It is not easy to come to grips with growing older. The world around us fixates on all things youthful while advertisers bombard us with happy, wrinkle-free picture-perfect models cavorting happily with nary a care in the world. The message seems to be if you are young you have it made. But what about those whose teens and twenties are a distant memory? Is there a place for those of us whose youthful spirit finds itself betrayed by a progressively more wrinkled visage?
I am doing my best to come to grips with the wear and tear of my 55 years of living. I do my part as far as getting my exercise and following a healthy diet. Overall things are going fine but not all the time. The spirit may be willing but if the body doesn’t pitch in it sometimes feels like an uphill battle.
As the years progress we learn it is not always easy doing those simple things we took for granted not so long ago. Little aches and pains insidiously work their way into daily life. Bending down to pick up a dropped set of keys requires more dedication than it should. I cannot make up my mind if I should bring my book closer or hold it at arm length to read type which seems to be tinier every day. It wasn’t that many years ago when my day began with a single multi-vitamin. These days my prescription regimen is far more involved and my vitamin is now specifically for those over 50. Just minor annoyances in the overall scheme of things but still…
I remember as a teenager my father expressing his chagrin that all the actors he grew up with were getting old. At the time his comment did not make much of an impression – they were all old to me! Now I get it. Not only are my favorite actors and actresses showing a little more gray even those high energy rockers that populate my musical memory cannot escape the effects of time. I remember seeing The Eagles in concert when I was 17 and they were jamin’. Although I enjoyed a recent revisit as the band tours once again, it was impossible to ignore the fact that these guys are now in their late sixties and early seventies. I don’t even want to talk about The Stones.
When I get together with old friends I realize they are actually becoming “old” friends. We overlook the gray atop our heads and bravely try to see beyond lines that are slowly laying claim to our foreheads and the corners of our eyes. Our discussions have moved from the cutest girl in the office to the cutest daughter in college or recently graduated even. We easily share memories of past adventures that bring tears of mirth but now often find those mixed with real tears shed for losses and pains experienced along the way.
There is just nothing easy about getting old.
Thankfully there is a positive side. I believe with some effort it is within our power to learn to accept certain challenges brought on by advancing years. Each step we take is a part of our own unique journey. Some are easier than others but all move us steadily forward. Rather than mourn the losses, I think it makes sense to focus on the positives, the opportunities, and the new adventures that wait.
I am not yet a grandparent but look forward to the experience. What could be better than spending time with tiny inquisitive ever energetic mini-people as they experience for the first time what life has to offer? The first trip to the zoo, the first birthday cake, the first face-to-face with the family cat – everything eye opening and fresh. And at the end
of the day the little treasures go home with their parents who get to do the heavy lifting for the foreseeable future. I might almost feel guilty enjoying all the good and passing on the dirty diapers and childhood challenges to the persevering parents…almost.
I look forward to spending more time with my wife. She is still working these days so we are limited to sharing evenings and weekends. What I am talking about is when she is job free and we can take off during the middle of the week for an impromptu journey to wine country or the coast or just about any place where we can be together. I can’t wait for those extended trips back to Europe or Mexico as well as exploring places we have never been. So long as we are healthy, we hope to stay active and engaged always searching for that next new experience.
As a retired person, I no longer suffer the stresses of the job or demands of pursuing career advancement. The only ladder I plan to climb is the one to put up my Christmas lights. No more meaningless meetings. Goodbye annual performance reviews. See ya critical deadlines. I don’t think I will miss work much at all. And if I find I do, I can always look into contributing my time doing something I enjoy that matters to me.
Best of all, is there anything better than having the freedom to spend your time as you see fit? Imagine the glorious feeling of starting your day when you want, filling your hours doing what you enjoy, taking a nap when the mood strikes, trying something for the first time, and just generally occupying your time having fun.
Along with the challenges we will face comes the real chance to live and explore, to love and laugh, and to make the most of each incredible day.
Retirement – here I come!