I was told in school, “Write about what you know.” I know about getting older. We all do, actually, but turning 67 this month means I can’t dismiss the effects of aging. I have tried. After a diagnosis of coronary artery disease angioplasty restored a healthy flow of blood to my heart and with regular exercise I’m in better shape than most men my age. Precancerous skin damage was caught before any malignant tumors developed. Treatment with Efudex cream was agonizing but it served as a skin peel giving me the dewy complexion of a forty year-old. And I weigh less than I did 15 years ago so I’m lookin’ good, at least to me. I relate well to friends who range in age from young children to teens, twenty-somethings and all decades beyond to octogenarians. If I could relive my high school years with the social confidence I now possess I’m sure dating would be joyous rather than the awkwardly painful experience it was. In fact I can see myself now, strolling the halls arm-in-arm with Peggy Sue…
Jack, stop! Stay grounded in the present. You’re not a teenager anymore and believe me, that’s a good thing. This is the place in the column where you fess up to the ways your body is failing and then go on to provide the spiritual insight needed to live a rich life in old age. Get on with it!
Sigh. Okay, let’s start with indigestion. I must be careful of what I eat or drink after 6:30 pm unless I’m ready to wake up with my stomach on fire. And I have to pee a lot, day or night, unless I pay close attention to what, when and how much I drink. Muscular aches and pains pop up all over, especially in my neck, and sometimes the pain is so strong that I have difficulty doing a shoulder check when driving. Which really puts a crimp in my dreams of buying a sports car to boost virility. I can see myself on the open road now in my BMW …
Focus, Jack, focus. What’s this about virility?
Look, my Best Before date for erections has expired and Viagra is not the sliver bullet men hope it will be. But my wife still wears a smile and we’re closer than we’ve ever been, partly because we both deal much better with things that once upset us. I’m not perfect but defensive, hostile reactions are triggered much less than in my youth and for that I thank my advancing years.
Makes sense. Developing emotional control does take time.
It’s more than just time. Insight into myself, others and my interaction with reality has grown because my body no longer functions the way it once did. Accepting frailty has helped me to abandon fantasies of power, sexual potency and immortality and to realize that I am powerless. And with that realization comes freedom. If I am powerless then I can just do the best I can without anxiety over results. Imagine no anxiety! I can be free to live in ways that let me blossom into the best person I can be while helping others to grow as well. In abandoning power to control I gain the power to experience and spread joy. And that’s a win-win power with no losers.
Sounds as if you have it made.
I wish. Let’s just say I’m ready to sing “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” and almost mean it.