RUMINATIONS AT 70
By Richard Davis
As I move into my 70’s there is a part of me that still feels like a small child who refuses to become an adult. I think there are many people who hold on to that part of themselves throughout their lives. If we do not keep some part of that past life alive in us we run the risk of losing an essential attitude toward daily life that makes sure we do not take things too seriously.
As we age we try to learn things that allow us to cultivate some degree of wisdom. Some of us do a better job than others, but we all have the potential for becoming wise. I’m not really sure what wisdom is, but when you can learn from your mistakes and figure out how to do things better as the years progress that is some kind of wisdom.
These positive aspects of aging sometimes make it a little easier to deal with the more painful and difficult aspects of aging. When you greet people during daily discourse how do you answer when they say, “How are you?” What goes through your head when you try to answer that question as you deal with some of the more personal aspects of physical decay.
Most people are expecting a polite response to that meaningless question and you don’t want to engage them in a lengthy conversation about what is really going on in your life so you respond, “”Good” and you move on.
But I often imagine an unlikely conversation with acquaintances and even friends in which I respond to the “How are you”, by being too honest. That would mean I would say, “My body is falling apart and I am noticing that I am moving toward an advanced state of decay on a daily basis.” I would then go into detail about all of the reasons why I have pains in certain places and why I have had to modify my activities over the years.
Once the list of ailments was presented I would try to be a little more positive, if they haven’t walked away already, and then say that the spirit is alive and well and moving on. To me that means that if we are to deal with the inevitabilities of aging we have to accept the physical decay and not let it define who we are.
To do that requires resiliency of spirit. We lose the physical resiliency of youth but we have the potential to gain access to a reservoir of experience that can offer us a chance to move into a spiritual realm that cannot be entered when we are in our 20’s or 30’s.
That does not mean that we still cannot do stupid things that make it look like we have rejected the limitations our bodies have placed upon us. A few months ago I decided to do a minor roof repair on my house because I was having a hard time finding a roofing expert to do it.
I ignored the fact that my balance is not what it used to be and that my major joints have no memory of the flexibility of years gone by. So I got out the ladder and tried to hammer down a metal piece to cover the ridge on my slate roof.
Getting up was not too bad but I could barely reach the spot that needed repair and I knew it would have been even more foolish to haul up a second ladder to access the slate roof. I did a sloppy repair and then turned around to get off the roof.
As I looked down I had a few moments of panic. I was home alone and I figured I might end up in a heap on the ground for a few days before I was discovered.
I tried to stand but that felt uncomfortable so I slowly shuffled on my butt until I made it to the ladder. Getting off that roof was a physical and emotional ordeal.
Recognizing your limitations after making bad judgments is one way to cultivate wisdom, but there are safer ways to continue to grow older.