Posted by: jhvn | 01/06/2013

HELP! I’m slowing down!

Or maybe The world is speeding up? HELP! HELP!

I need twice as much time to brush my teeth. My dentist insists that I use one of those little Christmas-tree-shaped proxa brushes, every day, dipped in listerine, between my teeth, to keep the rest of my teeth from falling out. He had a note on his ceiling: “Of course you don’t need to floss all your teeth – only the ones you want to keep.”

Buttons nearly stump me. I’ve given up wearing neckties because I can NOT get the collar button buttoned, let alone the neck tie tied. It often takes 2 or 3 tries before I can get the zipper zipped on my new jacket (They obviously make buttons and zippers smaller than they used to.)

Tying my shoes often takes 2 or 3 tries; and I used to tie them without even thinking about it.

I really don’t remember the thrill of taking my first walking steps, or tying my own shoes, or buttoning my own buttons, or zipping my own zipper. But I have watched and thrilled as my children and  grandchildren achieved those accomplishments. I do know that I used walk, tie, button, and zip in no time at all,  giving them little attention –until a month ago – or was it a couple of months – or a couple of years ago? Egad! How long has this been going on?

A few weeks ago I had a marvelous experience with a group I used to be a part of until a year or so ago. Then, when I reflected a bit, I realized that it has been 15 years since I was part of that group.

So here’s what’s happening: I am slowing down.

Neurologists and driver test examiners tell us that our brain’s reaction time does in fact slow down with age. (Try a Google search for “brain reaction time” and you’ll see all kinds of scary evidence, as well as ways to improve it.)

So are we geezers doomed to slowly slide the slippery slope to senility in this speeding world? NOT ON YOUR LIFE – OR MINE.

This geezer is convinced by his experience that great value and meaning lie hidden in our natural slowing down – just as with all other aspects of ageing. We geezers differ from other old people by giving attention to our body’s talking back to the multi-tasking race so many adults have entered.

For children life is all so new they can’t explore it fast enough. Adults often feel they must struggle to keep up with it all. Geezers are learning to look beyond the race and reflect on where racing is taking them and what racing is doing to them. Slowing down rewards us geezers with time for self reflection, an essential ingredient of maturity.

One of this geezer’s reflections is that his sense of time is shifting. For a 5-year-old, a year is an enormous amount of time – 1/5 of his whole life. For a 50-year-old, a year is only 1/50th of her life. That’s why birthdays come along so quickly for us geezers. Frank Partnoy published this past June a fascinating book entitled Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. It’s full of research and stories demonstrating that often waiting, even procrastinating, can drastically improve our life and our performance – from playing tennis, to making decisions, to offering an apology. So we geezers can relax and enjoy our delaying brain.

During my college years, a girl friend once astounded me by saying “If you’re going to be raped, you might as well relax and enjoy it.” I was so shocked that I didn’t take time to reflect on whether or not this might actually have been an invitation. I may have missed a remarkable experience.

So Geezers, we can reinterpret a song about our wish to revert to childhood lack of responsibility into a geezerhood song about letting go of the race, Slow Down, You’re Goin’ Too Fast. Geezerhood can paradoxically resemble some aspects of childhood, As Jesus knew.

© John Van Ness 1/2013


  1. Hi John and Wes,

    It’s always good to have a reminder that my brain isn’t as fast as it used to be. Sometimes it takes a lot of living to learn a lesson such as you have noted in “HELP!”

    I learned a long time ago that I can’t sprint as fast as I used to. Why should my brain function be any different?

    Here in Colombia my body is being brushed with the whoshing of 80’s weather and strongs winds. Pilar and I are recovering from travelers diarrhea to tomorrow we can go into the mountains and meet the indigenous people who are known the Ruth and Antonio.

    I tried to send a much longer message to several addresses but I’m not sure it got to you.

    I’m glad you both had a good meeting and I look forward to meeting with you in Feb. There may be a conflict becasue the 7th MAY be the date I go with Jess to Chicago. I’ll be in touch as soon as I get home.

    Blessings and peace,

    Gary Sent from my iPad

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