On Turning Sixty

Ok….I can take a hint; “get your butt in gear and start writing again”,  “haven’t seen your blog in too long of a time…..have you been that busy”,  “we know you took a long trip, a couple short trips, you’ve most definitely seen plenty of movies….what’s up?”  Got that twice this past Black Friday.  Well, one thing is a definite…..I wasn’t at the mall!

Writers block?  Maybe…..can’t really say.  Lack of motivation?  Maybe, although I’ve got plenty to write about.  Maybe I just wanted to let the thoughts and ideas congeal and then burst forth like a volcano, or maybe more like projectile vomit…..you get the idea, I don’t have to spell it out (although I just did).

The topic that has occupied my mind the last couple months has the title, “On Turning Sixty”, a worthwhile topic as it’s a milestone of sorts.  I’ve been thinking about it ever since my wife turned sixty a year and a half ago (yes, she’s a cougar…almost 18 months my senior).  But seriously, I felt that since she turned sixty I’ve been counting down the days until it was my turn, and those 18 months seemed to drag on forever.  But that’s not such a bad thing.  I’ve been able to observe her foray into that world and I’ve learned quite a bit, such as sixty is not so much different from 59 which is not so different from 58, it’s just a number, albeit a big one.

But (there’s always a but), with this milestone birthday I have been thinking a lot about aging.  I’ve been thinking about the difference in our lives (meaning our generation, and in particular my everyday relationships) and that of our parents.  Even though my parents never acted like old people- unlike my grandparents who always seemed old- sixty year old’s today seem so much younger, more active, more involved in activities that would have never been on my parents radar.  This is partly due to our lifestyle which is based on physical activity (check out this article about physical activity and brain function) and healthy living so we can continue to enjoy doing the things we love for as long as possible.  New research has shown that a positive attitude toward aging will keep one in better physical condition.  The research has shown that if you, your friends or relatives say you’re too old to do physical or mental activities your body will react by deteriorating quicker…..and the opposite is also true.  Good to hang out with folks that don’t look at their age as a reason to slow down.

Over the years, actually since college when this thought made a big impact on me, I’ve been thinking about the book and philosophy of Be Here Now by Dr. Richard Alpert be here now(Ram Dass).  It’s such a simple topic written about by many scholars (and some not so scholarly), but none in such simple and straight forward terms; live in the moment, not in the past and not in the future…live for the moment.  I’m speaking in philosophical terms; we’ve planned for the future financially etc., but that’s not what I mean here. It’s a given that the older we become the more we think about mortality; the end of this physical life, which we know is a sure thing (the afterlife may be a topic for a future blog).  Living life in the present not only keeps one from dwelling on the fact there is an ‘end’, it keeps you feeling younger, it keeps you feeling vibrant, it keeps experiences fresh, it keeps you desiring new experiences, it keeps you feeling eternal.

As I age I seek experiences that have importance, deep and meaningful.  I don’t want the spaces between experiences to be prolonged, but those spaces are important to enhance the experience.  I’d like to be traveling full time but then it becomes a job….you need the breaks.   I’m not interested in racking up experiences like a collection of stamps; I seek out experiences that have meaning that add to who I am, now.  Not all my experiences have to be extreme; could be reading and understanding a great book, preparing a meal for the first time, cycling a new route, or exploring a new country. Experiences are personal and have a different meaning for each individual.  The best I can do for me is to stay healthy so I can continue to have new experiences and keep growing as long as possible.  Here’s to the next sixty years, but for now I’m Being Here Now!

 

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A Life Fulfilled

“Life had a different shape; it had new branches and some of the old branches were dead.  It had followed the constant pattern of discard and growth that all lives follow.  Things had passed, new things had come”.                                                                                                                                                         indexThis quote comes from the excellent book by Beryl Markham, West with the Night, a ‘classic, engrossing memoir—a triumph of the pioneer spirit and an adventure-charged chronicle of a life lived to the fullest’. 

West With The Night was brought to my attention years ago by our friend JoAnn.  It had been on my Kindle for several months before I felt it was time to read.  Written in 1936, it describes the life of this extraordinary woman, born and raised in Africa.  In her younger years she trained horses, thoroughbreds, and later was struck with the passion to fly planes.  She became a bush pilot in Africa and later took on aeronautic feats unrealized in the 1930’s, let alone by a woman.  And on top of these accomplishments she was an outstanding author of beautiful prose, possessing a writing style that allows the reader not only to visualize her stories, but to feel her passion.  In the movie Out of Africa (1985), Markham is represented as the outspoken, horse-riding tomboy named Felicity.

I find it appropriate to mention this book and author now, having just this week learned that one of my oldest childhood friends had passed away at the young age of 59.   When we’re kids and young adults we experience death first with grandparents, lucky if we knew all four from both sides of the family (I only knew my grandmothers).   Then we age into middle life and experience the passing of parents, at which time our own mortality awakens with greater clarity.  And now this childhood friend has died and we’re the next generation on the chopping block.  But I have always tried to live my life in the moment, to be present in the here and now, learning from the past but not projecting too much into the future 81FH9rfylgL(Be Here Now).  Reading West With The Night I think about these life issues, question if I’m living a life fulfilled.  I know I’m never going to fly a single engine airplane from Nairobi to London as Beryl Markham did, but am I challenging myself and living my life the way I want.  No one ever does one hundred percent of the time.

A life fulfilled is an individual pursuit; some of us do it through our children, some through work, some through philanthropy, some giving ourselves to worthwhile causes.  Sometimes it’s just living a good life, not taking advantage of others and being a giving person.  Some of us find fulfillment in a game of golf, a bike ride or reading a good book; something to make us feel worthwhile, not for others but for ones self.  My friend Victor died young, and from what I understand he had many unrealized dreams.  Don’t wait for those dreams to happen, make them a your reality.  I doubt many of us will say from our death bed “I did too much in life”.

Once again my prolific wife has been published, this time on the excellent Roger Ebert website.  Click HERE to read her post; it’s just below the photo of Roger with his hand on his chin.