My Dad used to say, “You can’t scare a man who ain’t afraid to die.” I don’t think I’m afraid of dying, but I must admit that I am afraid of getting old. Aging is an easy process. No matter what you do the clock keeps on ticking and with each passing second, we age. But aging without getting old is difficult. I don’t mind aging, but getting old scares me to death.
Every time I look in the mirror I see more wrinkles, more pronounced lines, and more gray hair. In fact when the stylist finished cutting my hair the other day she asked if I wanted hair gel in my hair. When I replied that I did, she looked around for a minute and said, “Let me get the gel that looks better in gray hair.” I guess that means I’m aging, or at least my hair is turning gray. I’m not ready to get old, but that doesn’t stop my biological clock from ticking away.
The problem with aging is that the person inside my body doesn’t know it. I still feel like I’m in my twenties or thirties (at least in my mind). I still think I can haul hay all day long, play tackle football, take a tumble from a horse, and any other laborious, or possibly injurious, activity. The truth is that I can still do all of those things, but the recovery time is about ten times longer than when I was younger. In my mind I don’t feel any different. My skills are essentially the same. My physical abilities are still pretty good. My desire to take on a bit of adventure is still strong. The difference is that my body isn’t capable of recovering from the aches, pains, or injuries of strenuous and taxing experiences. It takes me weeks instead of days for my body to put itself back into working order, and that is only if I take copious amounts of ibuprofen. My mind is still young and doesn’t want to accept the fact that my body is aging.
As I come to grip with my own gerontological journey, I realize that I am becoming the “crazy old man” I used to make fun of as a teenager. You all know some version of the crazy old man I’m talking about. The one who wears socks with sandals, Bermuda shorts, and a funny fishing hat as he sits in the local diner all morning ranting about the government and the sad state of society. (By the way, the root word for gerontology comes from the Greek word geront which means “old man” lol.) I find myself wanting to wear only long pants with an elastic waistband to hide my aging legs and cover my increasing paunch. I catch myself talking about the way things were when I was growing up. I hear myself say things like, “Kids these days…” about some random twenty-something punk with his hat on sideways. Yep. I am becoming that crazy old coot that teenagers laugh about, and ignore. Some days I fight the urge to become the crazy old man, and some days I embrace that persona.
Old people aren’t any smarter than young people, but they do have more experience. That experience speaks to them and guides them. Young people have no seasoned guide, no intuition, to carry them through difficult choices. They have no tingle in the hairs on the back of their necks warning them of danger. Their brains haven’t developed the ability to process large amounts of input in short order and produce a conclusion that manifests itself in the form of a hunch. Old people aren’t smarter, but they do have the advantage of experience, and that experience is worth all the exuberance of youth when it comes to making quick decisions.
Of course there are some other advantages to aging. Discounts. I often get asked if I want the senior discount and save lots of money on purchases. Time. I don’t waste time on things I know don’t work. I have made most of the big mistakes in life and I don’t waste any time on making them again. Emotion. I expend less emotional energy on things that don’t matter. I don’t get as angry as I used to. I don’t get as worried as I used to. I don’t get as stressed as I used to. I figure if the whole world goes to pot, I don’t have that long to live anyway and it doesn’t matter. Lust. The drums of lust don’t beat as loud as they used to, and I’m okay with that. I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve got. Spirituality. I don’t know if I feel more connected to God because I am closer to seeing Him again, or because I have seen a lifetime of His hand in my life, but the things of the unseen spiritual world have more impact on me now. Aging does have a few perks.
If I want to age without getting old, I must refuse to accept some of the negative things that come with getting old. I refuse to stop learning. I refuse to stop trying new things, as long as I can avoid injury. I refuse to become pessimistic about the future. I refuse to waste the time I have left on trivial things. I refuse to carry grudges or seek revenge. I refuse to spend all my time looking back at the past. I refuse to spend all of my time chasing a dollar bill. I refuse to look in the mirror and only see someone who is getting old. I will continue to live as long as I have breath, and I will fill each day with twenty-four hours of living (as long as I get to take a nap from time to time).
|A projection of what I will look like in another 20 years|