In recent weeks I’ve admitted that my body is just not capable of accomplishing all the same tasks that it did 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, the signs of diminished ability have been around for a long time, I was simply not willing to admit that I couldn’t do all the duties I felt needed to be accomplished.
Not just the basic household chores like yard work, wood cutting or general household maintenance, but also the more stressful and oft times time consuming responsibilities of citizenship and helping to create a better community.
All those activities in our lives require us to expend a certain amount of energy whether it be physical, intellectual, emotional or just an extension of our waking hours that could otherwise be spent in a horizontal position sawing “virtual” logs.
I have experienced two enlightening situations recently that brought my life into a more focused perspective.
Within the last few weeks I was discussing the attributes of some of our community/youth focused organizations in the area with the hopeful objective of convincing them that their participation would not only be beneficial to the community, but would, indeed, also be a direct advantage for them.
I will not waste your time and mine listing all the excuses that were cited as to why they couldn’t be participants in their community and I won’t explain why all those excuses are full of flubber.
I do want to share the comments from two individuals from two separate families that, except for common courtesy, would have had me rolling on the ground in laughter.
To set up the scenario, both of these persons are young (35-45ish), healthy, middle-class adults/parents and active in the pursuits they enjoy.
The two comments were not identical, but so close I’ll paraphrase with this. “I’m just so tired all the time; I’m just getting too old to take on any more obligations.”
Now I’m not a doctor and I certainly have no data to back me up, but if I had felt that way at 45 years of age, I probably wouldn’t be around to write this today.
I’ve had folks tell me that it’s a generational thing, “They just don’t care” or “I’ll be happy to donate money, just don’t ask me to do anything.”
I won’t argue against the fact that there are probably a few of those folks around, but I don’t believe that is the core of the situation.
Were these comments “just another excuse” or do they really feel that way? It really caused me to ponder possible alternatives.
Do they actually believe that at 45 years old they have reached their life’s peak and need to start researching assisted care facilities or is it just a philosophy grown out of a culture that has seldom ever required maximum participation in body or in mind or as mentioned above are they just blowing smoke?
That brings me to my second experience.
A very busy Labor Day weekend culminating in a woodcutting day on Monday with my lovely wife started the adventure.
With a nice load of wood on the truck we arrive home and some of those afore mentioned signs of diminished capacity began to show up.
Of course, soreness of seldom-used muscles and weariness are to be expected with seven decades of wear on body and mind in the rear view mirror, so we move on.
The next day I receive a call with an invitation to join two dear Rotary friends for a round of golf.
My first thought was, “Oh! My aching back”, but immediately my answer was “Yes, I’d love to.”
Now to put the situation in perspective, this was the second time I have played golf in the last 10 years so the only reason for me to go was because I wasn’t about to miss out on the opportunity to spend time with guys whose company I enjoy so much.
Flash forward to a conversation right before the last four holes of a long, hot, muggy day of golf.
All of a sudden, we notice that our game is going dramatically downhill.
Why, we ponder.
Not that it really mattered much because our scores for the first part of the day weren’t exactly stellar, but that’s what guys do, they examine why things aren’t going according to norm.
My suggestion for my decline was quite simple, “I think I’m just exhausted.” I said, “No focus and my arms feel like rubber.”
General consensus was met and the next question was, “Do we call it a day?”
“No way, we’re having too much fun.”
That moment I think, is when it dawned on me that there are two general types of people in our world.
Those who participate as long as they never have to get out of their comfort zone, and those who will stay involved through stress, pain, fatigue or any other discomfort because they believe in the people they are working (or playing) with and the people they are working for.
So to answer my title question, No! I don’t believe America is aging prematurely, I simply think that many folks have missed out on the joy and satisfaction of getting outside their little box, meeting new people and being of service to even more.
There is a great big world out there if you’re brave enough to experience it.
I also believe a person is only as old as they perceive themselves and that is a two-edged sword.
Think young? Stay young.
Think old? Well you find the answer to that.