Angry birds or grumpy old men
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Growing old is tough and it does not help if society and television pokes fun at aging to the point that they even make TV shows and movies about Grumpy Old Men. An elderly woman whom I know, got out of her house, picked up a piece of lumber and started threatening anyone who came near her. Her loved ones sheepishly excused her as losing her memory or ulianin but none of them realized that the woman was having a painful and fearful episode of dementia. People don’t see it as an illness or a disease they simply charge it to getting old. Whether it’s dementia, mid-life-crisis, or depression, one of those is bound to hit us and the worst thing is not even realizing it!

Last week, several individuals spoke with me separately about anger issues, depression and confusion. I suppose I’ve grown a reputation for being very experienced at it! Two were at the Mid-Life crisis point and another one was way past mid-life, past 60, but was headed towards a melt down. They were all unhappy with their snappish, grumpy disposition, were hurting the people around them, and were beginning to hate themselves. That’s usually what happens. We attack situations, blame people or turn on them, and ultimately we go on self-destruct mode as punishment for being what we don’t want to be. Some even blame God.

To begin with, joining the rat race means there is no finish line until you die, the longer you dedicate yourself to being a “rat” you ultimately loose your identity and meaning of life. It’s not just a figure of speech; it’s a fact of life. I have many successful friends but almost all of them can’t get out of the race. The bigger your empire the more of you it demands until everything is all about the empire and nothing more about you, your goals and aspirations. Many of them can no longer hang out, chill or go for joy rides because “people will see them and judge.” They can’t disappear for a few days for “me time”, jump on the bus on a whim or go treasure hunting looking for junk cars or walk in the rain like I do. All they can do is to accessorize their life with wealth, professional accomplishments and bragging rights. But at the end of the day, they all confess that the guy with most toys, not the guy with the biggest bank account wins.

Sadly, my lab rats were not even Taipans. They’re regular Joes who’ve been consumed by false burdens, self-imposed responsibilities or fallen into a habit of having their nose so close to the work that they no longer come up for air or enjoy life. They have been consumed with making a living but not having a life. They run the race until they can’t run no more go into deep depression and paralysis or flare up and drive everyone away. That’s what happened to my “lab rats”.

One guy keeps himself busy to justify his fat paycheck, works himself to death to add value to his 9 to 5 mundane life accessorized with first world material standards such as a flashy car, travels and a ritzy address. He’s a bright professional but one who is so scared to discover who he really is, so he puts up the walls and images. But that lack of authenticity and truth ultimately transmits to those people around him and himself. If you can’t be honest to yourself, what are the chances that the fake you and the real you will seriously come to blows. Worse than dementia you become a mental and social schizoid. Yes your friends will be there for you but that does not mean they can’t see through you.

Specimen number two shared with me how he has had fits of anger at work on a regular basis and how he would have to ask someone else to do the damage control. Since he was past 60 I poked around and I quickly discovered the common disease among business people: Tothinitis or spreading themselves to thin. I first saw this with a friend who put up a coffee shop that was such a hit that after less than a year he opened a second one which required him to run one shop while his wife ran the other. The following year a bunch of hustlers offered to partner on a third branch. The first shop’s profit paid for the second’s expenses and the third went bust. My friend and his family got spread so thin that they could not even have proper family dinners, the kids spent more time in school and coffee shop than at home and they stopped going to church for a short while. They eventually closed all three, spent more time at home and go to regularly to church where they all serve happily! My Lab rat on the other hand has too many ongoing projects and just wants to make the most until I pointed out: At what cost? As the Bible says: “better a few morsels in peace.”

Sometimes you might not even be in the rat race, you’re just trying to survive but you feel like saying what’s the point? I told Lab Rat 3 to set his priorities, manage his expectations, “call a friend,” get back in shape and as it says in Desiderata “Be gentle to your self”. Before anyone else: You, then your family. It goes without saying that for me God above all but I don’t think God will approve of making him number one at the expense of everyone else, if you get my drift. Stay in shape, stick to a routine, pick low-lying fruits and make fruit salad! At the end of the day, we will all get a little older; life gets tougher but choices remains. Eat, Pray, Play!

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