After the heaviness of my recent posts and the horror of the last few days (the massacre of Pakistani children, for example), it felt very good to read “Gray Hair and Silver Linings,” Frank Bruni’s meditation on turning 50. I don’t know how or why it popped up in the browser, because he wrote it over a month ago, but I’m glad it did.
We all know the downside of aging, he says, but there are also upsides. “Older but wiser” is a familiar refrain. We remember it because it is valid. As you pass from one decade to another, you gain perspective. The offenses that first set you off, that you later learned to contain by gritting your teeth— in the last third of life you can pity the offenders because they don’t have the self-awareness to understand what they are doing and why. You can move beyond.
The greater perspective that you gain as the years go by actually makes life easier. You learn to overlook the petty negatives and find the positives to dwell on. When someone familiar hurts me now, I know it is not a deliberate action. I no longer retaliate in anger as I would have before, because I’ve learned that the past occasionally takes over her. It’s about her now, not about me.
So long as I keep my focus on the personal, I can find reasons to look forward to the future. What does rile me still is the precipitous descent of the public American ethos. And yet the nonviolent demonstrations of the thousands who care enough about injustice to make themselves heard are reasons to hope that the decline may be reversed. Police brutality, racism and torture may have stirred up enough anger to push more Americans to the tipping point. That bodes well for society.