Aging and needing to live a "full life" is terrifying me


#41

Dogs, man, dogs. My poodles are like my best therapists. They need me for a bunch of stuff, and I need them for a bunch of different stuff. Nothing gets you going in the morning like knowing that your furry friends need to take a leak and can’t unless you get off your ass. My wife and I don’t have children, but the hounds are next best thing (and won’t have to go to college, or get piercings of obscure body parts). Of course, they also won’t get rich and let me retire in luxury like (theoretically) a kid might. But, eh.

Also, this:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away, across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell


#42

I want to add, stop reading blogs/articles/books on the subject and get off all forms of social media. These are heavily slanted towards “the perfect life” and most of what people air in our lives are only the good, never the bad.

So you are seeing only the rosiest side of the picture then go “why isn’t my life like that” when you have no idea what baggage comes with it.


#43

I would love to have all those hours of watching Barney because of the kids back, just sayin. :)


#44

As I read this, it was driving me nuts, because I know this song!
Without the proper cadence, it wasn’t clicking.
I got the cadence (and melody) finally with this line (and only this line thus far):

Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

But still no go, until I got to one of the most iconic lyric lines ever written:

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

Facepalm.


#45

Yeah, I love that song.


#46

Living a full life is easy. Smoke or snort crushed Cialis tablets. Challenge random strangers to drag races at stoplights. Make friends with bums (don’t carry money or keys while doing this). Write a certain phrase on stall walls everywhere you go. Try shaving parts of your body you have not shaved heretofore. Whittle a scale model of your nuts and hide it in a tree for squirrels to bury. Throw rocks at the sun. Tell everyone who will listen about your experiences in WWI.


#47

Amateur.


#48

Edit: Apologies, on reflection, I should not have shared so much.


#49

Ok, I’m finally back where I can sit down and think and respond to some of these. Thank you all so much for the very thoughtful help. I am trying to work my way through these things, and thoughtful voices help give me perspectives. My hope is that if I engage with this long enough in my life (through things like this, mindfulness, etc.), I will find some genuine peace and contentment. If I skip some individual comments, it is because I thought that they were echoed elsewhere, and I do not want to be too repetitive with my thoughts and responses. Everything was genuinely appreciated. That is one of the beautiful things of the internet - people can give their time and thoughts and be very considerate and helpful.

I understand this in theory, but where I have a difficult time “bringing it home” so to speak is with my knowledge that there are plenty of people out there who say “fuck it” and judge for themselves and ruin their lives. People who don’t care that they have drinking problems, they’re just living how they want to live. People who don’t care that they hurt their spouses, children, etc. Things like that.

We are told so many things that are “necessary” for living a good life. Go out and have experiences, socialize, volunteer, etc. How do you know, if you are not doing those things, whether you are rightfully saying, “Fuck it, I’ll live how I want,” as opposed to living in a bad state?

I think this is true, but I also think that part of the issue is that modern society tells us constantly that we must be doing meaningful and purposeful things.

We are genuinely considered bad people if we do not. Think of all the articles that desperately scream at you to not “waste your life,” to volunteer, to engage, to be social, to be purposeful, etc. How do you constantly get bombarded with that, without it also essentially turning into a cudgel that you are somehow not living the way you are supposed to be?

“No one ever says they wished they had worked more on their deathbed,” “Spend as much time with your family as you can, you never know when they’ll be gone,” “A life filled with things is nothing, a life filled with experiences is everything;” these things have become cudgels to me, telling me I am not living well, I am going to regret my choices, I am not doing “meaningful things.”

Maybe I could put this another way. What if I do not feel some incredible drive to do “useful” or “meaningful” things, but I feel as though society as a whole is screaming at me that there is something wrong with me for not wanting these things? Do I ignore them? If I do, am I the equivalent of the alcoholic who ignores concerned family, or the World of Warcraft junky who ignores his wife’s pleases to come to bed?

I have had professionals tell me I need to simply take down time, relax, etc. But, along the lines of what you said, I have been doing exactly that for almost a year now. I do not feel like I have gained any answers in that time period. And it raises the question, how long do I simply take “downtime,” without gaining any desire to do anything else? How do I know what is “downtime” versus being one of “those people” who society tells us is bad?

