Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Joys of Aging

In an era and culture that hyper values youth and beauty, I'm rather enjoying some aspects of aging. Like any other season of life, the steady progression into elderhood presents its own unique challenges. Overall though I'm finding it so far to be positive. Better check back with me in ten years though. Meanwhile, I propose an inventory of the good and the not so good at this early stage of aging.

Good: Reflectiveness. Perhaps my favorite aspect of getting older is that I am more reflective on issues, more intentional about trying to understand people and behaviors and life situations. I'm getting better at asking questions and really listening, listening to understand rather than listening to respond back with my opinion. I'm less reactive, desiring to understand rather than respond with predetermined templates in my thinking. I value what others think more and I value people and concepts from my past that made me who I am today.

Annoying: Forgetfulness and absentmindedness. With breath taking speed I can think of something I need to do, then completely forget it moments later. And I have a distressing tendency to leave my blinker going for several miles after making a turn or lane change on a highway, a behavior that I used to ridicule when I saw the elderly do in my youth. Yep, its returned to haunt me.

Acceptable: Gray hair. It seems that every time I get a hair cut the stylist urges me to color my hair. What nonsense! I love having gray hair and in fact think it would be rather cool to have completely white hair. I have a good friend who has a full head of white hair and its a magnificent mane that conveys such a dignified appearance. I don't have the thickness of his hair, but I have enough. Better it turn gray than turn loose.

Best: Watching kids and grandkids grow. My children have each grown to be great, responsible adults, embracing life with maturity and ambition to better themselves. And now I have two handsome identical twin grandsons.

Distressing: Health issues. I was blind sided by a heart attack in 2011 and I have chronic pain from osteoarthritis in my right wrist, pain that almost never relents. In a perverse way, however, that pain has become almost a like a life long companion, a reminder of my mortality, like Paul's "thorn in the flesh" that reminds me of my weakness and hope of the future resurrection when God will provide a new, incorruptible body, free from pain and disease. See "Reflectiveness" above for an explanation on how I arrived at this perspective on bodily decline.

Wistful: Passing of loved ones. Each year brings the passing of family and friends who have succumbed to diseases. Watching them disappear from my life, one by one, generates a nostalgia for the days when they contributed so much to my life for which I am thankful, and creates yearning to see them again one day.

The best thing about aging though is the certitude that I too am drawing nearer, day by day, to the ultimate experience of being face to face with the Lord. That I will enter into that eternal radiance and joy of his presence. Meanwhile, as that day steadily approaches, I know that He watches over me:

Even when you are old, I will be the same. Even when your hair has turned gray, I will take care of you. I made you and will take care of you. I will carry you and save you.--Isaiah 46:4

And that is the greatest joy of all in aging.