Peace of Mind: The Gift of an Elder

Monday, February 14, 2011

By Marc Cooper, author of THE ELDER

Elders are peaceful. Elders have grace. Elders express level-headedness. Elders are compassionate. Elders are wise.

For all these reasons, people in the community seek their counsel. These are some of the critical and fundamental aspects of being an Elder.

As we all grow up, we experience that expectations unfulfilled lead to upsets. When you expect something to happen and it doesn’t, you get upset. The duration, depth and intensity of the upset depends on how you relate to the unfulfilled expectation.

When you were a child and you didn’t get what you expected, you threw a tantrum. Since tantrums were discouraged, you tamped it down into some form of anger. Anger unsettles well-being and, for most adults, it remains in some form of suppressed or covertly expressed reaction.

Now there are many things we expected to happen in our lives that didn’t—career, relationships, finances, culture, social condition, politics. As we age, we can end up holding onto a truckload of expectations we had once, but that will now never be met. For example, Samuel, the main character in THE ELDER, often compares his current life to where he thought he’d be at age 65, what he ‘expected’ to have achieved.

When we are upset, our ability to function, to contribute is greatly reduced. When we are upset, our well-being is compromised. We may find ourselves coming from: “If I’m upset, you should be too!” Our ability to “be here now” is blocked, since the incident that caused the upset occurred in the past. And the past is where we’re stuck when we’re upset.

What distinguishes an Elder is that she or he accepts “what is” and isn’t upset with “what isn’t.” An Elder realizes this is it, and is satisfied with what she or he has and is not focused on what he or she doesn’t have.

Therefore, Elders, by living life as “this is it,” by having the ability to “be in the now,” and by expanding their worldview to where “what didn’t happen is OK” are healthier and more able to mentor and give back to their communities.

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