Men of a certain age approach their futures in different ways. Are we doing a disservice to younger generations by refusing to participate?
We are the men.
We are the men who have weathered adversity and strife, births, deaths, friendship and loss. We have lost our jobs, lost a child or spouse, and perhaps even lost our homes. We may have been married for decades, divorced at a young age, or confirmed a bachelor. Yet we endure. We have had lifelong friends, or we find ourselves in middle age wondering where all our friends have gone. We’ve seen the invention and proliferation of television, the subsequent slow death of radio, the advent of microwave ovens, cell phones, and the internet. We laughed at Johnny and Jay and Dave, or we found them to be buffoons and turned to the newspaper instead.
We miss Lucy and Jackie and Bob Hope. We wonder where good television went and why there’s nothing on anymore but ridiculous programs, war and protests and loss. We have lived to see the first African-American President of the USA, and whether we voted for him or some other guy, know that we’ve been a part of history that seems to be quickly forgotten these days, replaced by so-called celebrities who have figured out that flashing a boob or their bare keester gets them the negative attention they so desperately crave.
We come from a generation who listened to and completely trusted Walter Cronkite and Paul Harvey. We were witness to the first man on the moon. We may remember our fathers’ and grandfathers’ war stories…and by that we refer to The Great Wars and Vietnam. We saw the first atom bomb dropped on a major city. We watched as JFK was assassinated in living rooms around the world, and then Bobby, and then the murderer himself gunned down.
We read actual newspapers and books that we held in our hands, and from them formed opinions about the world. We witnessed McCarthy’s communist witch-hunt, loved black and white film, and remember when the first mass-produced automobiles rolled off the line in Detroit. We were men of our word and didn’t require a lawyerly contract to follow through on promises or agreements.
Some of us, as men, tend to cling tightly to our pasts because we were better able to understand the world, whereas now we stare in consternation and befuddlement at what is taking place around us. And it might cause us to retreat ever-further into the past so we don’t have to experience or face what’s happening now.
Does this reluctance to move into our own futures hinder us in being able to assimilate the new information we are bombarded with? Is it our decision not to change that creates that disconnect, and which doesn’t allow us to absorb the new and the change we encounter daily?
In a recent conversation about this topic, I was allowed to look back over my own life and see how I might have resisted being adaptable to my world due to rapid and sometimes catastrophic changes, due to a strong resistance to facing these issues. And surprisingly, I found many instances where I might’ve “buried my head in the sand” rather than face up to responsibility or make a decision. One of these times was quite recent. I have reached an age where screening for colon cancer is something I’m expected to participate in.
I’m not, like probably many of you, too fond of the idea of something being inserted into any orifice that isn’t designed explicitly for insertion. But as a man of a certain age, this procedure is not only expected, but necessary for early detection, or detection period, of the formation of cancerous cells in an area we cannot easily access on our own. It’s unlike the self-test we can perform to check for testicular tumors. And the preparation for a colonoscopy is quite extensive and daunting, especially if we’re having it done for the first time.
This isn’t a discussion about the pros or cons of preventative medicine, but how we, as men of a certain age, handle change in our lives with grace and confidence, or we stubbornly dig in our heels and insist we’re not going to change.
We are the men.
We are the men to whom younger men look for direction and guidance and how to be men. Are we doing them a disservice by ignoring or resisting the current world, by resisting learning new things, or doing new things?
My late grandfather was just such a man. He was set in his ways and unwilling to participate in life because he refused to try and understand it. Instead of attempting to learn, he shut down. So I worked on him for years and finally had a breakthrough in his 84th year. That year, I taught both him and grandma how to use email so they could stay in touch with their extended friends and family. It was amazing how quickly he picked it up and was able to expand his knowledge on his own from that point forward until his death at 92.
Not all of us are going to have someone handy who insists on teaching us new things. It’s up to us to want to learn, to want to change, and want to participate. And then to use that motivation to find a teacher, or a mentor or a guide. Asking for guidance doesn’t make us less than men…it increases us, expands our influence, and makes us feel like an active participant in our own lives. The first step is always the hardest. Commit to learning one new thing this month that challenges you, tests your patience, but feeds your well-being. When we close the door on change, we isolate ourselves from growth. Yes, the past was wonderful. But so is the future.
Photo: Anne Worner/Flickr