Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting Older? Me?! Nooooo... OK, Fine!

As I was driving to work in my sensible car, the local classic-rock station started playing songs that were popular when I was in high school. U2 is now classic rock. Not even early-career U2, mid-career U2. I cursed out the radio -- probably drowning out Bono crooning "in the name of love" or something equally inappropriate to have cursing as accompaniment.

Ah, but that was just one of the rude awakenings that have arrived at my doorstep in more frequent numbers these days. Or, if not rude, they're just not terribly polite nor invited awakenings to my advancing age.

I kept finding long blonde hair here and there in the house. I accused the dog of having an affair. Then I realized they weren't blonde. They were gray. And mine. Alas. And why is it that my gray hair comes in completely straight while my brown hair remains characteristically corkscrewy?

At lunch the other day, @'s expression suddenly turned oh-so-confused when the waitress called me "young lady." As soon as she was out of earshot he asked, "why did she call you that? You're not young." Yeah, no dessert for you, kid. Do you want me to order brussels sprouts? Do you?!

During the course of a conversation with three co-workers, it became painfully clear that, for two of us, our popular-culture references were no longer universally effective. Who hasn't heard of Joe Namath? I'm a California native who never really liked football and I know who Joe Namath is. If you tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on and so on. Three minutes later, a question about a quote I had mentioned in a presentation earlier in the week: "If you build it, he will come" is completely lost on these people. And I hear myself say, "but that's a classic quote!" Oh no. Classic. I've just admitted it. Classic.

Oh, there are more examples. I like to ignore a lot of them.
  • Progressive lenses. And reading glasses when I'm wearing my contacts. Yeah. Ouch.
  • Explaining to my son why we "dial the phone" when there's no sort of rotary activity on any phone we own -- at least not related to making phone calls.
There less-amusing examples as my parents and the parents of my friends continue to age. Or as more of my friends encounter some or another form of cancer. You know you've reached a certain point in your life when every time a different health-related charity asks you for a donation, you have a personal connection with someone who has battled or is battling that disease.

(Of course, frankly, now there's a fund-raiser for everything. Don't be offended if I don't take up the cause for the eradication of hangnails or age spots.)

And then there are the differences in what kids worry about today compared what what we worried about -- or that we had little no cause to worry about much at all.

Beyond all that, time apparently does deliver some bits of wisdom. Or maybe it's the experiences that come within that time as it passes. I know a lot more "stuff" than I did when Kevin Costner was searching for James Earl Jones to bring him to a cornfield in Iowa.

I'm healthier than I was ten years into my career, even though I was playing soccer five and six days a week back then. I eat better, I rest more, and I figured out that balance is good. My job no longer makes my top five priority list. Confession: I scheduled my wedding around ship dates for the magazine where I worked so that the dates didn't conflict. Not good!

Balance is tricky to learn in this particularly competitive part of the country where it's all about showing how much you can do. Until five years ago, I had never taken more than a week off work -- and even then it was with the intent of accomplishing a bathroom remodel project largely on my own. Even so, I came back to work with a new edict -- once my calendar showed five meetings for a single day, I blocked out the rest of the day for actual work. Prior to that vacation, it wasn't odd to have eight and nine meetings in a day. Twisted... People got cranky with me for my new policy. I stuck to my guns.

Some signs of accumulating time are disturbing, while others are more welcome. I sit still more, I take random days off just to chill, and I am far more present with the people around me. I appreciate what I have instead of trying to get more, more, more, more. (Unless it's good chocolate, then chances are I'll go for it.) I'm less competitive, more peaceful. I talk less and listen more. I focus on gratitude over pessimism. I notice the color of the east hills or the lyrics to the songs on the radio as I drive to work rather than mentally write a to-do list for the day ahead.

Still, the age thing is all relative. Some places I go, I'm the youngest, others I'm among the older set. I just try to be authentic wherever I go. I don't notice the age difference so much -- well, until one of my pop culture references falls completely flat.

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