has always been an optimistic person. He's never worried about things
like what tomorrow will bring, and his attitude has always been
positive. Now that's changing. Why? Because he's got older. All
of a sudden, 70-something years of living in denial has caught up
with him. He's wondering what it all means; what he'll do with the
rest of his life. Here's what he'll do. He'll suffer. Like the rest
of us pessimists. Why should positive people have a free pass?
I feel bad that he didn't come to terms
with this sooner, but it's his own fault. Laughing, smiling, looking
forward to sunny days - what was he thinking? Sooner or later
that kind of attitude just has to take its toll. Positive people
are so busy smelling the roses they never take time to worry.
Luckily, I can help. I've been thinking about illness, dying alone
and being infirm, all my life. How to live with uncertainty and
negativity is a skill that comes through years of practice. I've
told him he can't expect to become a well-adjusted negative person
overnight. I've worked pessimism into my schedule and got into
the habit of embracing it. Like brushing my teeth. It's become
Take disease - I worry daily. I know it's
only a matter of time before something gets me. The other day
an elderly woman said to me: "I never expected to get arthritis."
I was amazed. Who doesn't expect that? If my toe aches it's the
very first thing I think of. Then I find out it's a bunion - but
at least I've got the worst-case scenario out of the way. Once
you accept it's downhill, there's much less disappointment. I
feel sorry for people who never think about old age, because when
it hits it's devastating. _The only way to avoid it is to wake
up in the middle of the night with a blinding flash of realisation
and then have a fatal heart attack immediately. Then it's not
a big deal. You've only worried about it for a few minutes. I
know when I'm older, I won't be in for a shock. I don't want to
get out of bed most days, so I'm used to infirmity. My father,
on the other hand, has always seized every morning - excited to
start the day. It's not natural. When he is down, he feels like
there's something wrong. I tell him: nothing is wrong. It's healthy.
It's just that he never let things bother him before, so now there's
a cumulative effect. My advice is to let things bother him a little
bit more every day. Once he's built up a tolerance, I can show
him a routine. First, sweat the small stuff - such as who hasn't
called back and what that means - early in the day, so that it
doesn't keep you awake that night. Then, just before you go to
sleep, worry about the big stuff you can't do anything about.
Things that are out of your control like when you'll die, where,
of what, and how long it will take, etc.
After ruminating about this for an hour,
it gets so exhausting you fall into a deep and satisfying slumber.
The next thing you know, you wake up refreshed, ready to start
a fresh day of worry. Most importantly, he has to remember this
is what life is about. It happens to everyone. And five years
from now, when he's three times as anxious, he's going to wish
he was as miserable as he is now. These will seem like the good
days. He needs to settle in and enjoy it.