“I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find a way to say that life has just begun …
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t but honestly won’t someone stop this train …”
<from the song Stop this Train>
“I think about dying but I don’t want to die.
Not even close.
In fact my problem is the complete opposite.
I want to live, I want to escape.
I feel trapped and bored and claustrophobic.
There’s so much to see and so much to do but I somehow still find myself doing nothing at all.
I’m still here in this metaphorical bubble of existence and I can’t quite figure out what the hell I’m doing or how to get out of it. “
fictional undertaker David Fisher from Six Feet Under response to a mourner’s desperate question:
“Why does there have to be death?”
“Because it makes life important.”
Without all the political correctness and ‘thinking positively’ mumbo jumbo … getting old. Every time I hear John Mayer’s song “stop this train” <which is actually a fabulous song> it makes me think of getting older … oops … aging.
“… once in a while when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should.
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing …”
Aging seems relevant to write about as I encounter another birthday as a 50something.
Aging is tricky <physically> … and a tricky topic <to discuss>.
And let me be clear … aging is personal.
Personal in how you deal with it with regard to your parents <watching them getting older & dealing with it>.
Personal in how you deal with it … well … with regard to yourself.
The former I have written about: dealing with aging parents post:
The latter is what I am discussing today – personal in dealing with aging yourself … or I imagine today … myself dealing with it.
As I think of aging … I sometimes worry that there is all this incessant tripe of ‘you are only as old as you feel’ or ‘age is just a number’ … but then I stop worrying because it is simply just window dressing on the fact everyone who is getting older already truly knows in their heart of hearts … it is not about your attitude or how you think about it … you have to “nut up” <as Lemon says on 30Rock> or “deal” with getting older.
You just gotta deal with it.
You can try and ignore it.
But as you age you mostly just try and … well … not reverse it .. but maybe pause it. Maybe even stop it <for a while … as in moments or ‘a day’>.
I will admit … in many of my past rants <observations> I have noted that it is often suggested the older 50something generation is narcissistic and is constantly seeking ways to regain youth or find ways to turn back the clock in some fairly ludicrous embarrassing ways.
In thinking about it … I would actually argue that most of us simply want to ‘stop this train’ and renegotiate.
Not really stop the clock as in simply stop aging … but maybe make it pause on occasion.
I say that because most of us don’t mind aging and being older … we just don’t like the inevitable degradation in our lives. And what I mean by that is it seems like aging becomes more tangible in the diminishing physical rather than mental.
Mentally we become smarter and more knowledgeable and many actually become ‘wiser.’ It is just that the body just cannot do the same things it did before.
The body just doesn’t ‘show up’ every day.
We embrace those days. We want the train to maybe stop there for a little while.
I truly believe most of us do not want to regain youth … or even recapture the trappings of youth … we simply want to pause the clock at certain moments at this stage in our lives.
We do not hate age.
We do not regret aging.
But … let me be clear … despite all the tripe you find in gobs of articles and books … we are also not embracing aging.
Most of us simply have a desire to embrace the <a> moment.
And by embracing the moment … I mean the present … not the past.
No one is ever old in their own heads.
There may be fleeting moments of self-recognition – the inward flinch at the thought of wearing heels, the choice of bodyboarding over learning to kite surf, or looking at the snow and instead of thinking about sledging, wondering about falling.
Otherwise, 60 is the new 40, first-time mothers in their 50s are pushing swings in many a playground, and there is a category in the ironman world championship for any woman between the ages of 70 and 74 who enjoys extreme cycling, swimming and marathon running.
There’s nothing new about acting as old as you feel, except that it has suddenly become universally acceptable.
A generation ago, marriage was the launchpad into the life of the middle-aged.
Where now women in their 60s wear their children’s clothes, then women in their 40s adopted their mothers’ wardrobes.
Getting old was respectable, and living in denial was looked on with pity.
For these new gerontocrats, living into their 80s and 90s has come as a surprise and not necessarily a good one.
