On aging gracefully

Gracefully: “In an attractively elegant way. In a respectful and dignified way. Polite, kind, pleasant, mannerly, charming…” Those are some of the dictionary definitions and synonyms. While there’s a lot of good to say about them, from this man who’s clearly in his fourth quarter, I say BAH! Sounds too much like quiet resignation, accepting dependence with class, being realistic, mellowing, retirement, a more appropriate and sedentary lifestyle…stuff like that. 

I’ll opt, as long as I can, for the approach shouted by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in the early 20th century: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (I also value keeping a sense of humor which is especially helpful here because Thomas died at the ripe old age of 39. Inadequate raging I guess.) And I’m not claiming a right/wrong approach here, just expressing an alternative view in this “To Your Health” column. 

Since you’re reading this, not only have you lived, and are still living, in the easiest and most plentiful years of all human existence, but as of today, 100 percent of your life is ahead of you. That’s not rose-colored glasses or a glass half full sunny view — that’s a fact. And while I do recognize the value of “graceful,” I just don’t want any of mine to be relegated to it. Health requires action — physical and mental.

I’m not denying the reality of constant change but rather actively and assertively, not gracefully, reacting to it. It’s a mindset. Mentally and physically I’m trying to stay strong enough to fully enjoy everything this life has to offer. I always want to try to do all I can. Be curious, read and take time to discern, not just listen to, opinionated talking heads, after devoting plenty of time to relax, spend as much time as I possibly can improving my health physically so I can minimize, or maybe eliminate, years of pain and discomfort. 

This is starting to sound like I’m preaching in a self-satisfied way but I’m really just trying to inspire anyone who’s been required to face much tougher challenges than I’ve been given so far. For anyone who is lured into resignation, there are new hobbies, new skills and lots of self-improvement (however you define that) we all have room for. 

Fathering and raising (doesn’t ever fully stop as far as I can tell) daughters and a son is by far the most important and rewarding thing I’ve done so far, and that I now fill that daily nurturing void with pets and plants doesn’t seem to me to be “aging gracefully” but rather it’s just healthy refocusing. Reducing my daily hours in my business doesn’t seem to have anything to do with aging either but is about having earned a phase where I can help others build their lives and raise their families, which is very rewarding. It’s a phase that’s comfortably gone from the youthful Joy! of breaking rules to the adult responsibilities of caring for a dying parent and to my fourth quarter. Lots of changes to be sure, but no reason to start thinking about gracefully yet. Plenty to still do.