Saturday, March 20, 2010

It Hurts to Grow Old

Not just physically with all the old age ailments hitting us one after another: high blood pressure, aching joints, weak bladders, hearing loss and the general diminishment of energy. It's more than that. It's also the knowledge that all those dreams we had when we were young are quickly fading and the proverbial "bucket list" becomes increasingly more difficult to fulfill.

I'll never get to do ALL the things I've dreamed about doing: joining the Peace Corps, becoming a famous author, running for the Senate, speaking several languages and traveling, traveling, traveling. I have some talents and I'm still energetic, but I can see what's ahead. It's the gradual pulling away from all that you've loved and the regular loss of people who've made a difference in your life. It creates anxiety and fear -- not of the inevitable -- but that there's too little time left.
It's the most difficult phase of my life so far and I'm not dealing with it very well.

In spite of a loving family, children who (I hope) respect and admire me, I am slowly moving out of their lives and I suppose that's as it should be. They will go on without me one day and that hurts. But it's the plan.

I just can't stand not being in the fast lane anymore.

What's the big thing about retirement, anyway? How much television can you watch, how many fishing trips or golf games can you plan. How many bridge parties can you tolerate? One needs a purpose in life no matter what your age. So I've finally decided what that purpose is for me, now that I'm too old to race cars at the Englewood Speedway or hunt for buried treasure at the bottom of the ocean. I want to come to terms with it. I have to accept it. That's my purpose, but it isn't easy.

So I begin each day, now, watching the graceful sway of the trees as they bend with the spring snow in our back yard, listening to the hum of the wind as it rustles their leaves, laughing at the young fox scrambling after the squirrel and missing it time after time, seeing the birds nervously eye the cat who could teach the fox a lesson or two and I think, wow, I'm a part of it all -- the cosmic birth and rebirth, a universal oneness, the ultimate cycle of life.

Yes, I'm old now, but I was once young, and maybe I will be again. What have I learned that will prepare me for the next phase? Do I hold resentment and anger? Do I talk about people with a sneer in my voice? Have I done my part to support friends who are going through a tough time? Do I appreciate and acknowledge those who love me?

This is my belief: I’ve asked for it -- everything I am and everything I've done, I've planned out myself; it is therefore mine to deal with. That's the learning part and ultimate purpose.

My advice to "seniors" is to use this time for contemplation, to look back, but to look forward and sideways, too. According to the quantum theory, we are living in alternate universes as we speak and perhaps we are living those dreams in a different dimension. So beware of your moods and your thoughts -- stay positive, try to see the good in all people (it's always there) and appreciate our special relationship with the animal world. Even if you are infirm, you can still live dynamically by staying open to this universal energy that inspires us all -- absorb it, metabolize it and exhale it with gusto.

And to my progeny, my message is this: time is precious so don’t waste it. Get out and do it now; do whatever it is you want to do but do it now while time is on your side.

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