One of my most recent thoughts that I have been having a hard time getting my head around is the aging process and subsequent thoughts on life and mortality. Aging is one of those processes that is one thing to read about and another to live out. And its not the fact that I know we all get old and die that seems to have me in a quandary but the feeling states that surround my actual calendar age and what I really feel inside.
If someone were to tell me that I am 59 years old today, I would have a hard time actually affirming this based on my perception of myself. I am sure these thoughts are not unique to me and probably there are several books that have been written about this phenomenon.
Who we are inside and how others picture us has always interested me. When Sandi and I moved to North Carolina in 1978, one of the first couples we met lived just down the road from where we took up residence. We had moved into an old “home place” that had been abandoned shortly after the husband had passed away. There had been a small fire that had gotten hot enough before it was extinguished to have left all the windows broken. The living room, where the fire had been started, was somewhat charred and there was an ashy indentation in the middle of the floor which we later painted and covered up with a throw rug. Even after our seven year stay, the fire smell had not entirely gone away.
Anyway, we were re-claiming the house—room by room—and partially living on the big front porch. In the mornings, we would get water from where the spring line had been cut and bring it to the porch where we would clean up—Clampett style—as people drove by in their cars and trucks and waved. There was a big dresser on the porch with one of those swinging mirrors attached and I would shave and watch the people go by.
It was a time of adventure and we felt young and daring—each day was lived out to the fullest. The couple down the road had a very nice house, two brand new cars and for all intents and purposes, looked the part of a young couple on the road to success. However, although we were about the same ages as them, they sure acted a lot older than we did—very proper and almost high collar if you know what I mean. I guess it was their Baptist background and growing up in the mountains or something to that effect.
Over the course of time we became very good friends with them and we were able to see them loosen up and let down their hair on many occasions—though they still seemed much older than we did. It has been the same with many couples we have known over the years—with age came maturity and with maturity came a way of presenting oneself to others and the world.
As I enter my 60th year today, I know that I don’t feel like I thought 60 would feel when I was 30. When I was thirty, I guess I thought I would not exist at this age—the prospect of it seeming so far away and all. Plus, almost everyone I knew that was 60 when I was 30 acted and often times looked “really old”. All they talked about was their surgeries and the medicines they were taking for this or that condition and on and on—I know that you have met the type. I know that this can sound vain and judgmental at some level and I assure you that is and never has been my feeling or intent.
We are talking about perceived states of reality and where we find ourselves at any given time—and at this point I have to admit I don’t seem to fit what I thought 59 would be. If somehow I woke up—Rip Van Winkle like—after many years of sleep and someone asked me how old I was‚ and before I looked into a mirror, I would possibly say 40 at the most. And I guess I will go with that today although there is likely some kind of Einstein theory that can explain this phenomenon and the perception of reality that accompanies it.
The old saying goes, “You are only as old as you feel/think” and that will have to do for today even though it only seems to scratch at the surface of what would otherwise be called an itch. Only God knows how old I really am and how many more years I have left to wonder about all this stuff. Tomorrow I am going to take a good long bike ride and I know that I will feel a lot younger when I finish than when I begin—enjoy yours as much as I will mine.