Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being 60

Yes, this month I turned 60. I don't feel 60, or at least it's a feeling somedays but not others which more often feels like 60. It's the thoughts and feelings from my youth and the thoughts and feelings of being older. It's about growing old than getting old. And it's about fighting an aging body and increasing depression.

In other words, it's the normal stuff of approaching age. I'm no different. I hate growing old and I have to keep fighting getting old. It's just so easy to quit and let time do what it does to everyone, and we become curmudgeon in our own body and mind, whether we know it or not or whether others see it and tell us or not. It's the entopy of being human, we get smaller and narrower of mind and body.

And often it seems and feels like fighting entropy is the biggest problem than anything else. Not working on the photo guide or the history projects, or getting my ass out the door to do some photography, or worse getting my ass out the door to run or jog/walk. It's often easier on days like today to take a nap and let everything else go and go by.

After all it's a wonderful fall (ok, technically late summer) day. Nice blue sky with high cirrus clouds (but aren't cirrus clouds high by definition?) and cool temperatures with a slight breeze, just enough to tickle the bamboo chimes to produce gentle notes and silence. Open all the doors and windows. Let the breeze and cool air fill the rooms. Just plant the butt and close the eyes.

Put the todo list aside. Let the list of places to go, things to buy, errands to runs sit. Just lie down and relax. The rest of the world will still be there later. The day won't feel any different, just later and older. The entropy will continue to expand with the universe. Everyone else will still be busy with their life. Nothing will have been accomplished but sometimes it's the only thing that matters.

Just the passage of time feeling good.

I live along the Narrows Strait across the now twin Narrows Bridge(s) and opposite Tacoma. I overlook the strait with the trains running by on the other side of the strait, the boats and ships going through the Narrows, and the planes flying in and out of SeaTac airport and McChord AFB. And in the far distance Mt. Rainier stand majestic as every, at least when it's not shrounded in clouds or we're all shrouded in rain and/or snow.

This means throughout the day, besides the sound of the weather and the trees, there are the sounds of the trains, ships and planes. The sounds of the world and like Paul Simon said, "Everyone loves the sound of the train in the distance." And close by the sounds of the neighborhood, kids, cars, dogs and whatever else goes through or by. And every now and then, silence. Nothing.

I've always liked living here. For that alone. And for the place I live, a lot like me, old and worn but surviving enough to get by. And turning 60, it's all the more sweet and important. If I want the noise of the city, I've several a few miles to an hour drive away across the bridge or on the ferry. If I want the peace of the wilderness, an hour-plus drive I'm in Mt. Rainier NP, or the Olympic NP, or the Cascade Mountains.

I've always been struck with the saying, "Stand in your own space and know you are there." And sometimes it's become more important every day. For in the end, it's all you have, what you are then and there. Everything else is what you leave, the stuff of your life and career and the love you leave in the heart's of others.

I'm not really sure what that's means in an ordinary life. I remember when working with the USGS I used to look back at the history of some of the gages, which go back to the late 1890's in Washington State. The USGS keeps all the papers for a gage in one place in file cabinets. It's all there, and it was a great way to waste an afternoon walking through the history from the original letters and permits to every discharge measurement ever taken.

And then knowing what I had done in my 28 years is now there with all the others. One among the many. And all the work filed with the rest, archived in a warehouse somewhere, lost again until someone opens the box, picks up the file and reads the history. All the past hydrologists who left their work. Thanks USGS, it was fun, well most of the time, and rewarding beyond what I imagined when I started.

After that, all my life has been pretty ordinary, like the billions who have already been here and the billions who are already here. My thankful I made it this far, my brother didn't. My Dad did but most of his life after 60 wasn't much of one with all his phsical problems. He mostly just puttered his life away for 15 more years.

After he passed away, Mom told me, "Whatever you do with the rest of your life, don't be like your father." She then told me when he retired he simply faded into nothingness, leaving nothing for the time and only taking up time and space. She said, "Go do something you love and don't stop until you die."

Advice we've all heard, but how many of us actually heed it? And by the time you're 60, did you follow it? Do you plan to follow it? Do you realize it sneaks up on you? Being 60 that is. One day you're young, then birthdays seem to go by and then you're looking at 60 on the calendar. And you sit down and wonder about your life and wander back through your life.

Do the good outweigh the bad? Does the did something outweigh the I had plans? Did the right choices outweigh the regrets? And the most obvious one to many, do you still like yourself? Are you comfortable being yourself at 60?

I ask these because being here I can. I can't answer for me yet, I'm still wondering and wandering. I probably won't know even in the future. Hindsight isn't my speciality and more often than not, not my interest. Just waking up some days is important enough, and doing what I would like, planned or have to is often what happens.

And so, it's the ramblings of an old(er) person, and like our minds, often fuzzy and ambiguous. A lot like life, ill defined and uncertain, to which I'll ponder and write more of the next year, like cresting the hill and standing on the divide between then and there. Youth and old age. Gone and ahead. Been and going. Done and will. And so on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No Sympathy here

Sunday (August 30, 2009) I read the story in the New York Times, "A Life Story in Need of a Rewrite", found here. I'm not sorry to say this person gets no empathy and no sympathy from me. Harsh, maybe. Cruel, not. Because it's the old adage, he made his bed (life) and now he has to lie it (live with it).

As I'm learning now having to write a six in front of digits for my age, while I harbor regrets and other emotions about my life and past, I fully realize it's done and can't be changed. It is what was and what happened, and like it or not, it's there, whether in my memory or that of others. I can apologize about my mistakes and forgive others for theirs, it still doesn't change the original and lingering emotions and feelings, mine or theirs.

But to imply some sense of empathy or sympathy for a man who anyone would consider modestly weathly with a good paying job, sorry not here. When he made 3-4 times the median family income in the US, there isn't much to think about. And now he's been out of a job for 18 months. Like the rest of the unemployed should shoulder his anger or whatever he's feeling?

I won't argue, he and his life needs a rewrite, and he has to reinvent himself. But who hasn't? I'm still doing that nearly 4 years after I retired early (long story about bosses and staff reductions). I saw my new life long before I retired, the ideas of what I wanted to do and I planned the finances, or as best I could, a few years before walking away (not long enough, but good enough).

It's been hard work and more than I had envisioned. It's had it's ups and downs and will have more ups and downs, partly do to my own genetic and lifelong Dysthymia. That's more the battle than the things and events in life, but then they go hand in hand too. What I have learned though, is that there is always more to do and even more than I can imagine doing.

A rewrite? I don't know what that is except to keep rolling on with what I love to do, and find ways to keep it going. And you can bet above all, I can stand on my deck knowing fully what I've done and have, and knowing I'm grateful for my reality and being. I'm not broke or poor. Money is an issue but not the day to day stuff of life. In short, I'm modestly independent to be free enough to enjoy where and what I am.

So, no, I have no sympathy for someone who has had a better life than me and faces similar hardships as I've felt. As I don't expect it from others of me. Quite the opposite, I respect those working harder with less, circumstances in life wasn't necessarily as kind to them as me. But the guy in the article? Sorry, not much to say except keep going and you never know.

And at the end of the piece, he seems to have some clues and insight. What else is there?