“I was astonished to find how intensely one lives in one’s eighties. The last years seemed a culmination and by concentrating on them one became truly oneself. Though old, I felt full of potential life. It pulsed in me even as I was conscious of shrinking into a final form which it was my task and stimulus to complete.” Florida Pier Scott-Maxwell "The Measure of My Days"
Defining “old” these days is an interesting exercise made all the more interesting by talking with people who are advanced in years but who are also active, energetic, engaged and living well. I recall seeing a cartoon in The New Yorker some time ago, two men sitting at a bar, one saying to the other, “Seventy is the new nothing.” That seems to have come from the observations that 60 is the new 40, according to scientists who say longer, healthier lives mean people now hit middle-age later.
What we think of as old has changed. Age can be measured as time already lived or it can be adjusted taking into account time left to live. What is apparent to me, as I approach my eighties, is that we can make of it whatever we can to the extent we are ready, willing and perhaps most of all, able to do so. (“Ready, Willing and Able” was a 1937 film starring Ruby Keeler and Ross Alexander and featured the Johnny Mercer song. “Too Marvelous for Words.” Ironic or a coincidence, that was the year I was born.)
My observations correlate with the feelings of many others although each of us occupies a unique position relative to our own condition. At this point, I happen to be healthy, in good spirits and looking forward to the next chapter and whatever adventure I might explore next. I continue to be an eternal and incurable optimist grounded in the reality of the moment. There may be a few exceptions given some of the external situations around politics, the environment, health care and education. Although I have been a social activist in several fields over the years, I believe it is now time to leave those concerns to others.
The past has been rich and full. It is gone and in truth we are disconnected from it except as we allow it in for memories and reflections, perhaps some learning lest we make the same mistakes all over again. The present is what it is although I feel increasingly detached from it as well. It seems often too busy, too noisy and somewhat stressful, none of which are among my preferences. I much prefer a quiet mind, free from ideas and opinions, and I celebrate these days of walking, reading, writing and being with myself.
What will come from this remains to be seen and, as my wife put it so eloquently and humorously a few months ago, “What’s to become of us?” I believe I may now have at least a partial answer to her question. What will become of us remains to be seen and that opens the door to unlimited possibilities. At this point in time I feel privileged and blessed, grateful and glad. Each day continues to be a gift begging to be unwrapped, embraced, celebrated and shared. We shall make of it what we will, do the best we can with what we have where we are. That seems good enough for now.