January 29, 2008
Somewhere in the last few years, I lost the ability to aspire to trivial procedural resolutions like “losing weight” or “saving money” or “getting organized” or even “helping others” — which I understand are always among the most popular goals. There are evidently a lot of people for whom those issues are tied to what they genuinely don’t like about themselves or the ways in which they hurt themselves… but I don’t think I’m one of them. If I knew I were going to die tomorrow, I wouldn’t give a second’s regret to how big my butt is or whether my socks are all sorted by color.
My current biggest regrets in life all have a root cause that I’m sure will astonish the masses: I’ve almost completely lost the will to say things that other people might not want to hear. The irony! For all those years Troutgirl would not be shut up by fair means or foul — the more indelibly cutting the remark, the better I was pleased with myself and damn the torpedoes — but now I find that my lips are sealed for almost everyone.
I imagine many of you are thinking, “Being less critical is a loss?” Well… yes it is and you’re completely one-sided if you don’t see it. In the past I have many times helped people make more money, deal with looming career disasters, solve relationship problems, write better books, and generally figure out what they wanted to do in life by exercising critical skills. You could certainly argue that acuity — the ability to identify and interpret a hidden factor, to sift the important thing out of the background trivia — is a big part of what makes a good manager or mentor.
Part of it is doubtless simple middle-aged ennui; and everyone knows how many times my big mouth has gotten me into big trouble. Furthermore, I have responsibilities now that more and more tightly constrain my ability to just blurt out whatever is on my mind. But the truth is that I’m not afraid or even tired — I’m just increasingly isolated. I’m perfectly aware that the less you express yourself, the less you can expect anyone to understand you… and yet I express myself less every passing year.
I guess I’m not really bringing this post in for a classic “My New Year’s Resolutions 2008” type landing. This may all be by way of saying… you get older, you have more regrets that you can’t redeem by New Year’s day.