Tell me your resolutions about yourself and I’ll tell you your age.
If you’re full of plans for self-improvement and mastery — primo fitness! fluency in Spanish! writing a book a year! — you’re a lot younger than I am.
If you’re planning a much more modest future — say, hanging on to what you’ve got and not losing it any faster than you have to — you’re probably about my age.
It’s a funny time, this point in life. After all those years when you whipped yourself into a lather over what you could be if you only tried harder, pushed yourself more, didn’t need to sleep much — after all that, you stop and look around and reconsider.
The world has changed — or maybe it’s just you. Something’s leaving, moving on, sifting through your fingertips like fine-grained sand. Has that always been true and you’ve simply been too busy notice?
“How did we get to be 64?” my husband asked me recently. We were sitting on our couch, ready to fire up the TV and watch “Justified” or “Sherlock Holmes,” since we’d already hurtled through “House of Cards” (both American and British versions) and were looking for a little diversion.
But — wait. How did we get to be 64? The question surprised me. On my own, I’d been continually puzzled by another question — how on earth has it gotten to be 2014? But, when you got down to it, they were really the same question: Where did the time go?
There’s no single, simple, satisfying answer. It’s a long glissando of moments and fragments and memories unspooling behind us. Where did the time go? It went to sleep and meals and talk and camaraderie and solitude, it left us relentlessly, whether we spent it well or mindlessly. It simply disappeared on us. Look over your shoulder and see it receding in the distance.
But don’t look over your shoulder too long or you miss what’s coming. What to do with it — with what’s left to us — when dreams aren’t as grandiose? I don’t have the same goals as I had when I was young and always wanted something more, always wanted to be better and more accomplished.
Now, as I try to steady myself and understand my limitations, I think, why not try to grow my heart bigger and deeper? Why not increase my compassion, my capacity to love?
Again, I didn’t make resolutions like that when I was younger. Oh, hell. It’s just like everything else in life. You never really grow up until you have to.
(Copyright 2014 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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