Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

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Confronting the Idea of Getting Old

May 12, 2012

When Vicki and I started dating she was not happy about her birthday. She liked being young and resisted the idea of getting older. I was more accepting–I’m a Taurus and thus boringly practical, and resisting growing older was like resisting the tides. My view has been to ride the waves, wherever they take you. Be as happy as you can at your current age.

I’ve never really concerned myself with growing old until now. Two Sundays ago I turned 49. It was another wonderful birthday, spent with Vicki and Val and a visit to my parents. Plenty of phone calls and lots of Facebook posts too. I’ll never forget this birthday because it was the same weekend that I went to Fenway for its 100th anniversary (you can see my pictures and reminiscing here).

But I have to confess that I’ve hit my first bit of resistance about aging. Now that I’m just a year away from it, I’m realizing that 50 sounds really really old. For me it’s the wall separating feeling young with feeling like time is running out. For the first time I am realizing that the odds are good that more of my life is behind me than ahead of me. This birthday has forced me to address some dusty, stuck thinking in my head. I am discovering that over the years I’ve formed a couple of shallow ideas about my aging process. They have sat unexpressed in my unconscious, but hitting 49 has brought them to the surface.

*By 50 experimenting is over; it’s too late to learn a language or adopt a new spiritual practice. At some point I stop taking in new things and start doing the things I have been learning all this time. For a guy who spends his professional life teaching people of all ages new ways to think about their work, this is quite an embarrassing discovery.

*By 50 personalities are hardened; it’s too late to develop more compassion, say, or patience. It’s as if potential exists for only half my life, and now I’m stuck. This is so antithetical to my actual belief, that I will grow until the day I die, that it was a shock to learn that I was carrying around this idea too.

In short, 49 is young and 50 is the beginning of the end. What an immature view!

I will admit that just writing down these ideas, exposing them to the smallest bit of light, has made them crumble like a vampire encountering the sunrise. They are ridiculous ideas. The experimenting continues–I would indeed like to learn a language. I would like to meditate more regularly, and for longer. I know I will continue to grow as a person, revealing aspects of myself I have not seen before. Bob Dylan got it right: “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.” I still feel like I am early in my journey, with many bends in the path ahead.

From the point of view of potential, that is true–it keeps growing in front of me, and I keep moving toward it. But for the first time I am fully realizing that my time is not perpetually renewable. Am I foolish that it took this long to give this obvious truth my full attention? Perhaps. But I’ve still got 50 weeks until I’m 50, and I hope that is enough time to allow me to embrace that birthday fully.

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