Recently I was reminded that my thinking about life may need adjustment, especially when it comes to my assumptions about how many years I have left on this earth. For the most part, I charge into things more or less like I did 20 or 30 years ago. While I’m more selective as to what kinds of things I’ll charge into, the basic M.O. seems the same. So, what’s the problem with that?
I’m not sure, but sometimes events in life make me sit up and take notice, and even re-think an old topic, how should we then live.
Recently an acquaintance of mine passed away unexpectedly, and at the age of 45. Forty-five! I had to think pretty hard in order to recall where I was and what I was doing at age 45. That’s how long ago that was.
Anyhow, I’d met this guy as a member of the Russian-speaking spouses gathering in my area. Can’t say I knew him well, but he was clearly a very likable guy and I enjoyed his company from time-to-time as the group met on various occasions over the past couple of years. Now, suddenly he’s dead.
As I’d mentioned in some blog a time or two over the past few years, I’m an obituary reader. I read the comics and the obits. Obits are located just after the comic section and before the classifieds – something perverse about that.
So on the one hand, it’s sobering to read of someone dying at 26, 42 or whatever age under 60 years and I find myself wondering something like “what happened to this person?”. Obits rarely give you a hint.
When it’s someone I know, it causes me to ponder this person’s life, and mine, more carefully. I guess that’s due to it hitting so close to home. You know this personality and you’re privy to what happened to him. Perhaps I’m trying to extrapolate meaning from this death to my own life.
Then on the other hand, I find myself acting like that has nothing to do with me. A real bummer for him, but that’s not about my story. I’m out mowing or running in 95 degree temps or working like a mad man on some rental property until I drop; yet, I find it hard to slow down and “act my age”. Not even sure I know what act your age means in practice.
It reminds me of some blog I read the other day on the Huffington Post website and the writer was expressing dismay at how people her age, friends or acquaintances in their 70s or so, I think, were unable to say “I’m old”. She noted that all her friends kept saying they were “getting old” but never actually acknowledging that they had in fact arrived. She was clearly annoyed by this inability of people to face the facts.
The writer may have a point, I suppose, but I’m not sure that saying I’m old is any more truthful than saying I’m getting old. Yet, there does seem to be something going on with that. Saying you’re old seems to suggest we’re standing at the edge of the precipice just waiting for someone or some event to push us off the edge into the abyss called death. On the other hand, “getting old” suggests we’re still on a journey which has yet to reveal all its goodies. I prefer the latter.
Getting old suggests that a process is still working itself out, a progression of sorts. Being old is a state of being, suggesting the process is finished or complete. I’m motivated by the journey. My states of being, for good and bad, are temporary.
For me, stopping to smell the coffee or the roses is just one aspect of the full picture we call life and the journey involved in living it. I’m still anticipating progress, laying out things to accomplish, and measuring how I’m doing. I’m definitely not pondering my exit all that much. I guess I think the exit will take care of itself, and that without me doing anything special.
I’m told that my 45-year old acquaintance, just before he died, was talking about his recovery and how he was looking forward to restarting his life. He was positive and forward looking. It all came to full stop. Suddenly.
I figure it is better to keep dreaming, to keep chasing, to keep expecting. That’s our place in this life. It is someone else’s job to declare a full stop.
You can read about mine in the obituaries – in due time.
Note: This blog simultaneously posts on 4060men.com.