My father’s recent death created an unwanted fact in my life. I am the oldest living member on the paternal side of my family. I am in my early sixties and far too young for this role. However, facts are facts.
This reality prompts me to ask, “What kind of old person do I want to be?”
To answer this, I must stop living with the illusion (or delusion) that my life is infinite. I don’t know how much time I have left, but if I were to estimate, I would guess that I am in the last third, or final quarter of my life. If I live as long as my father did, I have approximately 7500 days left. This may sound like a lot, but a third of that time is spent sleeping. Roughly another third of that time is spent working, doing chores, etc. Then there is the time it takes to take care of myself (bathe, exercise, go to appointments) and then my time that I give to others. Add in an hour of entertainment on most days, it boils down to a fraction of time that seems fleetingly small.
Here is how I deal with the reality of time:
- Although I am exquisitely aware of how I use this precious time, worrying about time is excruciating. Fretting about time is a huge waste of valuable time.
- Time is best spent in the present. We all have the same amount of time, which is to say the present moment.
- It doesn’t matter what I do as long as I do it in acceptance, peace, and gratitude. Time spent in gratitude is the best time of all.
- Growing old is a gift. The operative word here is “growing.”
So, what kind of old person do I want to be? I want to spend it being kind but direct. Rather than complain about politics, government, and social issues, I want to be the kind of person who does something about it. I want to paddle board, walk in the mountains, dance and play in the garden. I’d like to be a good friend, partner, mother, and community servant. I’ll wear comfortable shoes and ignore the creases on my face. My goal is to end every day with a long gratitude list. I want to die trying to be the best I can.
What kind of old person do you want to be?