On Being 76
Once a birthday I venture into my memories to ponder those that mean the most to me and to reflect on the last year. It is useful to go back and see what a chaotic time it was, and how terrifying it was, and to realize how much more I learned last year than ever before, where I changed and how I grew.
Turning 76 (which I did on September 12th, 2018) isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Nor is it quite as good. 76 seems much like the rest of life.
In times past, I believed in the myth that being old meant wisdom and having it all figured out. That isn’t the case. During this year’s look, it wasn’t just the pain that flooded back, but the joys, the beautiful friendships and much more.
Mentally I think I am still OK, a little slower perhaps. I didn’t expect to be weaker physically or to tire out so much when I go hiking or when I fix the car or when I do renovations. I even find it tough to get up after kneeling.
We are doing some renovations at home – painting, and new floors now, to be followed later by wall removal and a new kitchen. Friends Brian and Mary, Slavko and Heather have been doing the hard stuff with Eva, Steven and Anna May, painting. I am the gopher mostly. As for the floor, Brian wisely decided that my measuring and cutting activities should be replaced by glueing selected floor tiles.
More and more, I find middle agers asking for advice and treating me like I am fragile. In return, I am profoundly reluctant to ‘fix’ their problems and I bluster a lot about being as fit as before – but I hurt afterwards.
In recent times, I feel an eerie calm: I have a safety net that allows me to behave differently and plan differently.
Over time and passing through a series of spiritual / emotional / financial crises, killed dreams of gentle old age. It also put an end to a fundamental belief that owning a home, saving for the future and going to church were always good ideas because life moves in only one direction — up. That bubble, while it lasted, gave me a sense of validation, and made me feel as if I was doing the Right Things.
The safety net doesn’t come close to being figured out yet; I am a pilgrim, somehow stepping out of the ego and, finding joy in simply being alive.