Life’s a rockin’ ride: Age with gusto
Is 35 the new 90?
I found myself pondering this question this week as I read Derek Franz’s column in the Post Independent about being socially unfettered in Glenwood; turned loose to the local nightlife, the karaoke, the characters you meet and the things you consume.
Derek’s breezy, knowing sketch of one community nightspot made me feel like reaching for the Geritol.
It would’ve been funny for me if it hadn’t been so sad, which, oddly enough, is why it was so funny.
I crest into my 36th year this summer. In another 12 months I’ll be staring down number 37 ” that strange no-man’s-land between “mid-thirties” and “late-thirties.” On its face this is nothing more than the assignment of chronology, at best an unwinnable numbers game. Yet somewhere along the way the numbers started to mean something.
In 2001, the year I turned 29, my wife Jacquie and I moved from Castle Rock to Austin, Texas, for me to attend seminary. We threw our house into a truck (it was literally an overnight pack job) and cruised it through downtown Dallas on a Friday during rush hour. When we arrived in Austin, it was Day 14 in a streak of 100-degree-plus days. But no matter. In a few hours the truck was unloaded and I was cooling off by learning about something called Shiner Bock. The world was my oyster … and, er, I had one of those oyster-shucking-knife thingies.
After seminary we lived in Conroe, Texas, just north of Houston. Contrary to however you may imagine south Texas, I basically lived and worked in a forest where the grass never stopped growing and the humidity never let up. (They call it “relative humidity,” by the way, as in relative to temperature. So imagine Aquaman in, oh, a billion-degree pond and you’ll have it about right.) There isn’t a lot of outdoor exercise in Conroe, because it turns out that just getting your lawn mowed is a sport requiring Olympic-level endurance. But again, no matter ” gimme a push machine and a glass of ice water, and I’m happy.
It’s easy to think you’re indestructible when not all the cards are on the table.
Something, though, has shifted lately. I ask people to repeat themselves. I keep my kid from riding around on my shoulders to avoid repeat encounters with the chiropractor. I have this stiff hair that keeps popping up in my ear.
And overnight a slight dusting of gray has visited my topnotch ” a head of hair which, not coincidentally, is slightly more transparent under the present rank of harsh and unforgiving bathroom lights.
It’s not that I didn’t see it coming, and it’s not that I don’t genuinely believe you when you say those two words I’m getting used to hearing ” “Just wait.” It’s just that it’s a little odd to imagine that it would happen to me. Which is silly, I know.
The writer of one biblical proverb framed it so well for us: “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” With each year, it’s getting easier to see that time itself is a discipline; that just living my life is correction enough; and that finally, “heeding correction” ” merely being prayerfully awake to the passage of time and how it changes things ” that that alone is a kind of spiritual practice.
Here, in a sense, is the point of it all ” not getting life by the tail and keeping it there as we’re led to believe so early on, but finally allowing life to dictate the terms it’s going to dictate anyway, and offering a good response in spite of, or even because of, those very terms.
Here it is again, framed in a slightly different way, but still found in the Book of Proverbs: “He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.”
I offer this, then, to those whom I excel in age: You never think it’s going to happen to you, and then it does. Roll with it.
Go ahead and scream that scream of your youth. Karaoke your brains out. Make Jimmy Page’s air-guitar come alive, and revel in the funk and grind of it all. Throw yourself into impossible situations with great abandon. Be a double-black, class-five, home-brewing, fist-pounding bro or sis.
And when the opportunity arrives to unpack your experience and offer yourself to life in a different way ” when the long slow moment comes in which you are asked to redefine in the light of reality, and to allow life to be, rather than to consume it whole ” do that, too. Do it with just as much abandon and gusto as you’ve done everything else, and the world will be a better place.
The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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