Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Aging

Today I marked 58 years on earth. Actually I didn't mark it. I'm not a "birthday person". If left on my own I would have not known what day it is, I rarely know the date, and often I don't know what day of the week it is. I had to look at my cell phone to get the date when I went to the bank this afternoon. But my parents, kids and wife and some friends remind me every year of my birthday.

It is strange being this old. At 50 I fully realized that in principle I have fewer years left than what I have lived. I'm only twelve years away from the Psalm's biblical "old age" of threescore years and ten. I know twelve years is nothing. The past twelve years of my life have literally been a heartbeat's span. I can mark their beginning from this month when we left the Episcopal Church and embarked on entering the Orthodox Church. Intellectually I know a lot has happened, not just "church stuff" but personal joys, deaths, gains and losses in so many arenas of life. In my mind it is all a small black and white snapshot, a single event captured while in motion, but now still, stark and with too many faces to recall exactly. "Twelve years" are just two words now, not an overwhelming prospect of a long, winding road, whose destination is hidden from view beyond the horizon, a journey stepped off in the inexorable and unrelenting metered cadence of 60 tiny ticks of the clock.

I have lived too many years to recall how things were, what I did when, who I was with and what I said. So I make up some amalgamation of stuff that sounds right and makes the point I'm making, but is usually factually wrong in some way (my wife will attest to the factualness of that.)

In the past couple years, I find I'm using fewer words with people, and sometimes sharper (or blunter) ones than I used 20 years ago.  I'm more direct, not out of a mean spirit, but from some  "old man economics" of communication that has inflicted me.  I'm too old and tired to dance a full tango with someone anymore. I'm not impressed with nor interested in trying to keep up with all the tap dancy-fancy moves in conversations. I just want to get away off the dance floor and back to listening to the music and watching the pretty girls from my table, sipping a nice Scotch, neat... and alone. I now enjoy not talking more than I used to enjoy hearing myself talk. And frankly, sometimes I say stuff just to mess with people just to see how much slack my gray beard buys me. That too is an old man thing, I think.

Speaking of "alone"... Alone is not the "frightening thing hiding under the bed" that it used to be. In fact solitude is welcomed company.  Loneliness and existential distances tortured me, nearly to death several times in my life.  I settled for contact rather than communion, a facade rather than a face, a false acceptance rather than real rejection. My senses are clearer, I can now see a phony smile, hear the flattering lisp and feel the hesitant hug and overly zealous handshake. But my reaction time to what I see has slowed.  I don't have the energy for rabid judgment anymore. Nor do I have the energy or want to take the time to talk myself into pretending things are anything but what they are. I can walk away and not ruminate over it in the darkness of the early morning. I prefer to be alone than with a false companion.  I don't know if this is a gift for old men, but there is freedom in this.

When you get old its harder to avoid self assessment. The fruit of your life by this time has ripened. Some is sweet, some is inedible and shouldn't be passed on. I know I've ruined a lot of things in 58 years. Damage control is no longer making excuses and pointing at others' failures for my screwing up. An old man knows there is no such thing as damage control, only damage identification and admission of guilt. I've been weak and narcissistic. There's a lot of people close to me that will tell you that, people important to me. I am finally able to listen to them. A sweet fruit of life is having close people who will tell you the truth. There is freedom in this too.

At 58 I'm too tired these days to be inconsistent. I used to be a human chameleon, blending with the surroundings, fitting in with the environment, changing nuances of shades of color to trick the onlooker into thinking I belonged there.  I find I don't change much to blend in or fit in anymore. Where ever I find myself, I am just an old bearded lizard.  I don't know if an old chameleon loses its ability to change color or if it just doesn't care anymore... which ever it is, it is a lot less effort and makes life actually more colorful.

And right now, I'm just tired. I had a days' work. Good friends took me out for my birthday, I had two glasses of wine and it is past my bedtime. If I knew 58 was going to be like this, I'd have done it much sooner. So, with that, goodnight all.

32 comments:

elizabeth said...

Many years and my wishes for God's mercy to always be near.

discourse said...

Many years!

mamajuliana said...

Happy Birthday and Many years!

Donna said...

Happy birthday!! Many years to you :)

James the Thickheaded said...

Which day? Aug 9 or 10th? (Time stamp confusion)

Let me pass on that geezing boomer that I am, I heard Joe Walsh the other night in the car, and the lines that stuck this time weren't the usual but the admission:

"I can't complain,
but sometimes I still do..
Life's been good to me so far."

Yeah. I think that says it. If we can't complain about something or someone, then maybe we complain about ourselves. Same old obsession in a brand new bottle? Hmmmm. Lord have mercy on us!

Seriously SP... thanks for all you do from all of us... from me especially. And many years to you and yours!

Cameron said...

Many years from someone who appreciates your increasingly curmudgeonly ways (or the online iteration thereof). Happy birthday, Steve.