That is part of the problem. I am sure part of it is depression. But I have been seeing therapists and trying meds and other things (other treatments, mindfulness, better eating, exercise) forever, and it isn’t helping. It isn’t getting better. If anything, it is getting worse. So I’m just trying to figure out what I can do.

One of the difficulties I have is not feeling like doing anything of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried all of them, for extended periods, on the advice of various articles, self-help guides, therapists, etc. over the years. None of them seem to make any meaningful dent.

Then it’s all juxtaposed against the advice to “be comfortable in your own skin.” Well, what if I’m not that person who does those things? What if I am a “sit at home comfortably” type of person? Which advice is right? Should I be comfortable in my own skin, or should I be uncomfortable because I am not doing meaningful things? And what meaningful things do I go do, when nothing seems meaningful to me?

This is interesting, because it feels a lot like what I feel (my actions and inaction being cataloged and judged), but in my case from some sort of general societal standards on what is necessary for a good life, rather than religious dictates.

What did you do, if I may ask, to get free (or mostly free) of that?

Are they though, or more importantly, were they thinking that while they were WoW regretters? Or were they feeling fine playing WoW when it happened, but only regretting the lost things after it was too late?

Were any of them thinking, while they were in the addiction, “I wish I was spending more time with my wife,” or did they only think after the wife left, “Oh my god, I lost my wife for this.”

Even that is loaded, because a lot of this comes from modern psychology. Depressed? You need exercise and socialization. Volunteer, give back to other people. I understand those are supposed to be healing, but how can you also not take them as judgments against you? I mean, if you are supposed to be doing those things to have a good, healthy life, what does it say about you if you don’t do them and don’t want to do them? It says you are deficient somehow. That you are not living well.

Oh yes. It is difficult. My mother is aging, and honestly, is aging poorly. It is very hard to see. At the same time, it is also very frustrating, because she is frightened, sad, and alone, but she does a number of things that make it very difficult for me to help her or want to be near. And then I feel guilty for even saying that, because she’s my mother.

Yeah, I’ve done these - even more than the workbooks, I’ve done the fairly expensive day long paid testing at non-profit institutes that find your strengths, etc. (Like Johnson-O’Connor.) So far it has not helped. One of the problems is that they all start out asking you what your passions are. Your interests. They all seem to not listen when I tell them, “I can’t think of one that could remotely be monetizable.”

And honestly, even the non-monetizable ones (playing video games - no, I’m not going to make money streaming on Twitch) I sometimes question whether they’re really passions or interests, as much as muscle memory at this point.

I hear that. I’ve done these types of things before to try to “break out,” but I know I need to just keep trying. I just wish it felt like something I had any interest in, as opposed to just another task to try to beat depression. I want to want (at least to some, slight degree) to go do something, as opposed to continuing on through life doing things as tasks to be done. If that makes sense.

I’m sorry to say, but right now, it is pretty true. Anything I do for the most part would just be throwing darts at a board. “Huh, maybe cooking classes. Ok. I guess I could go bowling. Or paint. Or hike.”

All of those things to me is like having big list of generic “activities.” I feel no stirring whatsoever to do any of them.

I’m not as concerned with achieving, as I am that I am wasting my life and will regret it, but not actually having something I want to do.

Work is a delicate subject, as it has been the opposite for me.

But how do you deal with being told these things are meaningful, or purposeful, or that you will regret the wasted time?

Oh, I’ve had the children. They’re now fully grown and off to college.

I hear this. I’m just getting tired of doing things because they are tasks. I want to actually want to do something.

I feel like I’ve spent a large part of a lifetime taking medicine to try to feel better. I’m tired of the taking the medicine part. I want to get to the “actually feel better” part.

I’m filled with regrets about everything. Because when I look back, I know I always could have done better.

I like this. I’m not sure I 100% understand it, but I do like it. :)

Do you ever grow concerned that not making a mark on the world, being active, etc., will possibly contribute to being old and alone, or struggling to make ends meet? I always do.

I could see getting a dog at some point, but it is not possible where I am right now, and will not be for at least several more years.

This may be part of it. I am smart enough not to do the “social media comparison” game. But it is hard to avoid blogs/articles/books on this type of thing, because when you do not feel well, you are supposed to read and search for answers.


