when we were out at a little diner. Even though it was a respectable 6:30 and there were no early bird specials to be found, the place was filled with white-hairs. Although there were some conversations afoot – I overheard one man recounting his WWII experiences – the couple across from us each stared out, past his/her spouse, no words for the other. I felt so sad watching them, hoping, waiting for them to connect, but they continued to sit, their respective hands folded on opposite sides of the table, waiting for their food. I remembered my little 80-something friend Syd whom I knew the summer my husband and I started dating. She told me how she envied Bill and my lively discussions, our passionate words, while she and her husband had nothing left to say to one another. Even though she took dance classes several times a week and more than made up for her tiny frame with her spunky style, her husband who was younger, but still in his 70’s, must have seen her age and not her.
Back to the diner – the food still hadn’t come and the man got up to use the bathroom. Of course, “got up” makes it sound simple – it wasn’t simple. It took him several minutes to extricate himself from the booth, then more time to straighten up, and only then did he begin the laborious trek to the loo. The whole scene was depressing me rather a lot.
Will Bill and I run out of words? Will one or both of us be almost crippled? Will life just be too much?
I was distracted by our waitress and then, miraculously, when I looked up again, husband and wife were talking and smiling and laughing. He even had a dimple. I felt much better especially when I realized how stupid I was to underestimate the power of their, most likely, many years together. I was projecting all along – when/if I imagine my future self, I think I can deal with aches and slowing down and a multitude of sagging body parts, but I don’t think I’ll deal well with losing a connection with the one I love, with those I love.
So does any of talk about change matter? Well, not if you realize that all any of us can do is tell the children you love them, call your friends, and take advantage of every opportunity to be with the one you love. But that, when you think about it, is a lot and I’ll take it any day.