“You know you are old when you have lost all your marvels.” (Merry Browne)
This is a quote that I could look at in two distinct ways as I consider it. On the one hand, getting old might mean I have lost my ability to do marvelous things. Looked at another way, I could take it to mean that I am old when things around me no longer marvel me. Here is my take on each.
I am a fan of many different sports. One thing that is true in the world of sports is that age catches up with every athlete eventually. It causes their performance to drop off over time, until their ability to do marvelous things is far less than in their prime. Sometimes the fall can be precipitous, and an athlete that performed very well one season is a shell of themselves the next. The really bad news for professional athletes is that this happens at a very young age compared to the rest of us. For some football players it can happen just after their 30th birthday. Some may manage to still marvel until their late 30s, but few do marvelous things after their 40th birthday. The ones that do are TRULY marvelous (or are on performance enhancing drugs).
For the rest of us the day of reckoning on our marvels comes much later in life. Depending on what a person chooses to do for a living, they might not even hit their peak until they are in their 50s or 60s, for some professions it takes years to build the wealth of experience needed to be marvelous at a high level.
As I think of my own career, I think that I have a lot of marvelous work in me. I continue to build my skills, knowledge and experience and plan to do so for years to come. For me, losing my marvels won’t be about diminishing skills, it will be from the other side of the coin.
To me the far worse thing to lose isn’t my physical abilities to make others marvel. It is when I lose my sense of marvel at the rest of the world that I feel old.
Where I live, this past winter has been the harshest I can remember in decades. I really dislike the cold and snow, and honestly I don’t see any wonder in that sort of weather. Because I have allowed myself to be limited by the weather, I have found myself feeling older by the day. I get up, go to work, and put in a hard day there. Then I come home, have dinner with my family and just sit. Nothing around me marvels me. In fact, the level of my cynicism has grown exponentially. I see things around met that others find quite marvelous and awesome, and I poo poo them. I find the faults in them, or mock the childish nature of the whimsy. It is in those days that my age progresses rapidly.
In the past month I have been making a concerted effort to lose weight and improve my health. During that time I have been actively watching what I eat, and increasing my exercise. As I have seen the pounds coming off, and felt myself to be even a little more fit, I have noticed something else. My overall attitude about life is improving as well. I find myself less annoyed by the world around me, and more interested in the wonder of the world. It hasn’t been a dramatic change, and my family might still say I am stuck in my cynical ways, but I have felt it growing within.
It is a fool’s folly to try to stay youthful. Growing old is inevitable, and all of us suffer the aches and pains associated with the fact that we are no longer spry young children. But, my spirit doesn’t have to age. I do not have to become a person who lives within 4 tight walls and never sees the wonder and beauty of the world, or the excitement of accomplishment of others. I have the choice on that, and I choose to keep my marvels about me for many decades to come.