#50

So downtime doesn’t inherently provide you with desire to do anything else. It actually IS doing something else than what you were before. Boredom is more often an inspiration than waking up one morning with the sun shining on your face and a heart suddenly filled with energy. That’s not to say we shouldn’t hope for the latter, but the former is far more reliable. As for downtime vs. being one of “those people,” honestly that’s something I’d rely on the people in your life to give you clues. Heck, even ask one of them who’s a brutally honest type, “Hey, just curious, but am I one of those people or am I just overly relaxed?” Even if their perspective may be off, their perspective is still something worth caring about. This isn’t a “fake it until you make it” kind of thing, just a way to help keep your relationships strong (which you’ll be relying upon in the future).

I will say different people respond to different approaches. A good therapist will be well-versed in many, even if they have their own preferences. Saying “Hey, this isn’t working for me” is oddly enough something that good therapists should love to hear (from a clinical perspective only; they don’t want you to actually suffer) because it gives them a lot of insight into what makes you tick. Therapy is NEVER a one-size-fits-all solution, and that includes various meds. Instead, it’s an experimental approach with your struggle as a complex puzzle they’re trying to figure out. That feedback is vital, otherwise they’ll never know they’re heading down the wrong path.


#51

This is getting very personal so I don’t know if I am going to be right at all, just getting a feeling. I am getting an intuit that you were raised this way. Responsible. Do the right thing. It’s the ant and grasshopper thing.

I am going to make a bet, I bet if your friend did a small sin you’d forgive them. Yet when it’s yourself doing it you can’t forgive yourself. I think there are two types of people. There’s the narcissists who self-delude and don’t seem to regret things. They keep going, they got a drive. Then there’s people who are very hard on themselves. Or maybe that’s the depression talking and I know too many depressed people.

I was talking quietly with a friend the other day and I just mentioned offhand how I was always thought of as irresponsible - my friend of 25+ years was shocked and said I was the most responsible person she knew. I did some counting. I always show up on time to events. If I promise things to people I tend to keep them. I remember to shut off the lights and clean up after myself when I eat. Yeah, you know what, maybe I am. Maybe I am just so used to people saying I am not doing enough that I will never feel like I am.

When I was a kid, whenever my mother caught me relaxing, reading, watching TV, anything, I’d get yelled at to go do some work. I think that’s why I feel guilty.

You know, a lot of people are giving advice on the “supply part”. This seems to be what you mean about “taking your medicine.” What about the demand part? Lower your expectations. Isn’t the core of Buddhism something like, “hey dude the reason you got problems is because you think you got problems. You want something, you can’t have it. You get it, you want more. So, stop wanting so much shit.” It’s okay man. Everyone has these problems. You just don’t know because you they pretend everything is cool.

OHHH IDEA get into boardgames!!


#52

I think it’s fine to be a ‘sit at home comfortably’ person if you are happy with it. I’m mostly that type of person. I do like to play tennis with a friend, or go hiking, but for the most part I just like being at home either with my wife and son or on my own playing a game. I only mentioned doing something because it doesn’t sound like you are content with how things are.

Sometimes just being outside helps me feel more at peace, hearing the birds, listening to the breeze. I’m only a mile away from a small nature preservation area, so I like to walk or job there.

I do think it could be helpful to go outside of your comfort zone and try new things when nothing feels important. Have you tried cooking or baking? In general I’m not interested in it, but I made dinner for my wife and son the other night and I felt good about it. I wasn’t looking forward to doing it, but I just did it and then I felt glad I made the effort. It felt good to give them something.

I do feel that I have similar feelings as you in that I want to feel like I have more meaning and I just don’t and I don’t know what to do to get it. I’ve tried books that are suppose to help me get in touch with what would be meaningful and it never amounts to anything. I don’t know of a job that would do it. Since my wife is so understanding, I have the opportunity to pursue any type of career I’d want, and I just can’t come up with anything that I’d want to do - and it makes me feel kind of pathetic. I just can’t get over that hump.


#53

That is quite lovely. Applicable at all ages.

For me, I used to fee mildy guilty about enjoying playing games as much as I do. But I dont any more. I regard playing games a little like one might regard a Zen calligrapher. Doing something excetionally well that is unlikely to be appreciated outside of its community.

I am confortable with that, it seems like a fine way to spend ones life.


