Modern Aging

“The purpose of life is self-discovery.” – Darel Rutherford

One thing I find very meaningful and rather surprising during this period with COVID-19 is that many people are showing up more real.  As we experience a massive pause from the constant bombardment of highly produced advertising, live entertainment, sporting events, fashion shows and more, we are aware more than ever that slick productions mask the imperfections and messiness of daily life.

Replacing some of our favorite nightly TV shows, we now see home-produced versions including Saturday Night Live At Home, Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah, and Tonight Show: At Home Edition.  On these, hosts wear disheveled clothes and scruffy hair, children make handmade signs and dash in front of cameras, sound falters and equipment breaks down.  

Instead of Dancing With the Stars, we now watch dancing with TikTok stars.  We also get to see live entertainment from around the world, such as Nederlands Dans Theater performing #QuarantineCreation, with members dancing separately from their homes, lawns and rooftops.

The backdoor is wide open and we witness people in their natural environment. We peak in to see their personal décor as well as their messy closets.  They show us their home-cooked meals and also their dirty dishes. 

Real life as it is, is on public display 24/7.

Normally vain people show off their hair roots, grey beards, pimples and 5-day worn flannel shirts and sweats.  It’s cool to no longer hide behind masks and doors. The cat has been let out of the bag.  People are also sharing their inner world with more openness and vulnerability. Expressed feelings of fear, loneliness and grief attract greater empathy.  Honest confessions of depression, bipolar, and anxiety disorder are honored and supported. The playing field is becoming more equalized as people across the world share this life-altering event in real time.  With the immediateness of the internet and social media, we watch clapping in NYC and England, singing on balconies in Italy and Spain, and home-staged theater and musical concerts from all over. 

It’s refreshingly real.

What a relief it is to stop pretending we are “fine” and our lives are “good” while many struggle over life issues such as health, work, money or relationships.  Individually and collectively, we feel discomfort as we‘ve been unwillingly pushed outside our comfort zones.  We are each doing the best we can in this abnormal situation. We worry about what our lives will be like in the post-pandemic era.  Maybe we are being more real and sharing more of our true selves because we feel safe in the comfort of our homes, with our belongings and loved ones.  Exposing one’s self is easier from a safe cocoon. Staying home can feel good and safe for a period. 

During this time, we have the unique opportunity to spend hours or days contemplating what this experience reveals about who we are and what we are choosing in life. If we step back, we can observe our thoughts and monitor our feelings. And if we’re aware, we can catch ourselves before we slide down one of the slippery slopes from sadness to depression, frustration to anger, or grief to despair. 

If our awareness is more developed, we might remind ourselves to stay focused on the present moment and breathe deeply no matter what happens.  We can watch the stories we keep in our minds with detachment, or we can hold onto them believing that they are truth.  We can adopt an attitude of optimism or pessimism, or vacillate between these positions for hours or days.  Some of us understand that who we are choosing to be influences our inner state as well as our circumstances and environment.  We create our life through our daily choices as we see fit.

This way of thinking can strip us down to what is most important, meaningful and real.  Is it career, financial success, prestige, knowledge, material belongings, relationships, making a difference or something else that motivates us most?   So, yes, this is an excellent time for self-discovery.  It’s a time to be real with ourselves as we experience stress, disorientation, discomfort and uncertainty.  We can see our desire to be perfect or proven right, and act like everything is under control. The effort it takes to keep these pretenses going exhausts us.  We need self-love and inner peace more than the need of approval from others. 

Another surprise during this time of physical distancing is an increasing acceptance of differences.  In general, our collective suffering seems to cause many to judge less and appreciate more. Social media feeds are filled with empathy, prayers and gratitude.  There is less tolerance for bullying, and more demands to accept others just the way they are. 

The coronavirus is not racist, ageist, sexist or homophobic.  It does not discriminate. It spreads between counties, countries and continents with incredible speed. There are fewer degrees of separation between us than we realized.   In the end, we are more alike than we want to think.  We have more in common with people in faraway countries who, despite different appearances and lifestyles, hold values and interests similar to our own. 

The question for each of us as we re-emerge from this time is: will we resume our masks, roles and expectations… or will we stay true to what we discover about ourselves?  How real will we allow ourselves to be going forward?   For a time, we’ve gladly shed our costumes, worn less makeup, let our hair do what it does, managed through physical restriction and boredom, and let ourselves experience unpleasant feelings.  Let’s hope we choose to stay real despite our future challenges of growth, uncertainty and change.  

Being real feels honest and a lot less effort than trying to be what we are not.  So, the next time we think about putting on a mask or playing a role that isn’t us, let’s challenge ourselves to be real.  

Let’s not hide any part of us, and embrace the whole of ourselves. 

Let’s stop focusing on seeking approval and meaning outside ourselves.

Let’s stop trying to be right and make others wrong.

It’s time to let go of the desires for perfection and let people see the real, flawed, weird, beautiful, unique and magical person that each of us are.

Let’s act as human “beings” rather than humans “doing”.

Let’s show our kindness and care.

Let’s embrace and appreciate diversity and differences.

Let’s be our truth in the world.

Let’s be honest, transparent and trusting.

Let’s thrive instead of survive.  Our happiness and wellbeing depend on it.

Let’s discover who we are and fully be it.

 

Let’s be real.

Susan Rosenthal - Modern Aging

Susan is Co-CEO and Chief Operations Officer of Modern Aging. She is a businesswoman, author and coach with a mission to build global communities, eliminate stereotypes and inspire people to live authentically and fulfilled.

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