On Getting Old

I would like to say that as I approached my 60th birthday, my attitude was one of equanimity, gratitude, all that wisdom bullshit.  The fact is that I was only partially successful in getting my head around this milestone. Any way you spin it, 60 is not young — unless, perhaps, you’re talking about a Supreme Court Justice, or the conductor of a world-class orchestra. Let’s face it: I am a lot closer to death than I was a few decades ago. My future is a lot shorter than my past. Of course, being dead is perfectly safe. Mark Twain is said to have said that he wasn’t the slightest bit worried about death because he had been dead for billions of years before he was born, and had suffered not the slightest inconvenience. That’s a great line, easy to agree with. Easy to talk the talk. But walking the walk: I admit that it freaked me out a bit to be walking down the street one day and suddenly noticing I was over 60. What is this,  some stupendous existential joke?

I considered sharing a few of these reflections in a blog post, but did not for a variety of reasons. One is that I procrastinate; another is that I expect no one to be interested in my bloviations. But I’ve overcome the first obstacle by delaying for a year and a half, sufficient even for a world-class procrastinator. As for the second, well, fuck it. Moreover, the urge to write was revivified the other day when something abruptly shifted inside my head.

Standing in my house, in a room,  staring into space, not doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing (when you have the Attention Deficit Disorder, this happens a lot, irrespective of your age), it dawned on me that in the spring I would be 62 years old. And rather than feeling the clutch of fear, I felt elation. Sixty-two! How cool is that?

Sixty-two years old, and not only have they yet to put a toe-tag on me —  I am healthy. I’ve done quite a number things I wanted to do in this life, been involved in rewarding relationships with fascinating people, and have had a lot of fun. I’ve paid some dues, but on balance, this has unquestionably been a good run — and it ain’t over yet. I’ve landed in a good place, thanks to a modicum of discipline, a few wise decisions and not too many disastrous ones, and a lot of luck.

Granted, there’s a substantial chance that I will progress from old to very old, hence frail and sick, maybe lonely and depressed. Maybe the dementia will get me. That will surely suck, and I may well change my tune at that point (assuming the cognitive wherewithal). But in the meantime, I’ve realized moving through my 60s is nothing to complain or get upset about — quite the contrary.

I have noticed in myself an increased tendency towards retrospection as I’ve gotten older, and wonder if others around my age have the same experience. It would make sense that you would turn your gaze towards the past when you’ve arrived at the point, as noted above, where your future is a lot shorter than your past. There’s more of the latter and less of the former to think about. Life is like this at any age — you experience shit, then process it and hopefully learn something, even if not consciously. Maybe in the final stretch we do this, but on a greater scale. Now comes the time for reflection, grand summaries, conclusions, and — dare I say it? — deeper levels of understanding. Understanding what, you reasonably ask? The way in which events and interactions with others have unfolded in your life. Or, to put it more simply, at the risk of sounding sententious:  life.