Middle age. What is it? When you’re younger, I suppose it’s just an age group, maybe 45-65. But once you arrive there, it becomes something totally different. A peculiar beast that brings unfamiliarity to a life that was just starting to show signs of routine. Kids are raised (for the most part). Over half our vocational life is most likely behind us. We’re more comfortable in our own skin, but that skin obviously isn’t what it used to be. Physical abilities aren’t what they once were. But neither is our level of life experiences or the understanding that they bring. Things are just noticeably different in so many ways.
Most of my Class of 1986 classmates and I will be turning, or have already turned, 50 in 2018. I’m sure we all are beginning to develop our own quirky stories and outlooks on this whole aging process. But some things are certain. We look different. We feel different. And we see things differently than we did even just a few years ago.
Men are often accused of clinging to childlike behavior traits until the day they die. That’s mostly true I guess. Most everything I found to be funny at 18, I still find funny today. The music I enjoyed at 18, I still enjoy today (because 1970-86 was simply the best music era ever). The pretty girl that was by my side then is still there today, 32 years and four kids later.
But plenty of other things have changed, some drastically.
-The hairline. Full head of hair, to peninsula, to male pattern baldness, to “Oh heck! I better just shave it because it’s better to be bald than to be balding”.
-The sad realizations. That I am now older than George Costanza and Captain Picard were when their characters found fame. And I’m way older than a white-haired Sparky Anderson when he ruled the baseball world of the 70’s managing the Big Red Machine.
-A different perspective. A different view of old TV shows. Feeling creepy when you watch Gunsmoke and think, “Wow, I didn’t realize what an attractive woman Miss Kitty was”. At the same time, knowing that today’s world is sorely missing wholesome shows like Gunsmoke, and representatives of goodness like Matt Dillon.
-The payback. Knowing that, for every time I cracked a joke in my youth about someone’s hairy back, at least five hairs have appeared on my body in places I’d rather not have them.
-Sleep. In younger days, my body could find rest on a hard floor, but I was kept awake with a mind racing with planning, plotting, worrying, and just pondering about the uncertainties of life. Today, my mind finds greater peace, but my body requires the perfect mattress, the perfect pillow, and that one perfect position that brings painless rest.
-Physical appearances. Wrinkles. Loss of muscle mass. Classic dad-bod. I remember as a younger man, seeing couples in public and wondering, “How did that old buzzard get such a pretty young wife?”. And here I am today, looking like a man of 60, married to a wife who can pass for 30. If there is a re-casting of Hart to Hart, my wife could be cast as Jennifer, and I would surely be Max. Where’s my cigar?
-Bad habits. In younger days, one might avoid consuming alcohol late in the evening in order to avoid a morning headache. Today, I avoid foods that are heavy in salt and preservatives for the same reason…….usually.
-Exercise. Talking about it more than I actually do it. Old enough to know the benefits. But still young enough to be undisciplined enough to never make it a routine.
-Temper. Fewer things make me angry. But many more things irritate me greatly.
-Respect/wisdom. Knowing that people older than me have experienced and seen more than I have. There is value in their words. Realizing that the majority of our population is now younger than me, so maybe those younger generations can find some value in the words of my peers and me.
-Clothing. My heart and my closet still claim that I’m a Levi’s and white t-shirt guy. But my daily wardrobe usually consists of khakis with a stretchy waistband, a baggy sweatshirt, and one of my few remaining t-shirts that don’t cling to tightly to a dad-bod that I am yet to embrace.
-Commercials. The ones I used to laugh about……I realize they apply to me. I catch myself listening a little closer to ads for products that completely ignored before. Low energy, low T, digestive health.
-Energy. What is that? I had mono a while back, and I feel like it never left.
-Denial. Never facing the truths of the things that I can no longer do. Usually because I don’t even attempt certain things anymore. So, in my mind, I can still beat all my kids in a footrace and jump up and come somewhere close to touching a basketball rim.
-Truth. Knowing it’s possible that the best is yet to come. The apostle Paul was probably close to my age when his ministry started, and you’d have a hard time finding a man who had a greater impact.
Age. It’s just a number. It doesn’t take a full head of hair and smooth skin to impact the world. Tomorrow isn’t promised. But for each one I’m given, I’m certain that I’ll have a better idea of what to do with it. I hope you will too.