Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aging and running out of time--when it's you

I didn't think so much about my birthday as it came upon me last month. I held my annual holiday openhouse early in the month and then decided to give myself a 65th party. But other than acknowledging that it was a milestone, in the way we tend to think about those birthdays that end in 0 and 5, I didn't think about it. I had a wonderful party, then a wonderful Christmas, then headed off on my annual retreat for silence and writing and good company with women friends. An increasing lovely way to usher in the new year.

On the retreat, we spend our days in silence and I took some long walks and sat quietly in my room in the mid-afternoons as the sun set behind the alders and thought about how much I love writing fiction and being on retreat with friends and I started to wonder how many more of these trips were in my future. Joy, the wonderful visionary who owns the retreat center is in her 80s. She is an amazingly hale and hearty individual with a busy, active life but she is aging and will not be there forever. And neither will I.

On retreat, it really struck me that 65 is no joke. That it is a long time since I was born. That I've already lived a long life. It's just that it doesn't seem that way to me, for in many ways, my conscious life started in 1989, when I got sober. That's a mere 22 years ago and I find myself greedy to have another young adulthood, another middle age with a healthy body and a sharp mind and the wisdom I have now to apply to its use and development.

I won't spend any amount of my precious time yearning for that but I have found myself melancholy and thoughtful about what may remain to me. Maybe 5 years, maybe 10 or 15 or 20. My father lived to be 85 even with health issues, my mother's mother lived to be 101, so there is some longevity in the family. I have a good exercise program and pets and a lovely support circle of family and friends--all things that count for a better old age. And I have enough money, barring catastrophe. But I can no longer believe that I will live forever.

It's one thing, I find, to have theoretical conversations about the fact that we all get old (if we're lucky) and we all die. But it is another thing to be getting old yourself and running out of time.

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