Reflections on Time

We go through decades in our lives. If you are reading this, you’ve gone through at least one. In that first decade we learn a lot, some would argue most, of what we will need to survive our remaining decades. We learn that hot things can hurt. That counting will help us figure out how far we still need to go, though asking the question “are we there yet” holds a lot of pleasure for the questioner. We figure out that food comes in an incredible variety of forms and delivery systems and that we are often forced to eat some of the foods even though we don’t like them. We hopefully learn to play nice and to vow to practice that in the decades to come every chance we get and with everyone we meet even when they haven’t learned this lesson as well.

In our second decade, we anxiously await our teens and when we finally achieve them, we have no idea what to do with them, especially the hormones. We hopefully learn to drive, though it is becoming questionable whether future generations will ever need to drive the car at all. In the last part of the decade, we get to vote which is all too often filled with disappointment, sometimes even when our candidate wins. Make no mistake here, you still need to vote. No vote means you are only allowed to be disappointed. And as that second decade comes to an end, you are given the keys to adulthood and the admonition “go get a job kid cause you’re on your own”. Ah the sweet smell of freedom and the lure of the wild.

Decade three starts the trip of wonder. We wonder about everything as we wander through our twenties. We try out our wild side, three hours of sleep and a recovery plan seem perfectly natural. We figure out our tolerance for risk, and generally amass the mistakes we will refer to in our later decades as lessons learned. This is the decade where we will explore our sexuality (god I miss that, but maybe not), decide to decide what we might be, and as we approach the end of the decade, come to the realization that this was the decade when we actually grew up.

Thirties, these are the years we re-find and re-define ourselves, not that it is the final time we will do that. We either find our soul mate or decide that we would rather fly solo. We settle down, maybe even buy a house and, if we are up to it, make it a home. It is during our thirties that we will likely start our families. It is the decade where we will claim we left our wild days behind, no matter how wild we still remain.

Our fifth decade is the decade we will look back on and want a mulligan. Not because we messed up, but because it was the decade we played young people’s games and held grown up jobs. We were in our prime and still full of energy, energy we likely needed to deal with our children. We make actual grown up decisions and start building our bucket lists.

Then comes our sixth decade. We come to the realization that like it or not, our wealth determines both our success and status all the while learning that it still can’t really buy happiness. We learn that money can buy us time and maybe offer more choices, but happiness comes from the people around us and our connection to family and friends. We start to spend a little too much time with the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”. We start counting our gray hairs and spending time trying to look once more like we did a decade earlier. If we are lucky, as we approach the end of this decade, we start to appreciate who we are and the person we have become. We may even accept who we are as the better version of who we were.

Decade number seven brings you the respect of age and the realization that your journey through the first six decades have left you tagged as “experienced”. Experience somehow equates to wisdom and wisdom redefines you as a commodity. Your children refer to other people your age as “old” but not you, and all it took to earn that dignity was paying for a college education or two or three and being there through every crisis they faced on their journey through the earlier decades. This is the decade you will likely experiment with retirement as a title. And, if all has worked out, you will travel and start checking off some of the more possible things on your very long bucket list.

And that brings me to tonight at midnight. It is upon that momentous tick of the minute hand that I will enter my next decade. I cannot tell you what it will hold or how it will define me but I enter it knowing certain truths. I am a better version of the me I have sometimes been. I have in fact learned from the mistakes I have made and have applied them to my decisions that followed. I feel good, even valued for the help I have given to those I have met along the way. I have raised, with the help of their mother, two beautiful successful daughters. I have been blessed to be part of the lives of two equally impressive, uniquely inquisitive, challengingly energetic grandchildren of whom I am so incredibly fond. Do I wish I could be forty something again, of course, but then all these things that I am so grateful for would not have happened yet and possibly wouldn’t. I will not trade what I have for a what if. I am possibly and finally content.

By the time you read this I will have crossed the milepost and will be beginning my 70th trip around the sun. Send me no gifts for all I ask is that you take the time to think about the decades YOU have crossed and vow to make the next one just a little better than the last. Promise to do one more good deed than the last time. Help one more person than before and look for the good in the people around you so they may see the good in you.

Groundhog’s Day

One of my favorite movies is Groundhog’s Day. I think it is the idea that if you could have a day over now and then, you could maybe make everything right. Bill Murray’s problem was that it took so many repeats for him to finally get it right. Still, the premise is tempting.

Covid-19 has been like Groundhog’s Day. We started out with the false perception that it would be a little sacrifice for maybe three or four weeks and then everything would return to normal. Now approaching a full year of not normal, every day being another day dancing with the virus, we are nearing the end. Well, at least closer to a return to life without a pandemic.

I have spent my year working on improving many things. For starters, I have been taught how to fish by my grandson, Jackson. I never had the patience it required but ironically, an energetic, inquisitive, on the go six-year old, showed me the way to patience and the art of catching fish. And then there was the walking. Prior to the pandemic and its isolation demands, I would only walk to get somewhere. Now, thanks to my wife, I walk several times a day, aimlessly around our neighborhood circuits. I find it strange that the answer to “where are you going”, is home no matter where I am on the walk. Good thing home is where the heart is.

During this Covid-19 journey, I have put more effort into everything I do. My volunteer work has benefited from renewed vigor and a lot of Zoom. I finally rebuilt my deck after years of putting it off. My garage has been organized and reorganized, and, after years of drawing and redrawing it, my wife now has her Little Library complete with a dedication ceremony and neighborhood library cards for the children.

But there begs one more activity to be visited here. Several years ago, I procured a pool table from a very dear friend. With all this in home time in lieu of our travel plans, I have worn the felt thin on that table with several games a day. My wife, a reasonable pool shark, will play the occasional game but for the most part, I am left playing my imaginary opponent. As I am a slightly competitive type, I tend to take these games, even tournaments, quite serious. We ironically have very similar game strategies and styles. Skill wise we are very evenly matched. So lately I have become quite frustrated with my inability to beat him. I will miss an easy kill shot only to have him follow up with a seemingly impossible rail shot or combination. I checked the records recently and I believe that he is beating me at a ratio of two to one. What is his secret to success? What makes him such a confident shot. Why am I getting angry at his obvious luck, wishing he would blow the next shot …… flat out cheering against him? The irony here is that I’m the one taking ALL the shots. This is apparently what the pandemic and isolation has reduced me too. I’ve lost my mind and I’m not even bothering to mount a search party.

Seriously, the pandemic has been a journey. We have been given the chance to truly appreciate the things we have by making us put them on hold. We have become more resilient, more hopeful than expectant, more appreciative of the little things, and definitely more creative. In my case, I have created an imaginary pool player to while away my free time.

The end of all this is in sight. If we are patient and persevering, we will make it to the finish line. We will leave some of our new found ways behind and trade them for our old normal. At the same time, we have adopted new habits and attitudes that we should definitely take forward with us. Good can always come from adversity if we recognize it.

But it’s getting late and my pool playing buddy has the balls racked and is calling me over. I plan on mixing his drink extra strong tonight and with a few good shots, I think I can beat him. Wish me luck.