The year of being sixty two: in and out of the comfort zone

As we get older, if we are lucky,  we live a life that suits us.  We find our tribe, we settle into our interests, we create our world from our family and friends.  We know what we like.  We know how we want to spend our time and what simply does not interest us.  We build a world around us in which we feel safe and happy.  When I look back at how life felt for me when I was in my late teens particularly so much of what I remember is the discomfort of not quite fitting and of not quite knowing how to behave.  I spent time with people whose values I did not share.  I did things I did not enjoy simply to fit in.  And then I slowly began to learn who I was and what mattered to me and to make my world in that shape.


It is good to have made a life that fits you and to feel comfortable and happy within it but I have been thinking for the last few weeks about comfort and challenge, about the need for self care and the risk of complacency, about how to continue to be true to yourself without becoming so rigid that you are not really alive.  It is a tricky one.  The train of thought started in one of my Welsh classes where the sparky, funny, intelligent and interesting people I was talking to (or trying to talk to, in my inadequate Welsh) both confessed that they had given up watching the news on television.  I was surprised.  I suppose I am a news addict and on most days I will listen to the radio news, watch the television news and quite often read a newspaper as well.  I do understand the decision to distance yourself from the news when so much of it is so deeply depressing and disturbing and outside of your power to ameliorate.  Indeed sometimes I too take a day  or so off from the news when I can feel it threatening to overwhelm me.  My friends were not uncaring or uninterested.  They simply said that they felt better in themselves if they did not subject themselves to the flood of information and the images of distress and disaster.  I understand that so why do I not do it myself?  I seem to feel a compulsion and an obligation to know what is happening in the wider world.  Parts of this are rational and reflect a belief that the intelligent citizen should know what is going on in his or her society.  Part of it is simply habit I think.  And at what point does that need to know sensibly stop?  Should I know what is happening in the United States, in the Middle East, in China, Australasia and South America?  Should I draw the boundaries of my responsibility to know around Europe?  And why the sense of a responsibility to know at all?  Can I do anything about the UK election result or the refugees from the conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan?  Can I affect what is happening in the United States under Trump? No.

Unanswerable questions in so many ways.  And then my sister reminded me that my mother, a news addict like myself for most of her life, had withdrawn from watching the news as part of her own commitment to looking after herself as my father's illness developed and the pressures on her increased.  She stopped watching anything distressing on the television entirely and stopped reading anything that distressed her after a lifetime of fascination with literature.  I don't mean that she stopped reading.  I can't imagine her life without books in it.  But she stopped reading things that disturbed and distressed her.  She read fewer novels and more biography and nature writing and abandoned her passion for current affairs.  She lost none of her incisive, quiet intelligence and maintained her calm and cheerfulness.  Is that how she managed it?  I can sort of recognise the beginnings of that shift in reading material in myself.  I certainly read less "serious" fiction than I used to and more history and writing on the natural world.  Is that part of keeping my equilibrium?  It feels to me to be to do with making sense of the big questions of life and ageing and seeking to understand what has gone before me and how other people have dealt with life.

I can feel a whole series of questions bubbling away about the balance between comfort and challenge, familiarity and strangeness, routine and novelty.  We are about to go flotilla sailing for the first time in twelve years so that feels well and truly outside my comfort zone!  Maybe that is partly why I find myself aware of the tension between what is easy and what is hard.

What about you? What do you watch, listen to and read?  What works for you and where do you stand?  In or out of the comfort zone?

Comments

  1. I entirely appreciate the need to protect myself by curating what I expose myself to. I don't watch news on TV and limit my radio news too these days, but largely because after the initial facts have been dealt with there always seem to be endless sessions of spurious comment and it is this I don't need any more. I also ask myself if the story deserves my emotional response and if not I stop listening. I would say I'm still just as well informed as ever, just less emotionally drawn in. As for reading, I'm the classic middle-aged woman reading crime fiction and lots of historical fact - and Terry Pratchett of course. My ambition is to be Miss Marple...

    I love your posts, you make me think - don't stop. Good luck sailing. x

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    1. I like the idea of being just as well informed but less emotionally drawn in but I'm wondering where you choose to get that first information from? I prefer radio to television and sometimes wonder if I would feel just as well informed if the only thing I read was the economist! Knowing how to find really informed reporting without what you call endless spurious comment is interesting! I don't tend to listen to comment and so called analysis very much but some commentators, such as Laura kuenssberg do add something worthwhile I think.

