The eye-opener came when I realized with a jolt, the pendulum has started its swing; time is running out.
It was a freak out moment, but a positive force as well. It gave me the motivation to stop dwelling on attrition from the creep of time and to focus on what I could do to find happiness going forward.
My account of the journey to ‘old guy’ is written in the first person because I don’t pretend to be anything other than a scribe. I offer my experiences to provide light for your own journey but I’m the first to caution, my byline does not make me an expert entitled to editorialize; my posts are descriptions of my own insights to what it takes to add joy and meaning to the so-called Senior Years.
Here’s the summary of what I learned in the almost two decades since I gulped and accepted that I was a lot closer to the end than the beginning.
The first thing I realized, you can change jobs, swap partners and relocate to new geography but there is no point in moving on if the same blocks that got in the way to personal growth aren’t left behind.
Before searching for the greener grass, it’s important to ask yourself, what is fulfilling and what is lacking in the here and now? Think of what gives meaning, pleasure and inspiration and conversely, what causes you discomfort and emotional pain? Don’t shy away from addressing the fears that keep you stuck.
I made a big leap when I declared, I am not a victim. When I stopped waiting to be ‘rescued’ lots of choices materialized.
An attitude of gratitude has made its way into daily down-on-my-knees thanks for the good luck that I was born in America, had a decent brain and the wherewithal to have the options that millions of men my age yearn for. I am blessed and I do not ever forget it. I give a lot of time and energy to hold out my hand to those to whom circumstance has passed the shorter end of the stick.
A question I ask ever more frequently is, “If not now, when?” When the answer comes up ‘never,’ I either erase the trip from the bucket list or buy my tickets pronto!
I’m not above the chase for status and wealth but I am certain that material abundance alone does not bring fulfillment. I have seen men of enormous wealth bemoan their lives. And men who labored for minimal wage glow with joy.
I learned – and this was difficult - reviewing the past is more than simply dredging up an event or memory. I still struggle to leave behind the shame and regret associated with my less than admirable behavior, berating myself with “if only I had done this, tried that.” But I’m making progress. I write about this often… seeing the mistakes of the past in a different light, not as everlasting indictments but as hard lessons learned. That helps me to forgive myself and to let go of my self-deprecating view of who I was, so I can celebrate the man I am becoming.
Perhaps the most important influence that creates joy and meaning for me is the emergence of a spiritual presence; an inner life-force where love holds sway; where capital is measured by friendships and intimate moments with those dear to your heart. Until I saw with clarity the difference between inner happiness (heart centered) and societal definitions of a successful life (ego-centered) I remained restless and unfulfilled.
Finally, I’m pretty sure that coming down on the side of love is what enables us to experience the power within.
In the time that’s left, I’ll live authentically, my tap root firmly planted in the deep down part of me at the heart of who I am. When I look in the mirror, however grizzled the image, the face behind the reflection will be mine.