I was watching my local nightly news and found myself irritated, depressed, and fuming that the most important part of the show (the weather) kept being promised as “coming up next!” In reality, it was sandwiched between interminable ads for trucks and 30 second disaster stories about murder, mayhem, climate change and political shenanigans. Because I had so little patience, I channel surfed only to return and find that the weather segment was over and we were now on to sports. Not that it mattered, since the weather is pretty much the same every day where I live, only with minor changes in what the TV personality wears and who reads the teleprompter on weekends.
That paragraph pretty much sums up what my new normal has been coming out of the COVID cave I have been in this last year. Essentially waiting for hoped-for change, only to find it has already passed me by. For example, I had hoped to have my new hips take me on fabulous trips now that I am pain free and able to move again. Reality? COVID weight-gain, post-COVID fatigue and other long-term effects leaving me out of shape and needing to start all over again.
Another change that I am still wrapping my slowed synapses around is promoting myself online. I have recently been taking courses on personal branding, “how to sell your books”, new entrepreneurship, all in an effort to pivot from my former identity as a clinical psychologist to my new persona as “aging expert” and influencer. In reality, what that has turned out to be so far is an old fart who is trying to understand Google Forms and why I can’t use PowerPoint any more.
I am very aware that I am now getting those patient looks from people younger than me indicating that I have said something or done something that “old people” do. All my familiar ways of teaching and communicating have migrated to a cell phone and my thumbs just can’t keep up!
Moving On v. Leaving Behind
I am moving on by integrating new technology into my life. I read most of my books on my Kindle. I text people. I use Bluetooth to make phone calls and listen to songs in my car. But what am I leaving behind? What happens when books are no longer on shelves and music is only available by telling Alexa or Siri play something?
I looked around at my living room where my prized collection of books takes up more than a wall and my CDs, and records wait for me to load them into my stereo system. I love taking out my grandmother’s china and serving up a meal. I love picking out a selection of music on my terms and listening to how the artist and producer decided to frame the album. Don’t get me wrong, Pandora usually serves up some wonderful tunes, but it’s not the same.
I have an amazing collection of time capsules (books) and memory triggers (music) that, because of their physicality, end up providing me with reassurance, context, and choice. Just as routine and predictability calm our fears, familiar objects offer a link to a past that is valuable though no longer would be considered cutting edge. I can read a book off my shelf when my power is out or I forget to charge my Kindle. While eating off my grandmother’s china, I can recall family gatherings and remember wonderful times. This doesn’t happen when everything is in the Cloud.
Can’t Live with It; Can’t Live without It
COVID drove home the lesson that connection is essential, but how we connect is changing. Every other week I join a group of women on Zoom. We have been meeting this way since the early days of COVID. Before the pandemic, I can safely say none of us had heard of Zoom. We have stayed together and become friends and good supports for one another because of these new ways of connecting.
Yes, we complain about having to see each other on a screen. We are in agreement that it would be better if we were able to sit around a table and just be in one another’s presence. But it hasn’t been safe to do that, so we adapted. The possibility exists that we will get together now that we are all vaccinated. Still, we haven’t — yet. This is the new normal.
Impatience v. Contentment
I like to think of myself as being technologically sophisticated. I realize that isn’t as true as it was when I was younger. I have noticed that I no longer have capacity (or patience) for learning new ways of doing things just because there is a new gadget or algorithm. I am content with what I have and the mastery I have with it.
Newer, bigger, better is just advertising fluff. I prefer to keep things in good working order so that I don’t have to replace them. I don’t look forward to the newest version of Microsoft Office because, inevitably, they will have taken one of my favorite short-cuts and moved it somewhere else. I still like using PowerPoint. Call me a Luddite!
I can tell I am an aging expert. I don’t mean that I know a lot about aging (well, actually I do). What I mean is that, like fine wine, I am aging. The things I once knew a lot about are no longer useful for many who are younger than I am, and are losing their utility as technology moves on. Prime example? Smart cars. I am disoriented when I get in these new “smart” cars. I still want to put a key in the ignition.
This reminds me of my beloved grandfather who grew up without electricity in his home and lived to see humans land on the moon. The difference now lies in the pace of change. I need more time to get used to how the new cars work. I know Instagram and Twitter are faster, but I prefer reading an email. People say they don’t trust the vaccines because they were developed too quickly. Just how long should it have taken?
Maybe this is just part of aging. I’ve lived long enough to appreciate that some things have staying power and don’t need to be improved. Some things were never meant to last very long and have a short shelf life. And some things don’t reveal their value until we don’t have them any more.