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  2. Wow - what a thought provoking post. I shall need time to process my response, and shall take the time to evaluate my thoughts - but I WILL get back to you. I ask myself constantly why do I feel the need to "watch the news" all the time when as you say there is little I can do to change those big issues that are endlessly discussed. Thank you for posting this. Like you, I have made a decision to try new things and step outside my comfort zone.....and like you I am 62 years old. I shall give this further thought. Mary

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    1. I will be very interested to hear what you think. I certainly don't want to live in a comfortable rural bubble. I don't want to be overwhelmed either. And I really don't want to pretend that the world is easy. But how to draw the line between informed and either incapacitated or unfeeling?

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  3. I get my news via Facebook - not the my friend says urban legends - but the news feeds as it happens. We have had the Cape Storm and now the Knysna fire, and the Port Elizabeth fire. Horrifying news that reaches a - I have to step away , I can't absorb any more. And yet they must. The firefighters (one young man died of burns) The evacuated. The ones who have lost their homes.

    While I still read the newspaper, the business pages gave a more thoughtful, wider and deeper view of the news. The signal, without all the hissy fit noise.

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    1. I'm very interested in what you say about the business pages Diana. I wonder if it why I'm drawn to the economist as a source of news? When I worked in the business world the business pages were the articles I read because I needed to know.

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  4. What an interesting post. This week I was chatting to the young man tiling our floor. He said he doesn't follow politics and wouldn't be voting, he had no time for politicians as none of them were worth voting for. I resisted having an argument with him, I wanted our floors done and I like him ... he seems intelligent, has a passion for good food and cooking, music, sport, his friends and is a neat and worker who doesn't cut corners to do a good job. I let the subject go.
    Contrast to my Mum, who is 86 and finds getting about difficult. Her friends of similar age took her to vote. She follows the machinations of politics on BBC Parliament, the TV and radio News channels and reads the paper daily - she's more informed than me. But at times of horrific news she just watches the tennis or reads novels about more gentle things.
    I fall somewhere between ... trying to seek a balance but feeling the need to be involved.

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  5. I'm very much the same age as you. I understand why people would wish to withdraw from following the news - but my personal viewpoint is that I need to be reasonably au fait with it. That being in order to know how best to "live my life". You could translate that as how best to make some extra money on top of basic income (and yes it's been useful for that before now). You could read it as being how best to protect myself in every way from the negative side of what is happening in society - that being to stay safe and protect my money and my health as best I'm able to in our current society. I tend to feel that I need the knowledge of whats happening to know how best to act personally.

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  6. I shared this post with my husband. He is incredibly informed about ....world news...I asked him why the need to know. He reads so many news feeds from different sources. He said he was jut trying to find the truth.

    Ali

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  7. I gave up reading or watching any news for over two years - it was an instructive and liberating experience. I didn't give up an interest in the world ; I read books, I wrote, I researched the issues. The problem with much of the news is that is 'journalism' - which provides a simulacrum of knowledge when in fact it is story driven rather than objectively factual, an inevitable consequence of time / space / editorialising. Although I have returned to some news, I still give up certain habits each year as a sort of 'lent' - this year I have given up watching and reading all forms sport, and you know what... I've gained lots of time and lost nothing of importance.

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  8. What an interesting and thought provoking post. Here in New Zealand we get excellent world-wide news coverage. Doug and I get the local paper every day (in fact we get two so that we each have one). First thing in the morning I listen to the news on the radio and then watch the evening news on t.v. So often it is depressing but I like to be informed.

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    1. After writing this last night I logged off and went to watch the 6 p.m. news to see the shocking (that word seems too mild) fire in Grenfell Tower. Then, this morning I awoke to the news of the Washington shooting.

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  9. I am a senior citizen too and like you have found my tribe and my place, while at the same time trying new things. I don't watch tv news (too visual about violence) and keep up to date in other ways (print, online). My favorite author is Anthony Trollope and his world is a pleasing one to enter in the 1860s. P.G. Wodehouse is always good for bringing me laughter.

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  10. I have come back and re-read this post several times and have found both it and the ensuing comments very thought-provoking. Like you I am a bit of a news addict - we never miss the 10pm news unless on holiday, plus have a daily paper and more recently frequent checks during the day on the BBC website on the phone. I can't see that changing although it is good to have a break at times. I choose not to watch violence either on TV in drama or at the movies and will not compromise on that. That is not how I want to be entertained. Also I've moved away from fiction to read books that inform and from which I can learn.

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  11. I am consciously trying not to read or watch any more than necessary of the horrors of the past few months. The need to be informed and the need to distance myself for the sake of my peace of mind are often at odds with each other. It's a self preservation thing and I am increasingly with your late mother on this one. I can choose what I let into my mental space, although that doesn't stop me lying awake with thoughts of the most recent horror, which cannot be ignored.

    I do hope you enjoy your flotilla holiday Elizabeth, and as a fellow sailor, look forward to reading about it.

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