Embracing the moment can be challenging because society, media and culture is banging us over the head with images and words telling us how we SHOULD be thinking about it.
In those moments of reflection we sometimes wish we could have ‘stopped that train’ on those aspects at those times. Maybe have recognized them and enjoyed them a little more.
I think it is human that all of us, all the time, at all and any age, find and see things about ourselves and some specific time in our Life we would like to ‘stop,’ keep that one aspect and that one feeling for … well … forever <or that’s how we feel at that moment>.
That is Life.
Aging is kind of the same.
And because Life is … well … Life … and aging is about getting older.
Because the train doesn’t really stop.
The struggle within ourselves often resides in that renegotiation there is an inevitable bit of anxiety. Anxiety because you realize renegotiation is finite.
And that is where aging becomes challenging.
“I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity.
I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.”
Simone de Beauvoir
We are incapable of accepting infinity <because we know there is an end> and yet we balk at ‘finity.’
While age is a number and the past can make us nostalgic … inevitably we, the aging, measure Life in present moments and ‘adventures’ <accumulating finity type things>
I say that because it can become easy to get caught up in ‘youth invigorates’ … but it is more than that.
It is … well … as stated earlier … it is personal.
Age, and reflection, often cannot give you some flash of insight that differentiates your life and makes it seem like a worthwhile venture.
It is only within the moment … when it all feels right … where behavior is instinctively good … that we have the sense of mortality <this doesn’t happen as often as it used to> and immortality <I want this feeling to last forever>.
This ‘within the moment’ thing inevitably means that part of growing old is not really knowing what’s going to happen next to you in life and therefore seeking to savor “what is.”
I kind of believe maybe it is human nature to want time to slow down for things to stop happening so quickly … so maybe it slows down what you cannot see happening next.
And as we try and slow things down we … well … have a natural tendency to look backwards a little. Kind of look in the rear view mirror.
And I think of the years ..…. and the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man …….. and nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age ……. look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles ……. grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone ……. where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass …….a young man still dwell.
I imagine the challenge with age is that because more time now resides in the past … there is more to reflect upon … and as we reflect we realize some ‘young’ still dwells within.
And reflection is what I think age does.
To be clear.
This doesn’t mean living in the past … or having regrets … it is more about … well … stopping this train so you can have more time in the now … in the present … to ‘do.’
“It’s nice to be glamorous, but I don’t want to always have to be trendy and glamorous and an object of desire.”
admitting she has no problem with getting older
And ‘do’ is the right word because we realize it’s not really about the spectacular or the glamorous … it’s about the moments & experiences we collect.
The truth is that most of Life, and our lives, are rarely glamorous.
And because most of us recognize that we tend to treasure the moments when everything ‘feels right’.
And I also tend to believe we start treasuring the right attitude.
I found this on a really neat Australian tumblr site <called MadisonLouise I think> with the picture I have here:
This lady stepped onto the tram and I gestured to take a picture, eventually opening a dialogue about her modelling career in her youth which she was more than happy to announce to the full tram.
Shortly after, a character from Glasgow hopped on and tried to photo-bomb, so I took his portrait too and rode the rest of the way chatting to the pair of exuberant strangers.
I was interested to see how this impromptu shoot and social exchange effectively broke the ice and turned the stale, rigid and compartmentalised tram environment into something that more closely resembles the intended human experience.
Four strangers sitting in a booth opposite me began smiling at each other and chatting, while the people behind me tore their eyes away from their phones and elongated their hunched necks, if only for just a second.”
The young dwells within.
And that is the attitude … and most of us ‘we’ ,who are aging, keep this little secret inside us.
Sometimes someone comes along <like the story above> and as strangers make our young come out and play. Play if but for a moment.
“If but for a moment.”
No matter what anyone verbalizes … mentally … aging is not easy.
Despite what 50somethngs say about ‘embracing age’ and ‘I feel more alive than I have ever felt’ … well … it is simply not true.
