At one point, living past the age of fifty was quite the feat. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then thanks to brainpower and technology. Otherwise, I might not be here, writing this blog.
Now, longevity is en vogue. While living to 120 seems a long ways away, it is not an unfathomable goal. That being said, your fiftieth birthday might not just mean more candles on your cake; it may mean that it is the perfect time for a fresh start, and to start living sustainably. You may start to question whether sixty-six or seventy and one-half have any meaning other than as the current federal mileposts for social security and required minimum distributions?
When I was twenty, I did not think the world would last till the time I turned thirty. I was sure we were going to blow up the planet. This may sound morbid, but it is a timeless notion. People that are coming of age today have this same angst for reasons such as resolving depletion and overpopulation, rather than a nuclear winter.
The beautiful thing about age is that it brings wisdom and perspective. Perhaps it comes from the drop in Testosterone levels. At twenty, I thought about sex at least once a minute. Women were a distraction. Now sex is no longer top of mind, and it is possible to have tension-free discussions with anyone.
Many men in the second half of life are caught in behavior patterns from the first half. They act like dirty old men, or they try to hold on to a macho demeanor. Whether it is authentic or not is beyond me.
I no longer have the strengths of my youth, nor the desire to prove my dominance. I am aware of my own vulnerability. I care much less about what others think of me. For many, this can make a pleasing vision of the future cloud with difficulty.
My vision is no longer what it was. What looked like a sharp photo now looks like an impressionists view of the world, but I always preferred Monet to Ansel Adams anyway. And when I was younger, I needed to escape from reality more, and under-the-influence life took on a Picasso-like look anyway, and sometimes it looked more like the work of Jackson Pollack.
Today I am more content with my everyday view that is softer and more pleasing to my eyes. This doesn’t mean I have selective vision; I still see the rantings of the mostly conservative people that are my age.
One sign in a yard says, “I want the America of my Youth!” We’ve all heard it: a member of the older generation slamming a fist on the table, exclaiming the perfection of the past, and the spiraling downturn of our society today. What’s a different way of looking at that? We have more today than fifty years ago in so many areas. When I hear that, I go back to segregation, the objectification of women, homophobia, “children should be seen and not heard”; “why are you crying, I’ll give you something to cry about?” “Stop laughing, or I’ll wipe that smile off of your face”.
They see Norman Rockwell, I see Arthur Miller. As Carley Simon crooned back in the good old days, these are the good old days.
Another sign says, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Do they even know what a republic is? The founding fathers took a bold step, from the systems of government of the time. But in the eighteenth century, it was a republic instead of a democracy because they wanted to duplicate the power base of the landowners in Britain – in America – and keep the riches to themselves. There was no direct vote of the President, or of Senators. The indirect vote was restricted to a select few. They did not want the rabble to have any control.
Looking backward in the second half of life is pointless unless it is to process what we have learned and figure out how we can best contribute to the future. Putting signs up like the ones I have mentioned is not beneficial to society. I don’t like to make assumptions, but I would be willing to bet these people are constant complainers. They see that young people today do not respect them. And why should they? Looking backwards and aching for the past kills any potential for joy today. Look at what you have now. Figure out what you can do with it and stop fantasizing about a reality that never existed. Play with your grandchildren, or start a business, or take up a new career, or volunteer, or plant a garden, be a mentor to a child of a single parent, learn to dance, learn to cook and invite your neighbors who are still working crazy hours to dinner and create intimacy with your life partner. Does that sound so bad? I don’t think so.
Have a little bit of fun everyday.