who I am and all I’ve known,
engraved experience on a fleshy pallet,
those bylines ᾽round my eyes
Ownership of and living happily with our aging process is existential. Either we have done our character homework over the years or we struggle to find joy and maintain relationships.
I have given this a great deal of thought with the political campaigns. Hillary Clinton was born 10-26-47 and Donald Trump on 6-14-46. They are not going to evolve into anything more than who they are. Character set. Game on. The best they have to offer us are their flamboyant examples of what happens to people who choose certain paths early in life and become exactly what they wanted to be. Goals accomplished. In the petri dish of life, we are viewing specimens who prove how set character is by this age.
I worked for a gerontologist years ago. He said the elderly are extremes—the happiest or saddest, angriest or kindest, most generous or stingiest, most judgmental or forgiving, absolutely honest or dishonest, loudest or softest, etc. When our beauty fades, intellect dulls a little, and the power afforded us by work or community involvement is lessened, all that is left is our personhood—the real us.
I have worried since my 20’s about who I was going to be as a grown-up at age 75 or 80. Some of my work has been successful and some of my character flaws were baked into my DNA. I’ve arrived at this senior status with gray hair and extra pounds—far from the 20-something in a bikini and shag haircut. I like this older me better.
My friends are present with wisdom, creativity and an interest in leaving the best world possible for the next generation. They understand we have two responsibilities: mentoring and expression.
The past cannot be rewritten. The future is short compared to where we were a couple decades ago.
Be joyful. It is good for who you are becoming.