I am approaching “old fuddy-duddy” age. Next week, I will turn 45. This seems to have happened rather suddenly, though I have no big feelings about it, except that I’m glad I made it. (NOT a jinx!!) Through the years, I have changed and not changed. The obvious signs of my trek toward fuddy-duddy-dom include: ear hair, complaining about politics, a strong affinity for a recliner and a marked indifference towards the things I don’t care about. I can’t even fake it anymore or don’t care to.
Indicators that I haven’t yet arrived at grouchy old man status yet include: LOUD-Red Hot Chili Peppers and old-skool gangsta rap, a still-creative use of swear words and the ticklish joy I get from scaring my kids and pets. I believe I’ve got some time before these things fall off my radar.
Reading an article about how our “joy” changes as we age, I was moved by its truth. When we are young, we search for impactful and extraordinary experiences. We look for the “big” things. Monumental challenges inspire us. We are driven to explore, test, experiment all the world has to play with.
Looking back on my years, I see this as true. I tested and tried lots of stuff, some of it really stupid. I had lots of “experiments” blow up in my face. But, I also discovered what works for me. Sometimes, we find what we like by understanding what we don’t like. With so many options, it is necessary to narrow the field and the only way to do this is by trying different stuff. This is a necessary step in any successful life and cannot be avoided. We must discover what we value. The real or fabled “mid-life crisis” is a testament to this idea. So, I am glad I did it when I was younger, because I’ve already got a trophy wife and I can’t afford a corvette.
During this search, we are collecting data. This data points us in the direction we should travel, if we pay attention to it. We define our values: what’s important to us. As we get older, with our values clearer, we find our joys in the more ordinary life experiences: Time with friends and family, reading a good book(in a recliner), a good meal, mowing the fresh, spring grass and on and on…I no longer need to go fast or jump off of high places. I’m cool if I never climb a Tibetan peak or leap from a speeding boat again. These days, I like simple…mostly.
As the years pass and the hair on my head continues its migration to other parts of my body, I worry less and less about “stuff”. We can control few things. However, these few things are important things and we should take great care to nurture and protect them. We can control ourselves and our relationship with the world and the people we care about in it. These are really the only things that truly matter.
At some undetermined time, we all end up as dust. The legacy of the lives we led is carved by the days we live. Today is one of those days. Carve well. Pay attention to the details, the soft nuance of a word or a smile. Our legacy is built on how we make others feel. And when the sun rises be grateful for the day, only a finite number them are allotted. They are precious.
With a week left before I’m half-way to 90, I’m making a bucket list. Included will be acts of kindness and service, kite-boarding, beer and cribbage with my old buddies, lots of blue water and warm sand with my wife, giving my kids the best parts of me during our brief time as roommates, lots of good books and recliner time, naps and BBQ’s. Each day is a chance to reset and I’m resetting and letting go and keeping and remembering. I’ll begin anew, older and younger at the same time…and I’ll begin these things right after I scare the dog…
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who just published his first book called "A Feel Good Life" (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]