#54

I’ve read this topic with great interest, mostly because I’m in a very similar stage of life - I’m approaching retirement (a teeny bit early) and I’m thinking both what I want to do when I stop the 9-5, and also doing a bit of ruminating about my life, what I’ve made of it, and where I go from here.

I find it really easy to get racked with guilt over many incidents in the past - I can point out many times when I was just plain rotten to my wife, where we made life choices I regret, where I made big mistakes raising our son, where I wasted money on stupid stuff, dumb mistakes I made relating to career choices, and so on. It’s a regular pity party there.

And while there is (maybe) a little value in thinking about those things, I don’t find it terribly useful for me to dwell on them. Water under the bridge (I’ve always thought of myself as not a very introspective person, and maybe that’s a good thing in this regard). So looking back, while bittersweet now and then, is not something I do a lot.

Looking forward, that’s another story. Something happened to me in the last few months - it’s like a switch flipped in my brain. Prior to that I would say “I guess I’m going to retire someday, but I don’t know when… I like doing my job.” Now it’s “I guess I can survive a few more years but man, I can’t wait until I stop this job!” The plane to retirement is fueling up!

I do have a lot of questions about what I will do when I retire. And about how long I’m going to live. My dad retired at 65, and he passed away at 67. My brother died suddenly at 61 - now granted, both of them had health issues, the type of which I don’t have, so odds are I’m living longer than that. But seeing that I’m 60 right now, it does make me pause and think about how many days I have left on this mortal coil. Both of my grandfathers lived into their 80s (84 and 82) so odds are I have a few years left. But you never know.

I also don’t have much of an idea as to what I’ll be doing when I retire. While I like my job, I think I’m fed up. And I’m perfectly willing to hang around a while and figure it out while I play some computer games and catch up on all those shows and movies I’ve put off watching for so long.

Any, I’m rambling so time to shut it off.

I wish all of us posting in this thread lived near each other. I’d love to get together with you guys for a boardgame night! I suspect that we’re scattered to the four winds though. Someone needs to set up a retirement home for computer gamers!


#55

Oh fantastic and congrats! You are through the looking glass. Does the kids being gone affect your thinking on this at all? I have a decade plus before that is a factor for me.


#56

I’ve had a similar thought. Been lucky in that I’ve gotten to meet a bunch of Seattle-area Qt3’ers, and a few visitors to the city, but it would be pretty fun to meet more of you guys.

Anyway Slyfrog, I read your long post, and I feel like I have a better understanding of where your head is at. I get that you’re thinking there is more you should be doing, but you have no idea what. I remember in my 20s feeling this way about my career, before I did one of my shifts into a totally different field. Not the same thing, I realize, but I had this restless trapped kind of feeling, knowing I could be doing something more, something better, but no idea (at the time) what that should be.

I feel like you’re on the edge of some kind of discovery, if you can stick it out and keep experimenting. I’ve developed this thinking that maybe when it’s time for me to retire, I’ll become a librarian. I don’t know why really, I just like the idea of being around all those books. It’s probably not as romantic as I have built it up in my mind to be. But I think I’d like to try it. I wonder if there’s something else out there that you might find to be a step up from where you currently are, psychologically speaking.

I get that this has been something you’ve been wrestling with for some time, and won’t find an easy fix for. But I do think it’s a case of a certain lock requiring a very specific key, and you just haven’t found it yet. Sorry I don’t have anything deeper to tell you, just to keep on keeping on, man.


#57

I’ve done a lot of shit jobs but working in a library was by far the worst.

Did you know you have to have a master’s degree to be librarian? I believe this makes librarians super bitter about how they’ve spent their lives.


#58

In my opinion time enjoyed is never wasted. To that end I do things that I enjoy - pretty simple. If you enjoy watching movies and playing video games then I don’t think that is a waste.

I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to meet others (societies?) expectations of what is considered “worthwhile”. Fuck that noise - do what you want to do.

That’s my 2c anyway :)


#59

Ha, well I figured it wasn’t exactly a dream job, not really, but you surprise me saying it was by far the worst job. Now I have to ask, why? Was it the mindless drudgery of returning books to the shelves? Constant inane questions from library visitors?


#60

Probably having to constantly shoosh loud teenagers who are living life to the fullest.