The past two weeks that included the release of the movie, based on the book, The Glass Castle, has had me thinking about dysfunction in general, and of course in elders. Loving mysteries, my first thought about the subject was that every homicide detective is dysfunctional in some major way. While I may love the plot and the setting and the minor characters and the red herrings, it gets very boring to see that the psychological dysfunctions do not improve much in a series of novels.
It would be enjoyable for me to see that Barbara Havers, in the Margaret George novels, had learned how to dress and do her hair as a professional woman, as opposed to the ragamuffin look she favors…..because she is lazy about herself and giving her all to the job? The author could invent another dysfunction since all humans have them, especially it seems, the ones on the front lines of human stupidity, i.e. killing, violence, hurting living things in general.
Quirky is different from full-blown dysfunction. Quirky can be charming and fun and when you read or watch a show or movie for entertainment it is almost a required character trait for someone. We sometime hear or see words on the page that are important to the plot coming from the quirky one. So how does a person with “normal” quirks versus one with dysfunctions impact us in reality? As elders how do we deal with the continued or worsening dysfunctions of family and friends or even society?
After conversations with several only slightly dysfunctional friends, my take is this: If the person has enough redeeming behaviors and attitudes and is aware of the dysfunctions that are harmful to the world, who am I to judge beyond what my standards have become? We forgive or tend to minimize traits that are balanced by either the greater good of a person or society or a physical or temporary situation. In a relationship we tend to balance each other out with a physically stronger one taking over outdoor chores and one of the techies in the family helping everyone.
We can moan about the “lack of a functional city council” and then use the democratic process to remedy it. A friend has a stroke and when the physical therapist says you can help by listening to a less than perfect speech pattern from him/her, you figure out how to develop patience–which the lack of has become almost a dysfunction for you. We adapt and adjust and survive until the malfunctions are too much for us and we withdraw. Level and severity impacts our decisions.
The fictional homicide detectives are divorced, alienated from parents and children, drink too much, sleep in their clothes and have few social skills with peers. But, they do their jobs, speak for the victim and are necessary in a society of the numerous dysfunctionals in the book.
While life is not a novel, reading can give you examples about how differently minded people deal with reality and disaster and those around them who may reflect the people we know who are beyond our help. Balancing your own systems going into meltdown is the number one priority for the exceptional elder. Put on your oxygen mask first.