I recall just a few years ago, people saying, “You don’t look old enough to be a grandpa!”
They don’t really say that anymore. At 50 years old, age, it seems, has caught up with me. All the restless nights of chronic pain, depression and anger, the multiple surgeries and crippling sleep apnea have taken their toll. I’ve stumbled into the land of the aged, and this battle-weary soldier’s restitution is a white beard and careworn face.
I was reminded how old I look yesterday at church by a well-meaning fellow who showed me a picture of myself just a couple years ago.
“Look at how much younger you look here,” he said. “I think you look much older now.”
I was stunned, but forced a smile and responded, “Oh, wow…thank you for those words of encouragement.”
He said, “That’s what pain does to a person.”
I get what he was trying to do (provide a breathing example of the toll taken upon a body by chronic physical and emotional pain), but WOW, it just deflated my spirit. Throughout the rest of the day I kept hearing those words ringing in my head:
“I think you look much older now.”
Sometimes—and I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog—I literally have to speak to the old dude staring back at me in the mirror. “Make peace with him,” I say. “You’re older, you’re not as thin. Look at him. Make peace with him. His wife loves him. His children love him. His grandson and his parents love him. You must love him, too.”
Ya know why? Because, as the saying goes, “Growing older is a privilege denied to many.” Fact is, American media puts too much emphasis on youth and beauty, yet rarely talks about the dividends aging affords us, such as happiness, peace and wisdom.
Fact is, I’m at peace now. I don’t have much to speak of in the way of monetary riches, but I’ve earned a modicum of harmony with myself, my wife, my children and my grandchild. As youth slips farther into the haze, I find myself getting angry less often. When Laura (my wife) and I muddle onto a disagreement, we are finding it much easier to simply drop it.
It’s that whole “don’t sweat the small stuff” mentality.
I’m not 20 years old anymore. I’m not even 40 years old anymore, and you know what? That’s ok. I’ve procured a level of happiness most 20 (or 40) year olds have not. Aging is inevitable, so why sit around and bemoan yesteryear? I’m not my high school weight. My hair has turned completely gray/white. The wrinkles are starting to show.
And I’ve never been happier.
We can allow the aging process to blanket our entire soul, or we can acquiesce to the inescapable, and cultivate an appetite for the artistry and charm of life. The way I see it, someone today needs our encouragement. There is a child or a pet or a parent who doesn’t care about our self-despondency over not being “that guy” or “that girl” anymore.
I had to cut out of yesterday morning’s church service and have another talk to the old dude in the mirror.
“You got this,” I told him. “You have the best family any man could ask for, and they love you. They know the mental and physical anguish you’ve suffered, and they’re just thrilled you’re still alive.”
“Buck up, ole man,” I smiled to him. “You got this.”
Hats off to the veterans of pain and life. It’s time to make peace with the amazing person you’ve become, and enjoy your station in life.
“Now as I grow old and my hair turns gray, I ask that You not abandon me, oh God. Allow me to share with the generation to come about Your power; let me speak about Your strength and wonders to all those yet to be born (Psalm 71:18).”