Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Great Getting Old!

That title sentence is not one you hear very often. And I only say it because I can still ride my bike up the 3rd Ave. hill and hike the Inca Trail, the bodily organs seem to be working and I only occasionally fall asleep at the movies. Of course, the mirror is brutal, noisy restaurants are hell, I have to keep upgrading my glasses and it’s sobering to check out the women in the bar only to realize they see me as the Invisible Man or Grandpa. But there is great satisfaction in the aging process. I’m talking about little spiritual breakthroughs that never would have happened if I had died young.

Hard to put my finger on in with articulate language, but it has something to do with acceptance, forgiveness and that sometimes dubious notion of personal growth (beyond the waistline). “Sometimes dubious” because part of acceptance is to realize that parts of us ain’t never gonna change and as long as it’s not the part that buys assault weapons, acceptance is a better strategy than constant failure. But then, some surprising things happen. Like noticing that I’m reacting differently to situations that previously would have set me off, that certain buttons that provoked particular reactions when pushed are finally (or at least temporarily) disconnected. Things like shifting the weight from “will this benefit me?” to “will this benefit others?” Things like releasing that whiny, needy little boy or life-is-unfaired teenager and freeing up space in the heart for noticing other’s needs and how I might serve them. They’re all moving targets, but lately I’ve noticed a few satisfying bulls-eyes and I attribute it to the promise of aging gracefully.

Then there is getting to be a Grandpa and having my first jazz band (so much fun playing and teaching together at SF Jazz Center yesterday!) and being at school staff meetings with my daughter and comforting my Mom with classical piano music that I’m playing better than I ever have. None of it would have happened if I had checked out early.

“Let my enemies live long to see what I have become” is a West African proverb and the title of a play I once saw. Read one way, there is a touch of spite in it (“in your face, Mr. Bully!”), but also an opening for enlarged compassion. And it can read reversed: “Let me live long to see what my enemies have become.” In any case, the real punch line is “Let me live long!” At least short of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, nurses taking me to the bathroom, etc.

Fate willing, I’m in it for the long haul and at least for now, happily so. If I had the chance to hear my eulogies at my funeral, what’s the one line I’d like to hear more than “He was smart, talented, kind, a family man, a faithful friend, etc.”? 

“Look! He’s moving!”

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