Sometimes it’s hard to express how you feel in writing. Sometimes you just want to feel it and not express it. Then there are times when you know it’s important to get it out, even if no one ever reads it. This is one of those times.
There’s a fine line between youth and old age. “Mid-life” doesn’t begin to describe it because, honestly, mid-life is here and gone in the blink of an eye. In fact, your entire life is a flash in the pan. Faded memories of me cutting handsprings in the front yard on Cleveland Avenue fast-forward swiftly to me as a young mama in Kansas City with my three little boys at my knees. I recall turning a cartwheel when I was about 40, at the behest of my children (I saw “stars” in my eyes for about three days following). I remember turning 50 and my father calling me to wish me a happy birthday. I sighed and said, “Dad, I’m fifty.” He said, “I have shoes older than that. I was just getting started at your age. Fifty was the best time of my life.” I can recall more than one of these conversations as I voiced my ambivalence about aging. He always had a way of making what I was grappling with seem normal and manageable. He made me believe I could do anything. But aging is one of those enigmas that brings such trepidation and uncertainty into our thoughts. We joke about it, we commiserate and complain about it, but the global anti-aging industry is now worth over $215 billion dollars, so believe me when I tell you that it’s on the forefront of our thoughts for those of us who are of a certain age. If you aren’t thinking about it, trust me, honey, you will.
On the surface, as you enter post-mid-life, you may think:
Wow, I have to really think about getting down onto the floor now. It’s so much harder to get back up alone.
Why do my joints feel this way in the morning? When did that start up?
Why are my hands/feet swollen?
I have to cover this gray hair.
I can’t believe I’ve lost so much hair. I always thought I’d have a head full of hair. What will people think of me?
Why can’t I lose weight easily anymore? How did those 10 pounds get on me so fast?
I seem to have lost my “cool” factor. I feel sad about this.
And then the things that keep you up at night:
Will I be able to retire in comfort when the time comes?
How long will I be healthy enough to be independent?
How long are they going to let me continue to drive?
Who will care for me when I can no longer live independently?
Will I be able to leave my loved ones something behind?
Should I make plans for my funeral now or leave it up to my family?
Do I have a will or a living trust?
To be completely honest, I never thought about any of these things until the past 10 years. You think you’re going to feel 25 forever. You think you can beat all the odds and feel young and healthy looking forever. Guess what? You can’t. You won’t. You can stave off some of it by eating healthy and staying active. If I heard my dad say it once, I heard it a thousand times, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to stay at rest.” Now I think about these things almost daily, if not several times a day. I roll out of bed and wonder why I hurt all over. It takes me longer and longer to “wake up” my joints and muscles, it seems, and there are days when I just don’t feel like doing anything much at all.
You know why?
I blinked and I sighed and forgot to pay attention to things. At 60, I am finally paying attention, but I wonder if I have missed my window on some things. This also makes me sad; it makes me sad and makes me wish I could go back in time and have someone as honest as me tell me what I am telling you young folks today.
I had an old friend text me the other day and ask me to sing a particular song at his funeral. He followed it up with an immediate “I’m not planning on dying.” My response was, “If I can still walk and sing, I’ll do it.”
Wow. Time to activate those creaky joints and flex what’s left of my muscles and “make hay while the sun shines.” None of us is planning on dying, but we all die a little every day. We are reluctantly caught up in the entropy and chaos of our unraveling planet. We have an expiration date.
So take some sage advice from this old lady and pay attention to these three words: Live your life.
Be fully present. Put down your phone and look at people when you’re in a room together.
Kiss people you love on the cheek. Hug them even when you don’t want to. Wait for them to let go first (But hey, don’t make it weird).
Eat dessert. Better yet, share it with someone you love.
Park far away from the entrance and walk. Every close parking space is not a miracle gift from Jesus. Believe me, He wants you to walk a little.
Stop saying “Someday, I’m going to_____.” Just do it or shut up. If not, you’ll have so many regrets, and regrets suck.
Learn how to properly say you’re sorry when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. If you are bad at apologies, talk to me, I will school you. I am an expert.
Buy the roses for yourself from time to time. Stop. Smell them. Repeat.
Anonymously pick up a stranger’s tab at the restaurant when you’re able. Just because.
Give the right of way with grace.
Go to church more often. This I have no regrets about.
Make your relationship with Christ a priority. In the end, He’s everything.
“Either get busy living or get busy dying.” --Andy Dufresne, “The Shawshank Redemption”
“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James, the half-brother of Jesus