Sunday, December 7, 2014

Aging happens, when we're lucky

I suppose there's nothing terribly remarkable about it:  Having passed the half-century mark, I find myself comparing myself to others around my age.  How is it that some of the people my own age are starting to "look old"?  I don't feel old.  I don't look old.  Even if I no longer pass for twenty, a combination of lifestyle choices, genetics, and sheer luck do help me look young for my age.  One person recently suggested that my generally cheerful, optimistic outlook contributes to preserving a youthful appearance.  I can definitely agree that it helps to preserve health and well-being, whatever the effect on my outer appearance may be.

But why do I give a damn in the first place?

Like many people who reach life's midpoint, I find I still have many things I want to do, goals I want to accomplish, visions for myself and for my life that I have yet to fulfill--visions that, as with many of us, I thought already would have been fulfilled by now.

And yet I also intend to live to be at least ninety.

Here's the thing:  If I intend to live into my nineties, I have four decades waiting to be filled.  If I had already accomplished everything I wanted to do with my life, what would I be doing with those four decades?  Rocking in a rocking chair griping about how things ain't the way they used to be back in my day?

The secret fear, of course, is that I won't actually make it that far.

Fair enough.  Life certainly throws its share of curve balls.  Yet on reflection, I'd rather plan and prepare for more years than I have than sit around for decades waiting to die.  A truly successful life, however long it lasts, should always end with some business left unfinished.  I want my life to be a work in progress right up until the end.

And if I plan to live into my nineties, I need to make peace with the fact that I will not always look forty--and that a well-earned, authentic old age is indeed a beautiful way to be.