Making Sense of 60{74}

Still standing. (photo: L.Weiss)

I remember the day my second grade teacher (and my not-so-secret crush) Miss Hilliard introduced the class to a real-life story problem. Her beguiling southern lilt lured us into the battlefield of math before we could say “subtraction.” She was sneaky that way, politely asking the class in a casual, conversational way, “Children, have you ever wondered how old you’d be in the year 2000?” When the class Nosey McGee asked her how old she would be, Miss Hilliard, smiled and said, “Dear, that is an answer I shall never reveal.” (Ah humor lost on second-graders.) For this baby boomer, the question and time frame seemed as remote as the possibility of flying cars and houses on Mars (though that didn’t stop me from imagining myself in an aluminum foil spacesuit, glass bubble helmet, and packing some heat—space laser heat). I even thought, that’s so far into the future, will I even be alive? Weighty questions for any seven-year-old. When I finally came up with the age of 43, I knew better. Sure I’d be alive, but now the question was, would I be able to walk and feed myself?

At grandma and grandpa’s house: Tom sport fishing and sporting a buzzcut.

Well, much to my delight, the age 43 and the year 2000, came and went without the need for walkers, canes, IV drips, or space lasers. And now as I tiptoe into the era of senior discounts ($1 off at the Vashon Theatre, thank you very much), I marvel that I’m this age at all, the age that dare not speaks its name: 60.

Out of college, I went north to Alaska.

Actually, I’m being just a bit dramatic, as of a week after this major milestone, I still feel as if my brain is functioning at the maturity level and mentality of a 28-year old, but without the whining or need to interject the pronoun “I” in each sentence. Age has a way of diluting one’s ego, which is a good thing; though vanity can still remain a potent reminder that I’m not that evolved, especially when I look in the mirror to shave a face of salt-and-pepper stubble, or comb a fleeting gray hairline, or brush the teeth that mock me with each smile “Hey dude, would it kill you to use a whitening strip once in awhile?”

Ah…the 80s, when I sought happiness in $40 haircuts and Hugo Boss suits.

On the bright side, while my body and looks may be heading south (on high-speed rail), my general sense of well being remains intact and strong, protected by a cultivated sense of optimism. (Who would have thunk?) And in this day and age, championing and maintaining optimism is an exercise tantamount to bench presses and arm curls. While I may attribute some of my half-glass-full approach to my nature and upbringing (whining was not allowed), over the years I’ve made it a point to actively fight the debilitating scripts and inner voices of pessimism and snarkiness. It can be a full-time job. I’m not perfect; sure I can grouse and complain with the best of them, but I also know that despair, distrust, fear, and gloom can be fed daily to rise up as a person’s de facto state of being. Let’s face it, a diet of cynicism will surely ruin any possibility of enjoying or even getting dessert.

Flowers, I’ve always grown them.

I also know I have a lot to be thankful for, from loving family to caring friends to my beloved island home and farm. The journey to this place surely was circuitous and a long time coming, but that is the gift. By 60, you start to know who you are and better yet, who you want to be. To be a better man is a worthy pastime, one that can often realize two steps back for every one step forward, but hopefully those steps are self-correcting and in the right direction.

Taking time to “smell the roses” comes in many forms (e.g. milkshakes)

So in making sense of 60, I’m at peace with it. Kindness comes at no cost. Love usually pays dividends, and joy is on-demand should I wish to summon it from the aforementioned wells of love and kindness. Without trying to sound like an overly-simplified self-help book or delusional optimist, I’ve learn (at least for me) happiness really is in the moment and the people in my life, and it doesn’t hurt to toss in a pie or two, some shared experiences, and the company of a furry friend along the way.

Buddy concurs though I fear he is getting bored by the subject.

So my friends, here’s to the journey and the discoveries along the way, to the surprises, the comforts, the warm hearts and gifts of nature. And remember, 60 is the new….

This just in, Buddy would like to add, all you need is love.