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Tiny Revolutions №7: Cheers to the Years
getting older is fine
It was my birthday last weekend. I say this with neither relish nor disdain. It was an unremarkable birthday at an age that is still early enough in my current decade (40s) that I didn’t feel the need to really freak out.
Not that one decides to freak out or anything. What I find with birthdays is that while I mostly look forward to them because of cake or a special restaurant meal or whatever, I usually have some kind of sudden meltdown in the days leading up to it. Just a total crash of angst that more or less amounts to “oh my god, what am I doing with my life and how have I wasted it and what will become of me” and on and on. It’s as devastating as it is predictable, but I usually recover in time to enjoy the day. It’s just a day, after all.
I didn’t have one this year though. Given that it’s been a rough year, I’m considering it a small gift from the universe and I’m not gonna overthink it, so I’ll keep this post light. But I will say that I’m sure that all the meditation, contemplation, gratitude, connection and work I’ve done to make things better had something to do with it.
Here’s a picture from a recent sunset on St. Simon’s Island, where I spent last week with my father, my sister, my nephew, and my dog. Definitely feeling hashtag blessed.
Here’s a fascinating episode of the Hidden Brain podcast about a growing body of research that suggests that, much like zoo animals, we're wired for the habitat we evolved in, and that when we live outside of it, things go awry.
“We found social breakdown in buildings without trees and grass around them. That is to say, when we asked people did they know their neighbors, did they speak to their neighbors, do they know them on first-name basis, could they rely on their neighbors for, you know, for a favor, to take care of their kids if they had an emergency, then the people in the buildings with a bit of greenery were much more likely to say yes. We also found that the folks who are in the less green buildings are reporting more aggressive behaviors.”
The whole thing is worth a listen, but the gist is that natural settings help renew us, so when we spend too much time outside of them, we get mentally fatigued and our ability to handle conflict plummets. Who wants to start a commune in an urban forest somewhere??
I just finished the best book I’ve read all year, Madeline Miller’s excellent “Circe”. It’s a reimagining of the story of the goddess Circe, who you might remember if you ever read “The Odyssey” for turning Odysseus’s men into pigs. I loved “Circe” for many reasons, but one of them was just spending time in the world of ancient Greece in the head of a fascinating character. Here’s a great essay about how immersing yourself in a book enlarges and enriches your experience.
“What I know is that each of those characters experienced emotions that helped me understand the range of the often contradictory feelings each of us possesses; doing so leaves us feeling less alone with our particular complex mix of emotions, whatever our life’s circumstances. As expressed in the play Shadowlands, about the life of C. S. Lewis, “We read to know that we are not alone.””
Just another reminder to put the phone down and pick up a book instead.
Speaking of the phone, the new version of iOS has a setting called Screen Time that breaks down how much time you’re spending on your phone, and on what. It’s about as horrifying as you think, but the good news is that you can now set daily limits on apps (ahem, Instagram, I’m coming for you).
Behold! The age when your self esteem peaks is 60. (It stays there for a decade, declines slightly in your 70s and 80s, and then drops a little more sharply beginning at age 90.) This is not surprising, but it is heartening. Aging FTW!
And finally, here’s a catchy, raucous song by a random band about which very little info is available. But they’re out of Georgia and that’s where I celebrated my birthday so it seems apropos.Have a great weekend.
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p.p.s. Happy 21st night of September.