with

Mike Bellah

You and I can wall ourselves off from important and pleasureful new experiences simply because our habits leave no room for them.

 

 

 

 

What gifts and opportunities are hiding behind our busyness?

 

 

 

 

Peer pressure affects more than just teen-agers. Afraid of being ostracized by those we hang out with, we midlifers can be blinded by the unexamined prejudices of the group.

Things That Blind Us

Recently I had a visually impaired visitor to the online version of Midlife Moments. A diabetic since adolescence, Pam became blind three years ago at age 44. Her insightful and cheerful contributions to our discussions have reminded me that, one, blind people can have more vision than we sighted ones, and, two, there are worse types of blindness than the physical kind. Following are some ways we can self-impose a kind of moral, spiritual, or creative blindness.

Habit

In his poem "Mending Wall" Robert Frost writes of a man who "moves in darkness . . . not of woods only and the shade of trees." Frost paints a verbal picture of a man blinded by tradition, who builds walls where no walls are needed simply because he has always done so.

Similarly, you and I can wall ourselves off from important and pleasureful new experiences simply because our habits leave no room for them. For instance, do we always engage in the same leisure activities, read the same authors, talk with the same people, or visit the same vacation spots? What are we not seeing because we do?

Busyness

I wonder, as we hurried out the door on the way to work this morning , what need did our child or spouse leave unvoiced because they knew we were busy? As we battled rush-hour traffic, did we notice the colors, sounds, and smells of a new day? As we rubbed shoulders with co-workers, themselves preoccupied with their own overly-busy schedules, did we take the time to get to know them better? What gifts and opportunities are hiding behind our busyness?

Group think

"Every way of seeing is also a way of not seeing," said Matthew Arnold. This thought haunts me when I think of how the organizations and communities to which we belong can blind us to competing viewpoints. There actually were times in history when the "in group" believed the world was flat or that some minorities had no human soul.

And we fool ourselves if we think we would not have been tempted to go along with such nonsense. Peer pressure affects more than just teen-agers. Afraid of being ostracized by those we hang out with, we midlifers can be blinded by the unexamined prejudices of the group. Think about the issues and opportunities of the day. Do we see them all the way our peer group does? What are we missing because we do?

Comfort

A final way that we blind ourselves is perhaps the most insidious. I'm convinced that comfort and ease can hide some of life's best gifts. Ask anyone who has experienced major trauma in midlife: a death, business reversal, divorce, or chronic illness. The ones I talk to speak of rediscovering the simple pleasures they had overlooked during less tumultuous times.

A widow speaks of the preciousness of present relationships; a victim of corporate downsizing discovers abilities she didn't know she possessed; a divorcee admits his former workaholism and rediscovers his teen-age children; a recipient of an organ transplant revels in the daily miracle of life itself.

What lies hidden behind our comfortable lives? Will we notice and embrace these blessings before we lose them?

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