"Flora, always tall, had grown to be very broad too, and short of breath; but that was not much. Flora, whom he had left a lily, had become a peony; but that was not much. Flora, who had seemed enchanting in all she said and thought, was diffuse and silly. That was much. Flora, who had been spoiled and artless long ago, was determined to be spoiled and artless now. That was a fatal blow."
- Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
Chuck was on to something. As we get older, we shouldn’t be worrying about growing broad, short of breath, or like a blowsy peony – a flower that always tries to hard and wears too much makeup. In contrast, everybody knows you don’t need to gild a lily. Poor, once enchanting Flora.
As we age and “let ourselves go” we should worry a bit more about becoming silly and diffuse, whatever the hell diffuse means. I think he means we lose focus and concentration. We let our attention span attenuate to the length of time it takes to remember what the Doormouse said.
I partly concur with Mr. Dickens that the fatal blow, the perfectly avoidable change that age brings which is beyond the pale, is to remain as spoiled as we presumably were when we were young and more like lilies than peonies; when we were more condensed than diffuse. Age can’t afford to remain spoiled. You have to come to terms with the fact that the process of aging is the process of letting go of whatever indulgences you were allowed as a youth.
I part ways with Chuck about artless being a fatal blow. Give me a break. I was clearly artless when I was young. I am even artlesser now. And determined to remain argumentative. But again, I always was; and if you disagree with me on this final point, I will stab you with my eyes.