“At eighty, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age…I do not think of age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.” Oliver Sacks in GRATITUDE (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015). He wrote twelve other books, including his memoir, ON THE MOVE: A LIFE (2015) and was called the poet laureate of medicine.
While my life has very few parallels to Sacks, either in terms of scope or accomplishments, I agree with his sentiment that life has been and is an enormous privilege and adventure. It is in that spirit that I offer these observations, thoughts and feelings on the occasion of my own moving past eighty-one and still finding myself able to think somewhat coherently, move about relatively uninhibited, and enjoy the wonderful connections with friends and family. Sometimes the sheer joy of those things makes one a little giddy or silly. When I see something that I wrote caused someone to say, “My breath caught. I am so glad you wrote this” I am grateful beyond words that I was able to reach another person at that level.
I can become absorbed in an early morning visit to a local Farmers’ Market where the fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are offered by those who have nurtured, tended, and harvested them. I want those people to know how much their labor of love is appreciated by those of us who are the beneficiaries of their good work. It requires very little of me to express my gratitude to them personally, just some small conscious and intentional act to say thank you as I receive their blessings. That same experience is true with my interactions with many other people who have given me so much over the years.
I put some of those experiences into a brief perspective when I penned Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir (River House Press, 2013). The constant themes of those seventy years were about learning, growing and changing. I lifted up some highlights from each decade as illustrations of experiences that helped shape my life into what it has become or rather who I have become.
Here we are at another point in time where it’s possible to take stock, to check the inventory and see where I am and who I am now. The rate and amount of change in the past decade alone is dizzying. I gave up trying to keep up and while I may not be an early adopter, the fact that I even know about the Diffusion of Innovations may indicate that I have at least been able to adapt to many of the changes in technology if not adopt all of them. I can use a computer, smart phone and iPad with some facility, at least enough to give me some tools and connect me to a larger world that would not have been possible otherwise.
In the past seven years I have written some 338 blogs, some revisions of earlier ones, most of them original, off the top, of the moment and somewhat spontaneous. What is true in my most recent book, PEARLS FROM AN IRRITATED MIND also holds in the blogs. Most of the topics are random although if I were more disciplined I could have done a better job with organizing the pearls into a more cohesive format. My conclusion is that it wasn’t enough of a priority for me to take the time and make the effort and I chose to spend my time in other ways. When you realize that time is a gift, that every new day is a gift and you begin the day with gratitude, everything else seems to fall into place more easily. I am not suggesting it is effortless, just that it’s easier.
One of my many current blessings is that I am still able to work part time, helping people create changes that they believe they want or need for very good reasons. These changes may be personal or professional or in most cases, both. This work the past eight years continues to be worth my investment of time and rewarding as I see people achieve their goals even if the timetable itself changes in the process.
Here it is again, this amazing and marvelous combination of time and change. How I will continue to learn, grow and change over the next period of time remains to be seen. It is as yet unwritten and even with plans afoot for more reading, writing, travel and conversations, it all comes under that indeterminate label TBD. As well as the word “determined”, that “D” can also stand for discussed, defined, deliberated, decided or done. Maybe the best part of TBD is “To Be.”
Aging is not about getting older. It’s about getting smarter and in spite of the old German proverb that we get too soon old and too late smart, I dismiss that as mere folly. I believe we do get smarter. We are free to make smarter choices about how and where and with whom we will spend our time. That alone keeps life exciting and interesting even if there were nothing else. The wonderful news is that there is so much more to be savored, experienced and enjoyed. We are planning several new learning experiences in the coming year. I hope you will also find ways to enrich your lives and continue to share the gifts and blessings that come your way. A big thanks to all of you out there who bless me with your presence. You know who you are.