Brenda’s Blog – June 28, 2022
“You just Benjamin Buttoned me!” My friend laughed as she said this. “Do you know what I mean?” Obviously I didn’t. Yes, I knew the movie about the man who grew younger as he chronologically aged, but I didn’t get the connection.
“Old people seem to want to talk about themselves all the time, especially about their illnesses and complaints. You just asked me a question about me. I call that Benjamin Buttoning because you are not acting your age, but much younger!” I laughed and accepted the compliment from my much younger friend.
She is right – at my nearly 80 years conversations about health, the closest and best buffet, and the sad condition of the world dominate most exchanges. Long ago we forgot the art of listening, asking questions, and then listening again.
When I inquired about a Zoom class she is teaching her face lit up. I really cared about her life without seeing her as simply someone to hear my stories and receive my “gathered over the years wisdom.” A lesson was learned in those two hours we spent together. Whether you are forty, sixty, or eighty you want to be heard.
My youngest grandchild once looked at me during a visit and said quite seriously, “Are you listening to me?” How easy it is to put on a face that looks like attention while the mind wanders away. Children quickly learn what true listening looks like. Yes, eyes and ears are a powerful combination.
I don’t want to be a crotchety old woman complaining about my aching back, my lactose intolerance, or certainly not my occasional incontinence. Young ones will discover those on their own soon enough. I want to ask questions that uncover their hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns. Only if I cede my talking time to them will I ever have the privilege of knowing what they are thinking.
When you live alone you have thousands of rolled over words to use. It is tempting to spend the bulk of them posing as a “wisdom figure.” Aging sadly allows “diarrhea of the mouth” which discourages others from engaging us socially. Haven’t we all heard, “Don’t sit down with her – she just talks about herself constantly.”
Be a Benjamin Buttons who gets younger, more curious, more interactive, and certainly more attentive to others even as the calendar says he should settle into old age. My Dad was known for saying, “I have to get older, but I don’t have to get old.” Neither do we!