So the day has come. It is no longer a case of ‘When I’m 64…’ as Lennon and McCartney put it, but ‘Now I’m 64…’.
In many ways, age is just a number. I don’t feel 64 (whatever ‘feeling 64’ is meant to feel like). In my head I’m a lot younger – indeed the fact I am, physically speaking, of such an age continues to be somewhat of a surprise.
It’s commonplace nowadays for well-known people to be asked in interviews, ‘What would you say to the younger you?’. When I ask that of myself, not that I am well-known, I’m not sure. ‘Life is for learning’ has been a motto of mine for many years. I’ve learnt as life has gone on and that approach has been very valuable for shaping the person I am. I wouldn’t have had it any other way (probably). I would though, I think, have told myself more about how to deal with the transient nature of friendships (and I wish I knew how to deal with that still…)
For myself, I have endeavoured (albeit not always successfully) to live with memories of the past only so far as they help me to live in the present and in looking to the future. ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,’ as LP Hartley wrote. As long as I live, I never want to be one who lives in the past.
I’m reminded of something Groucho Marx once said but in this politically correct world in which live, I best not repeat it. So let me turn to another American from the movies for further wisdom. The filmmaker and actor, Clint Eastwood, himself now 92, was once asked how he coped with age: “I don’t let the old man in,” he said. “Inevitably things drop off or seize up. Whenever you get a pain here or an ache there, you think: Oh dear, this is it. But you don’t let the old man in.”
And, inevitably, most experience more difficulties as age progresses (although some of course experience these from earlier in life too). Health plays a big part in how we live our lives – and so does money, housing, occupation and many other factors. All influence our experience of life at whatever age and stage.
But we do also have choices. In relation to aging, there is something about choosing not to let the old man or woman into the way we think or behave. About choosing not to live our lives dominated and shaped by other factors, even when those are very difficult. I’ve written elsewhere about how common it is for a person’s identity to be defined more by a situation or condition than by the person we actually are. How common it is to lose that sense of ‘I am’.
Pinned on our kitchen noticeboard is a fading piece of paper from years ago with a message still relevant for today. It carries some words by Helen Mallicoat…
‘I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
“My name is I AM.” He paused. I waited.
“When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I Was.
“When you live in the future with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I Will Be.
“When you live in this moment it is not hard. I am here. My name is I AM.”’
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My thanks to those who so kindly contacted me after the last post: I was very touched by people’s concern. My two new books, Finding Stability in Times of Change and debut short novel, Looking to Move On are available in paperback online or from me and also an eBook. More details at richardfrostauthor.com.
With my prayers and best wishes for Christmas and the coming year.