Trite & untrue.
I hesitate to say it is lack of acceptance.
Conversely I don’t think it is rejection <fighting it>.
Aging is somewhere in between … well … maximize what is left and minimizing what is wrong.
It’s like the train stops at a station you like … and while you would love the train to stay stopped … you know it will not and you make the most of the time it has stopped.
I have often expressed my belief about the strong link between acceptance and the need to control. In other words … the more we accept things as they are the less we need to control. And, conversely, the more controlling we are, the less accepting we are.
Acceptance and aging is important.
We obsess less about things over which we are effectively powerless. We are able to “see” practical options that lessen life’s adversities. We tend to be happier and tend to be … well … more pleasant <less curmudgeonly>.
Not surprising, a recent Australian study published in the Journal of Happiness concluded:
Accepting what can’t be changed is the key to happiness in old age.
Maybe what acceptance does is permits us to enjoy the good moments a little more. Not nostalgically but in the present. You actually think about maximizing the moment.
Because you know it is there <it feels right & good> and you know it will not be there <maybe tomorrow if not even later the same day> and you know it will be there again <maybe not until next week … but it will be there>.
Acceptance is kind of a freedom.
There is a freedom in admitting to yourself that you are middle aged <or older>.
You can do what you want when you feel like doing it <within reason>.
Here is a tip to those who are beginning to think about this whole aging thing.
Instead of exercise and taking some magical pills which have some dubious promises of youth … try reading.
There is some research supporting some surprising health benefits of reading.
– A 2009 study showed that reading for only six minutes can reduce stress by 68 percent, as well as slow your heart rate and minimize muscle tension.
– Reading improves memory. In addition, another study showed that elderly people who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.
– Of course you can’t stop the aging process but reading can help slow it down. A study showed that reading can significantly reduce your rate of cognitive decline.
– It can be stressful not knowing the future. One study showed that reading fiction can cause an increase in tolerance for uncertainty. As people read their minds actually open up and they become more comfortable with possibilities, options, and uncertainty.
Reading can really improve your health and life and … well … at least slow down the train.
Life always changes.
One year, or period of time, may seem ‘so much’ versus another … and that may be so … but the train really never stops until it … well … stops. And it really rarely slows down.
The train keeps chugging along … scenery changes … people change … life changes.
So much versus so little with regard to change is simply words we attach to the inevitable.
Every time you wish the time stops … or wanna go back a bit … despite the temptation to do so … something always keeps saying ‘keep moving.’
As John Mayer mentioned once when playing in concert:
“i have no idea how i’m going to play this live, because it’s definitely the most emotionally confrontational song for me….ya know, time is moving forward, all the time, and we know that, but..its kind of like running out of a continually burning hallway- and you can’t go back and get your stuff. and all i wanna do is yell, ‘i wanna go get my stuff!’, but people are going, ‘you can’t! keep running!!’. and this fireball’s coming up behind you, well it’s not exactly as indiana jones as that, but it feels like that sometimes… so this is a song begging to go back and uhh, it’s called ‘stop this train.'”
Whether we admit it or not … whether we actually do like ourselves as an older version … at some point … we want to ‘stop this train.’
The years start adding up … it is kind of silly to ignore that fact. From a personal perspective … it just means that all the things I believe I have left to do need to get crammed into fewer moments in time. That is what aging means to me. In my mind it is now about maximizing the moments … especially the ones when the train has stooped for me.
Stop This Train by John Mayer
No I’m not color blind
I know the world is black and white
Try to keep an open mind but…
I just can’t sleep on this tonight
Stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly won’t someone stop this train
Don’t know how else to say it, don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own
Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t but honestly won’t someone stop this train
So scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find away to say that life has just begun
Had a talk with my old man
Said help me understand
He said turn 68, you’ll renegotiate
Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
Don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we’ll never stop this train
See once in a while when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
’til you cry when you’re driving away in the dark.
Singing stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take this speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train