Rx for Age-related Grumpiness: Meditation!

Feb 27, 2018 | Community | 8 comments

Carton of lucy looking grumpy with the word 'cranky' above her.

I’m going to throw a theory out there and see what happens.

My theory is that as people age they exhibit more grumpiness and dissatisfaction. Remember the television series Grumpy Old Men, which featured some well-known men discussing modern-day stuff that irritated them. The series was popular enough that it spawned Grumpy Old Women, and then they were all together for Grumpy Old Holidays.

I live in a household of six where we are all ‘getting on’. Our ages range from 67 to 74. We three couples have been living together since 2006 and we know each other well. Our communal living situation has been described as a sort of social experiment for retirees. Any of the many conditions that relate to ageing are happening right under our roof, in the laboratory of our co-habitation. It makes it a good place for me to make my observations and formulate my theories.

In fairness, I can only talk about myself. At this stage, I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a curmudgeon. That’s a term used almost exclusively for crusty, cantankerous old people. That’s the far end of the spectrum.

I think what’s happened as I ambled through my 60’s but has become more pronounced in my 70’s is that I am less tolerant. Little things can trigger larger reactions these days. For instance: I’m the one who empties the dishwasher for two days in a row. On the third day, I open the dishwasher full of clean dishes and am annoyed that I might have to empty it again. Another scenario is, I’m weeding in the garden and pruning the shrubs . Then, I go to find the wheel barrow but it’s not in its usual place. We have an acre of gardens. I have to wander all around to find it, and it could be anywhere.

Grumpiness can be sparked by various transgressions. It annoys me if someone doesn’t recognise the importance of my personal sensitivities or take into account my pet peeves. Unfortunately, annoyance and grumpiness leave bad energy–like a black cloud over my head which sits there even though there are blue skies all around.

The problem as I see it (when I have enough clarity to do so) is the assumptions I make. The most fundamental of these is assuming a level of meanness or insensitivity on the part of the other person. In other words, I take it personally. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, and maybe more, this is a wrong assumption. More than likely, there’s been an oversight or a bout of forgetfulness. Forgetfulness, for sure, is happening around our place more and more. This is all the more reason for me to be forgiving, even when there has likely been no trespass.

I realised yesterday that the thing that helps me most to put a little wedge between my assumptions and the imminent arrival of the black cloud is meditation. And, guess what? Over the last two months my regular meditation practice has languished. This morning I was back in it with fresh motivation.

That’s the thing. When stuff comes up, when we lose our way, trip and fall, the pain of it will create the incentive to do something. Some people might opt for therapy. Others might have spiritual practices. For my money, there is no more profitable activity than meditation.

I’d love to hear from you, dear reader, what you think of my theory and what you do when the dark cloud comes over you. Here are some suggestions from Lifehacker10 Ways to Beat a Bad Mood.


  1. Since you asked, yes I agree meditation is magical, including in the moment – but better as a long-term softening and clarifying practice. No I don’t agree that ageing means getting grumpier: it can but equally it can mean more real and honest, more willing, and more kind. Some choice is available. Funny about the dishes and wheelbarrow. I’ve had the exact same reactions… Maybe communication helps. You just did some.

    • Thanks, Mike. You made me laugh. That’s another thing that can come with ageing. A better sense of humour. A lightening up as some things just can’t be vanquished…. Eve

  2. Well, as a contributer to this condition (described above – maybe the one who moved the wheelbarrow; I’m not confessing to dishwasher-amnesia) and a fellow traveller, object of and subject to this condition, I agree with the theory. I too notice we are fielding it here and with wavering levels of awareness. Often I am fully in a reactive state by the time I notice my intolerance. And it can take me a while get through a certainty that someone did something to me, to being responsible for MY now-moody state. Hilariously, ironically for sure, I get intolerant of someone I reckon is being intolerant and lost in the ‘tolerance hall of mirrors’ A quick Rx for me is get out in the open. Get able to be with myself, as by then, self-tolerance is low. Meditation, yes, though for me, best after a bit of open-sky and movement.

  3. I have a similar experience Eve in that when my meditation and breath /stretch practices get missed I do really notice quite a difference in my overall equanimity. With the ageing and grumpiness idea, my theory goes in a bit of a different direction. I’ve been wondering about this very topic lately, and have come to feel that as I age, I am being more cognisant of what I’m feeling, as I feel it. I think I’m and more able to recognise patterns in my reactions, mood shifts& feeling ill at ease as its happening. I guess I’ve been cycling around habits long enough to start to feel familiar with them (ha ha)! Im quite curious about cultivating contentment and determined now to look myself right in the eye … so to speak.

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comments.
      This is a good expression, looking oneself right in the eye. Doing so presents another opportunity for facing our judgments, as not many of us can look without judging. To be able to “look in the mirror’ without judgment is a high level of skill. It paves the way for total honesty and authenticity.

  4. PS My experience is that the people I’ve known the longest and see the most are most likely to bring out my habits

  5. AH Eve, I’m chuckiling a little at the domestic stories. Ani Pema told a similar story once about the same theme as you: ascribing intentionality and meanness to others. She was living at Gampo Abbey and complaining in her her head about that person who left something unwashed and then discovered later it was she who left the dish. I think there is alot to be said for humour to help us with our aging memories as well as our aging crankiness (not to mention our aging loved ones). And remember I have had an elderly body and mind since I was 21 🙂

    • Penny, you were so far ahead of us in claiming Pema Chodran as your guide. I’m just catching up!
      xx Eve


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