Between young and old
It’s only late March and I already know my biggest challenge for 2021: finding the perfect spot to stand between young and old. Six months from today, I will turn 70—the first age I’ve worried about since the year I turned 16 and wasn’t really ready to get my driver’s license. I wouldn’t say I’m not prepared to turn 70; it’s more like resisting being 70. It’s ridiculous, I know, because what choice do I have? Plus, it is what it is. Getting older doesn’t force us to change our behaviors and start acting old, does it? At this moment, though, it feels like a slippery slope, like I’m teetering between the person I used to be and whatever scary thing it is I worry about becoming.
For the last year or so—made worse, of course, by the pandemic—I’ve felt like I’m about to step off a precipice. No matter what I do or think or say, I’m entering a new decade, and it’s one that is considered OLD on just about every age chart I’ve seen. Seventy may be the new 60, but no one says it's the new 40. I actually love being the age I am but, despite the cliché, I wish I were younger and knew what I know now. God, what I wouldn’t give to have that sweeping meadow of time ahead of me that I totally ignored when I was in my 40s and 50s. In my fantasy about going back in time, I am relishing the years that lay ahead like a bank robber counting his stash, and I know not to waste any of it. In my reverie, I move slowly and intentionally in the world, drinking in every event and fighting none of it—just living it and experiencing it.
I want to connect with my people, try new things, be as open as I can, and say yes more than no.
The irony, of course, is that spending even a moment wishing I had that much time left is more or less relinquishing at least 60 seconds of what I do have. So, I’m limiting the amount of time I devote to lamenting what’s over and I’m pointing myself in the direction of where I am and where I’m headed, regardless of the length of the journey. I want to savor this part of my life more than I have the others, if I can. I want to discover new things, take advantage of the strong body I still have, enjoy my family of friends, and appreciate the open time I have to do all of that. What I’m discovering is that all I know about being older is based on bad TV and the few folks I know who are a little older and headed out into this chapter before me.
I am also very aware of the changes in me as I continue on my path. I sleep less well, my hearing is not nearly as keen as it once was, and if I eat too many simple carbs, I can feel every joint in my body for days. All of that is part of the process, though. Some of it is avoidable (eating less sugar) and fixable (I’m talking to audiologist this week about hearing aids), while much of getting older just requires adaptation and flexibility. My fear, of course, is my penchant for wanting to get an “A” on everything and not being sure what that requires in this arena. Is it best to give in to slowing down and adjusting, or will I feel better if I charge forward and hold on to my “younger” habits as long as I can? For now, I think it’s a combination of the two, with an emphasis on the latter.
I hope to run four or five times a week for as long as I can. I want to travel and read some of that stack of books I been promising myself I’d get to every year. I want to keep writing and observing and enjoying. More than anything, I want to continue engaging. That’s my real goal for this “third third,” as Anne Lamott calls it. That is also what makes me know that I can’t say for sure what this period of time will look like. I want to connect with my people, try new things, be as receptive as I can, and say yes more than no. I’m so much braver than I was when I was younger, and so much wiser. I think I’ll focus on that, on keeping this body in good shape, and mostly on just enjoying the rest of the ride.