Grumpy Old Men?

Jan 8 2006

Peter said his  wife reckons that when she is upset she has to tell him so, and then tell him why, and then tell him what to do about it. Apparently his  ability to empathise turned off "like a switch" some time ago. He says that apart from often having no idea what is going on when she is upset, he is noticing  a growing tiredness within himself. Not a physical thing, but a deep down frustration with other people's problems. He is fed up with constant struggles other people are having, which he has to pay attention to, regardless of what he might be feeling or having to deal with.  I can relate to this: everyone gets their say but me! And so much of what they apparently need to say seems so trivial... sometimes while I feel like I am bleeding inside.

Some of the deep tired feeling comes from growing responsibility at work, with all the extra grassfires that go along with that. In my case there is also a deep tiredness that comes from a  long time of dealing and living with another person's illness.

But maybe Peter and I are just turning into grumpy old men.

I was talking to Dennis a while back. Dennis is polite, positive, hardworking, and enthusiastic. He told me he was concerned at his growing lack of patience with other people. (This is almost funny, knowing the man, as be is unfailingly polite and patient.) He was not referring to being rude, but to a growing internal frustration with the crap that people indulge in instead of getting on with the job; all the petty politics and bullshit you get in churches and other organisations. I wondered with him if we were just getting to a "certain age," the age of grumpy old men.

I'm almost 51, but only just getting to the point where I am realising I don't have to keep looking up to other people. I have valid opinions, I don't have to have the sanction of other people. I actually know as much, and sometimes more, than people I have deferred to for years. There is a great freedom that comes with this, but also a growing feeling of being sick of sitting through time wasting crap.

For Peter's wife this is all a bit sad, and ultimately unacceptable,  inasmuch as his struggles come back on her. I am alarmed to find a similar loss of empathy in myself. It is not good to find something I have worked at for years, disappearing.  

Speaking more  generally, women are funny animals when they talk. I have been listening to conversations lately. Despite what women sometimes say about friendship and mutual support, an awful lot of what I hear seems pretty inconsequential. Sometimes on the train, I ask myself as two women chatter on, if anyone is actually listening- except (maybe) to themselves. They are simply sounding off and venting.  I think my wife has been talking to me like I'm the woman in the opposite seat, because she is still relatively isolated from after her illness.

When I look at how I might deal with my growing impatience... (How does one maintain tolerance after decades of putting up with blockers and gate-keepers, snobs, control freaks and just dipsticks, and finally somehow getting sick of it.... )...

When I look.... I see part of the problem is like my wife's problem. There is no one to talk to or sound off at- I'm not getting a word in edgeways. I need to get my friendships in order too, otherwise it all builds up in me. I need the simple privilege of venting.

But maybe there is something else as well. Maybe it really is time to stop putting up with all the bullshit. Is it possible that this mature age grumpiness has a gift in it? Is it possible we have reached a time of life where, perhaps unlike our teen years, we can be impatient with discernment? Have we finally achieved some wisdom, and must wisdom be unfailingly polite, or can it sometimes call a spade a spade, or simply tune out the trivia?!

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