The older I get, the more comfortable I get about myself and my age. I didn’t expect that. Counterbalancing that comfort level, however, is the growing feeling that I can almost see the finish line. It is likely thirty or more years in the future, but it is there, I can sense it and I don’t want to get any closer to it. It is that same nagging feeling you get in July and August when you realize the days are getting shorter even though they are hotter than they were in May and June. Summer isn’t ready to let go yet, but you know it will.
This has been the most incredible year for me. Growing friendships, fun activities that take me out of my comfort zone, new adventures, travel, professional development, and on and on and on. I am the happiest I have ever been. Running parallel with all of that is evidence of my aging, including a few new physical limitations I’ve never had, slightly increased challenges keeping up with my work peers, more gray hair despite my best efforts to hide it and conversations with high school buddies who are retiring.
As I write this, a dear friend of mine is on her way to the hospital where her mother is currently a patient. Her mom was in a trauma unit at the other end of the state from her home for three weeks, then moved to a rehab closer to home, but now is back in a hospital. This afternoon, while toggling between moments of dementia, confusion and completely clear thought, she asked her husband why he won’t just let her go. He asked where? She said just let her go and die. Of course that is scaring my friend and her siblings.
I am one of those people who thinks I’ll live forever and I can’t imaging ever giving up, no matter how bad it gets. Of course, that’s easy for me to say because I’ve never suffered all the things my friend’s mother has. One of the most profound statements my own mother made during her last few years, while living in a nursing home she hated, was “I’m not living, I’m just existing.” My mother went on to ‘exist’ for another year or two after saying those words, reaching age 95. A stressful evacuation from Hurricane Katrina contributed to her death, but I wonder if at some point she decided it was just time to go.
I am sure that was my dad’s thinking a few years before, as he seemed to stare through the fog of dementia long enough to see his wife and two children were in the room with him and would be OK; we watched him take his last breath that afternoon, as if he was saying “I’m done, goodbye.”
Optimism is my usual attitude, sometimes blinding myself to realism. Reality is that life ends; my brand of optimism guides me to embrace it every day, living like there is no tomorrow while simultaneously living like I have decades of tomorrows left. Yes, I AM that complicated.
So I accept that there is an end, I acknowledge that I am now closer to the end than the beginning, but I am not in any way ready to reach the end. And before I ramble to much more, let me close this post by quoting a line from a very obscure country song from the 90s … “I see a light at the end of the tunnel; Lord, I hope it ain’t no train.”