A mini-manifesto on enthusiasm and aging

images-1Are you enthusiastic or pessimistic about new things? I consider myself a pretty enthusiastic person, but I had a wakeup call on this recently when I read a post by Gretchen Rubin that said something like, “I’m really excited about the technology for automated cars!”  My first thought was, “Wow-I’m not excited about that at all. I think it’s a terrible idea.” I thought of all the times my computer has gone haywire–shutting down spontaneously, losing documents–and what it would be like to have that happen in a car was taking me Unknownthrough Cambridge at rush hour. BAD.

And yet…

I hate driving through Cambridge at rush hour. I’ve arranged my life so that this almost never happens. So what if there might be a way to do this stress free? So that those of us who live around urban centers didn’t have to reroute our plans after 3:30pm because it’s such a high-stakes obstacle course to get across town? Gretchen’s positive outlook made me consider a whole new perspective. It felt good to be curious and enthusiastic rather than concerned. Seriously, I can’t tell you how much better this little shift in attitude about automated cars made me feel. It was like suddenly, the world wasn’t going to hell in a hand basket.

It made me wonder what else I could look at and respond with enthusiasm rather than concern.

I think this might be especially important as we get older. I’ve noticed a definite drift away from enthusiasm now that I’m in my 40s. And a common characteristic of older people is resistance to change and a certain curmudgeonliness. Now, I hope to become a curmudgeon sometime in my 70s–it produces STELLAR writing when channeled effectively. But that’s a ways away. For now, cultivating enthusiasm seems like the way to go.

StTeresaAvilaThis morning I read a little biography of St. Teresa of Avila that focused on exactly this quality: how she believed happy people could accomplish just as much for God as those who are dour.  “May God deliver us from cheerless saints” was her motto. Amen to that!

This fit right in with this line of thought–I think cheerfulness creates a nice little atmosphere for enthusiasm to grow. I want more of that.  So I’m giving myself (and you!) this little bloggy pep-talk, like a line in the sand. When we step over that linebackpack200-BB into the rest of the day, let’s leave grumpiness and cynicism behind. Just dump them. They’re not earning their weight in our backpack.

Today, I’ll LOOK for opportunities to be excited about the life that’s coming at me. It may take some digging, but I like digging, so that’s no problem.  I will look for opportunities to laugh and get excited about things. I’d rather be happy than doubtful/cynical/faux-sophisticated/worldly. And I believe the shift will be worth the effort.

Thank you, Gretchen Rubin. I know you hate to drive, so I hope you get your automated car soon :)