I am easily pleased and easily disappointed. I’ve always been wired up this way, although I will say that age has filed down the edges of both to a degree. Both used to exist in such relief and what I see now – as I write these very words – is that these feelings dovetail with an overall tendency toward responsiveness in general to external stimuli, be it people or events.
Who wants to be the person perpetually responding to every which way the wind turns? I’m in absolutely no danger of becoming a nonresponsive automaton, so bringing the easily pleased/easily disappointed trait down a notch or three can’t hurt. Age in and of itself helped, yes, but maybe consciousness about being too responsive factors in as well.
Taking the edge off is good but that’s probably about as far as I want to go. I know that if I wanted to be all Buddhist and Zen, I’d strive to become dispassionate, centered at the same level of calm mindfulness no matter what happened around me. Yeaaaah. Not a chance. Not only will I never be like that, I don’t want to be. I like my passion, I like being plugged in.
Long ago I heard the idea that people have what amounts to an invisible wall around them that monitors or screens incoming stimuli. My “wall” is very, very low. EVERYTHING comes in. By contrast, I have a sister who is quite different. When we were kids, she could sit with a book or in front of the television and I could repeatedly say her name in an attempt to get her attention, and she wouldn’t look up or hear me. (No, in this case, she wasn’t just blowing off her younger sister.) I was dumbfounded and would actually take to waving my arms around to snap her out of it. She was somewhere else. Her stimuli screening wall was very high.
I sure wouldn’t want to be my opposite: hard to please and hard to disappoint. Maybe some would say that is being calmed, but to me it sounds like being deadened. Giving up. I’ve written before about how excitement winds down with age and I expect that there’s a natural progression in most people to shift on the pleased/disappointed spectrum toward less of both. Go around the block enough times and you get a pretty good idea of how things work and what to expect. No sense getting overly excited about any of it. I know there are older people who belie my generalizations – the older lady who gets more appreciative and pleased with what life has to offer in her “twilight” years; the old man who’s more ornery and displeased with everything he sees (feel free to swap out the genders on my examples) – but I’m thinking of how most people age.
Yeah, I suppose it’d be nice to be easily pleased and hard to disappoint, but the people embodying that particular trait combo must be like unicorns. I personally stand no chance of being one, but think few are. I come across people who persistently play at it in a manner of speaking; uttering vague niceties and saccharine clichés that suggest being easily pleased, but I don’t believe them. These are the autopilot speakers, who always say things like “Isn’t that nice?” Or “What an adorable baby!” And “Every day is a gift from God.” However, their talk might as well be on a loop tape for all the more depth and sincerity it has. (Like they could look at a random baby and accidentally blurt, “Every day is a gift from God.” Oops, reboot.)
It’s an interesting thing, trying to find this balance and working with or against one’s own innate tendencies. I know how I’m wired but I realize also, given a few years behind me, that the feelings of being easily pleased and easily disappointed are transient. I can expect neither to stick around too long. I can’t or don’t hang onto them, which sounds a bit Buddhist after all.