The first coolest thing was when our ages hit double digits. Then, something else new and exciting was always around the bend. At 13, it was my Bar Mitzvah. Sixteen brought a driver’s license; 18 ushered in the newly earned right to vote; 21 celebrated with (too much) champagne. There was always another reason to move on to the next year. Bring ’em on. Line ’em up! Don’t stop!
However as John Mellencamp lamented in, “The Real Life,”
It’s a lonely proposition when you realize/That there’s less days in front of the horse/Than riding in the back of this cart.
Aside from the fact that it should be “fewer days,” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) the concept is spot on. It’s macabrely humorous that as soon as one begins to realize he’s on the downward slope of the hill, vainly pumping the brakes, the calendar’s pages flip ever faster. When we were young and immortal, time crawled at a fossil’s pace. As the clock ticks louder, it also accelerates.
The result is many of us begin to poorly affirm what aging is about, viewing it negatively. I mean, yeah, sure, there’s that “death thing” looming out there, which does cast a pallid gloom on post-middle-age. Yet, spending my remaining (hopefully) many years bemoaning a natural and unavoidable process seems a pretty rotten way to appreciate those very years, wouldn’t you say? Therefore, I thought it would be good to wrap my brain around the cool things about getting older so whenever yanked to the getting-older-sucks magnet, I can repel easier.
First, the hastening stride of time allows a much richer appreciation of “smaller moments.” Sitting on a couch with my wife reading, observing a toddler giggle with joyful abandon while chasing a puppy in the park, or indulging myself long enough to simply soak in the red-orange-yellow sun as it melts behind the ocean brings with them joy and peace I rarely took time to experience when building a career or growing a family.
Also, I don’t care as much what others may think. Sure, I’m still disinclined to wear a Hawaiian shirt, plaid short-shorts, checkered knee socks, and black wingtip shoes as an ensemble. Yet, self-acceptance ushers in an attitude of “this is me, take it or leave it”. With that, comes freedom.
Don’t misunderstand; “take it or leave it” doesn’t make one necessarily rude; as aging also carries with it a lower tolerance for cruelty. Never was I harsh, but now, with age, comes the wisdom about when to open my yap and when not. Should I disagree with someone, my credo has evolved from “me first” to “compassion first.” The awareness of how words and actions affect others makes a massive difference in how I utilize them.
Finally, whether it’s the result of these other lessons or not, the unsurpassed improvement about these days in which I find myself is the quality of relationships is far superior to any I had previously. Not only am I less likely to spend precious moments suffering the fate of fools, but correspondingly the people I care about mean so much more now than I ever knew they could. Even better, that trajectory appears to be continuing.
There is fullness to every moment with friends and family, which – as with good wine or fine cheese – cannot be rushed but only arrives with the patience of aging well.