Old White Man

Today is my 54th birthday.  I feel older than 54; a lot older. In fact I feel like I have been hit by a truck.

Yesterday I played my first round of golf of the year. I walked the roughly 5 miles in about 3 1/2 hours carrying my clubs with only intermittent stops to stretch, swing and swear (quietly of course). Despite my post-round regimen of stretching, ibuprofen, and 20 minutes in the hot tub, I am just plain sore. I am clearly not in the ‘golf-shape’ I was at the end of last year.

When I was younger, I don’t know what I thought I would feel like when I reached this age. In my mind I generally “feel” pretty much like I always have. The honest truth is that gravity feels heavier on some days than other days. As these days seem to show up more frequently, it’s not surprising I’m aware of things that make me feel young again.

Social media has a way of making me feel younger. The amazing diversity of people I have in my life will always be among my greatest joys. Twitter makes me smile. Where else, in a single swipe of my finger, can I get real-time updates from Sarah Silverman, Pope Francis, my daughter Caity, and Christian Louboutin? (This topic probably deserves a post of its own someday!)And as I write this, my Facebook page is blowing up with Birthday wishes.

Music doesn’t make me feel young; music transports me. Whether it is to the ‘70’s with Carol King or Carly Simon or to the 90’s with Indigo Girls or Joan Osborne– I can float effortlessly to another age. While I’ve had a longstanding man-crush on Eddie Vetter (“Ukulele Songs”), my new favorite “overplayed” cd is Dave Mathews latest when he croons, “I’m too old to wanna be young again.” That line resonates today.

In my work world it seems everybody is younger, smarter and faster than I am. Most days feel like I’m riding on the Comet roller coaster at Hershey Park, and I’m hanging on for dear life. I think my business partners should actually earn spiritual bonus points for letting this old white man hang around. Despite the nearly 23 years in my industry, I am constantly amazed by how much I don’t know. Never more than now do I identify with the Socrates when he said, “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.”

Although aging has eased me into abandoning the notion that I will come up with some new, original thought, I do believe I am the first person to use the word ‘tongonpig’ . So I got that going for me.

When it comes to thinking, what I am naturally good at is not really all that good. I am a good ‘concluder’. When I think I have enough information, I can draw a conclusion, and move on. The conclusion drawing time-cycle can be dramatically cut short if I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Simply put, if I’m uncomfortable, I make snap decisions close my mind to further discussion. Sometimes it takes a real effort for me to keep an open mind.

This is probably what scares me most about growing old; laziness drowning my ability to keep an open mind. Decisions become conclusions. Conclusions become convictions.  I find the confidence borne from the willing accountability for my actions to be admirable; confidently defending my close-minded conclusions, not so much.

My birthday gift to myself this year is permission to draw fewer conclusions, and strive to keep an open mind.   Feel free to remind me when I’m busy ‘concluding’.  Except when it comes to golf: As I long as I can carry my bag for 18 holes, I’m going to conclude that I still “got it”, no matter how I feel the next day!

“What we speak becomes the house we live in.” ` Hafiz