Matushka Anna said...

Many years!

Bill M said...

Many years!

Just passed my 44th last week, and had some similar thoughts, though from a different point along the line, to be sure.

Thanks for the time you take to write, welcoming us in to ponder these things with you.

November In My Soul said...

I celebrate my 50th on the 12th.

(another) Elizabeth said...

Many years to you, both for your sake as well as ours, to enjoy your offbeat humor and generous displays of wisdom.

You rock, ReaderMan!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Many Years, S-P !

David Dickens said...

My wife scolds me for avoiding my birthday. She tells me that it is good and proper for the kids (and friends) to honor my birthday and that my bad attitude about it ought to be confessed like any other sin. :)

I'm 20 years behind you @ 38. But starting last year and more so this year, I've begun to perceive small shifts like you speak of (though much muted yet).

You have "gone before" me brother. Thank you for making my way the more straight. You suffered on my behalf and the behalf of others and it is a small burden to have to listen to you over use the word "unpack".

Incidentally, "unpack" needs to be struck from the vocabulary of every Ortho-celeb. It's starting to remind me of how we used to make fun of valley girls saying "like".

Yes, you're still an Ortho-celeb, happy birthday!

Mimi said...

Happy Birthday! Many Years!

Arsenios said...

Happy Birthday, Steve. Thank you for your thoughts on turning 58. Sobering, that's the word that comes to my mind. But these are things we should all think about, no matter our age. Many years to you.

Chrys said...

Xronia Polla!

John said...

Happy birthday, and Many Years! I know exactly what you mean about conversation and solitude. I am sensing the same thing. But being 58 isn't so bad (said the 55 1/2 year old). That's still technically early late mid 50s ("mid" being the operative word,) and much better than say, early late 50s.

Dana said...

Many years, Steve. Not so unlike the Curmudgeophan, eh?...

Thank you for what you do share in your writing and podcasts. May our holy fathers Stephen, Paul and Lawrence intercede for you.

Dana Ames

Abe said...

Happy birthday from the Fillars! Sto Lat! (this clip isn't from OUR family, but we sing this Polish song...since we're Polish) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_v-HR_6Chg

David T said...

If you WERE to mark the day, I'd suggest you consider going HERE: http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/thestew/2010/08/poptarts-world-debuts-in-times-square.html

s-p said...

Thanks all, and David T: YEAH! POP TART DISNEYLAND!!! I hope they don't have those "healthy heretical poptarts" on display (except as maybe a FAIL). (I won't unpack that any further. :)

Chrys said...

"If I knew 58 was going to be like this, I'd have done it much sooner."

Everything about getting older is much MUCH better than when I was younger . . . except the physical part.

Ah well, maturity comes at a price (though I often try to defer payment - which has been my loss).

Again: many, many, many years!

margaret said...

I am 12 years younger and the curmudgeon, although in women I think it's being a grumpy old bag, is coming out in me and you are my best role model! :)

Mazl tov tsu dayn geboyrn tag!

Anonymous God-blogger said...

Happy birthday, and thank you for this beautiful post in your extremely helpful, inspiring, and REAl blog.

ryan said...

Cheers, S-P; great post by the way.

JD said...

Just 58; wow!
In dog years you're 406.
In Woman years you're 37.

Job said...

I am significantly younger than you and I have a great envy for this outlook on life you have shared with us. (I also envy the ability to screw with people to see how much slack a grey beard will get me.)
I must say that age is the only thing that life seems to offer anyone that has any worth. I look forward to it every day.

s-p said...

Job: Don't ask me why, but ever since I was a kid I wanted to be old. It took 58 years to get there. :) Getting old has its own challenges, but I have to say I like it a lot better than 20/30-something. Pay attention to your life now... if you do, you'll be a wise old man, not just a wise ass with a gray beard.

JD, in dog years I'm dead. :)

Larry Anderson said...

Forgive me for being a day late and a couple of dollars short, but...Many Years!

I find that at 44, I'm much less inclined to worry about trivialities and niceties than I was ten or fifteen years ago. I expect that by the time I reach 58, I'll be thoroughly curmudgeonly--in fact, I'm looking forward to it. I wouldn't go back to my 20s for anything...

Dana @ Running The Race said...

Steve, you're only five years ahead of me and I very much relate to you (with the exception of the gray beard, thankfully). I thought going through cancer treatment made me this way, but now I think it's simply maturity. What I really wanted to tell you, though, is how much I enjoy your blog. Oh, and by the way, I just figured out the other day that you'd left a comment on my blog back in January. Thank you for checking in--I was honored to have you as a visitor. :-)

Fr. James Early said...

Many years!

Alix said...

Many Years!! I am coming up on age 64 and can honestly say that the past few have been the best and most joyful years of my life. I have a serenity and a joy in the small things that make me ever mor grateful.

thegeekywife said...

Many Years, SP!