John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Aging

It’s hard to explain why aging is a pleasant experience and shouldn’t be feared.

Sure, mostly, I guess, we get more comfortable with ourselves and grateful for what is around us and in our lives– and develop more tolerance for the small and large things that disrupt our plans and hopes. But it is still hard to explain in a way that captures well what we are really trying to say.

Think of it this way. You know how when you go away for a week long vacation to someplace you’ve never been and the first few days are intense and chaotic as you travel there, get settled in, feel the high expectations for the trip, worry about leaving work behind at the office, and learn your way around the new surroundings? Well, that’s like life from ages 0-30.

jyb_musingsThen the next few days, you get around to following your itinerary for the biggest events you’ve planned for your vacation and take lots of pictures posing with family and feel a sense of mastery of this new exotic locale. You check off things from your bucket list and relive with those around you at dinner how amazing it was (yet quietly think to yourself that, like most things, it will probably be greater in the memory and re-living of it than it really was at the time). You feel a tinge of worry because you are over-budget but don’t dwell on it because these are important experiences and your credit card limit is high enough to cover everything. It’s worth it. This is like ages 40-60.

Then there are the last couple days when you finally have some “down time.” At last, you have decompressed and unwound enough to really relax. You put work out of your mind and have begun to really focus on where you are and what you are doing and what you are saying and who you are talking to–and what you are thinking about when you are walking alone. You really appreciate the beauty around you and notice the little things in the people and culture around you. You also realize you only have a couple days left–and that both intensifies your gratitude and enjoyment but also makes you a little irritated knowing your the long planned trip is now almost over. But mostly you just enjoy it. Like leisurely licking an ice cream cone without worrying about the calories or that the ice cream is melting before you can eat it. And you don’t worry you don’t have a napkin. It’s not about the ice cream. It’s about the experience. And everything–briefly– is in real time. This is like ages 60-80.

And then it is time to pack up and get ready to go home. Time to check the room one last time to make sure you don’t leave anything behind and have all your belongings accounted for. And time for a final “once around” the property for memory’s sake –and maybe breakfast by the pool and maybe even one last sunrise—before heading to the airport. And on to boarding the flight home where you have a head swimming with pleasant memories –and also some worries anticipating the work left undone back at the office. But you have a low-cal and low-budget pre-packaged snack to comfort you. And although you are surrounded with strangers like yourself you choose to escape with boredom with headphones and a B-level movie as you soar above the clouds and look out the window and think about God. You feel secure that the pilots know what they are doing so you don’t worry when you hit some unexpected turbulence. And you are ready with a mix of anxiety and gratitude when when you hear the landing gear being lowered. And you feel a release of some pleasant brain chemical when you realize you are close to home. This, I suppose, is like the final leg of our trip, ages 80-


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