I could just title this DAMN I Love My Readers.
Medium reader Jacqueline Jannotta wrote this titular comment on my article with a similar but a much more negative title. I liked this so much I took it as a gauntlet, and figured what the hey. Love a challenge.
Here is the original story:
There really are few greater gifts than a reader interested and engaged enough to throw down a gauntlet. I wrote her that I was running with this one.
As I write I am sitting with my balcony door wide open, watching a midday rain shower pelt Patong while I finish a hot coffee. For once it's cool enough to do that. The morning showers combined with sitting here still soaking wet from a visit to Green Elephant Sanctuary (more on that in a different article), I am enjoying, really enjoying, my last day here.
Tomorrow I head to Koh Lak for my last few days in country.
Then it's back to Eugene where my house is still for sale, a foot undergoes surgery, more stuff gets sold and with any luck AT ALL, I get to thoroughly enjoy the gorgeous changing of the leaves. Eugene is blessed with plenty of deciduous trees, as is my yard, and this was timed accordingly. Hell with pumpkin spice. What makes fall for me is the color.
My entire life is spicy and colorful.
So how's yours?
Not a brag. An invitation to assess, reassess and redirect, for it is always an option. There is always and forever a choice, if nothing else than to perceive things differently. That's what this is about.
It isn't Thailand that makes me happy. Or the rain. Or...whatever. It's all of it. To include all the angry post-surgery aches and pains, with more on the way shortly, and all the other Others which go with showing up on earth. At any time, for that matter.
I am not rich. I am not married. I don't have family or a private island. I have bills like everyone else. Worries and challenges and issues and shit that pisses me off every so often. Aches and pains and more coming my way as I get more repairs on a hard-used body.
So what do I got you don't got, if you're not having a good time?
Many of those not having a good time whatsoever are far younger than I am. Between thirty and sixty are tough years, no doubt. I can attest. The further those years pass into memory the less I miss youth. Even relative youth, if all the angst and anxiety which came with it came alongside like a sidecar full of trash.
To the gauntlet and my title. Saga Supporter Nurit Amichai wrote me that I was sounding light-hearted in a recent Patreon private post for top supporters. Others noted this almost as soon as I landed in Thailand and was able to decouple myself from the endless demands and worries. They didn't go away.
However I have been doing some serious reading. Two books that I have inhaled lately and which have utterly renewed both my enthusiasm and my delight are After by Dr. Bruce Greyson and The Expectation Effect by David Robson.
I've mentioned and strongly recommended both. Now I am even more strongly recommending you read them together. Good reason for that, hang with me here.
Neither promises a quick fix, a cure or anything of the sort. In my case, and I suspect for many like me, what those books did was reinforce what I had already suspected or sensed as well as validate my beliefs about how attitudes have such a powerful impact on our quality of life.
So to Jacqueline's challenge: the first of the two books, After, reinforced my belief that something of us goes on, that the Universe is ultimately a benevolent place, and that there is plenty to look forward to when we shed our current skins. That's profound, particularly as your due date creeps closer.
The second of the two books reminded me that at most points in my life, age was irrelevant. I had a bit of gravitas young, and at 16 was often assumed to be thirty. That got me into a lot of bars, where I didn't drink but sure loved to dance. At some point that flipped, and now for many decades, people believe just the opposite. People always guess me much younger.
Many people within, say two decades of my age look to the compliments they may receive about how young they look FOR THEIR AGE and use that as a slide rule by which they measure their relative aging success. Okay, that's nice, but it's irrelevant unless we gauge our entire value based on our appearances. Kinda thin, don'tcha think?
While such comments do indeed stroke the ego, perhaps the better measure is how youthfully we are engaging in all of life irrespective of any number? No matter how old we may look.
Looks depart; living well is art.
Age isn't the point. It's the energy level. Our engagement level. The innate enthusiasm and appreciation for life itself, as opposed to the widespread woe is me ain't it awful which permeates so much social discourse these days.
Young people, whose perfect right it is to BE young, cut their lives short because the weight of the world is too much. Even children. Which tells me something about the power of our beliefs, our attitudes and how those shape us right down to our DNA. And that speaks to the unspeakable messages we are giving both ourselves and our children. That's on us.
However much if not all of this is reversible.
That is borne out in Robson's book, which has left me nearly giddy. Why? Because changing our minds really can change our lives; it's not just some idiot slogan. Research backs it up, which means that positive changes are available to everyone without cost.
Not without work.Without cost.
The cost, if you will, is that we have to give up needing to be right about how awful life is, and what a pain it is to age. OH GAWD I'M TURNING FORTY. FIFTY. TWENTY, for crying out loud. Gerascophobia writ large. The only ones who win are those who are selling anti-aging products.
Here's a perfect example.
The other day some wag on Medium started his article with "Getting older sucks."
Curious, I read far enough to note that he also claims to be super-positive and all about personal growth. Yeah, I guess if you're an ingrown toenail, you are. I blocked him. He's about to turn forty, that TERRIBLE DEADLY AGE that people are so terrified to turn.
Such attitudes, as Robson's book points out, are what age us, not the years. It's the tears we shed over a youth which we honestly believe has left the building. Not in my house it hasn't, and I have thirty years on that guy.
What puts the spring in my step and not his?
What keeps me grateful for life itself, and willing to ignore hand pain/foot pain/anything pain and keep right on leaping out of airplanes and off bridges and going paragliding and riding and all those things which give me joy?
The same joy that keeps Ernestine Shepherd, Paddy Jones and a host of other extraordinary "super-agers" going well into their very late years feeling energized and alive even as it is most certainly clear the lights are going out sooner than later. The same joy that continues to energize so many aging elders whose faces most assuredly belie their age, but whose attitudes and joie de vivre put so many of us to shame.
I was briefly married to a man who hated his job so much that by Saturday night, all he could talk about was that half the weekend was gone and he only had ONE DAY before he had to go back to work. He regularly ruined Saturday night and all of Sunday.
People do that with their entire lives and call it living.
With the exception of how societies treat certain milestones (voting, drinking age, retirement age, etc.) age really is irrelevant. I'm not at all sure when I adopted that mindset given that my parents were obsessed with youth, most particularly my mother. She was 39 for 21 years.
However she was a living dichotomy. As much as she despised her aging face, she remained ridiculously youthful in attitude if not in body, finding hilarity and humor in ways her contemporaries could not. That was one of many gifts with which she bequeathed me. More priceless than a Kohinoor.
There are parts of my life I've effectively torpedoed with my beliefs. Being unworthy of romantic love is one of them. I own my shit in that regard. Can I work with that this late? No clue. But one thing I do have down is this age is irrelevant thing.
The invitation to challenge our beliefs, and after reading these books I am renergized to challenge mine, is everpresent. There is now more than enough solid research to bear out the idea that what is between our ears, ranging from sports performance to how well we test to how vibrantly we age is very much a matter of our beliefs.
I welcome that process. In every way, shape and form. In embracing those ideas I also launch myself even further into the solid eating habits, exercise habits and all the rest which support healthy life and aging, which is part of the point. For Robson points out that if you and I do, in fact, reject numerical aging and believe that what society says about aging doesn't apply to us, then we will work to make ourselves right through better habits of mind, body and spirit.
The absolute same thing goes for believing there's no point, that after twenty/thirty/forty/whatever it's all downhill, you and I are likely to align ourselves with the beliefs with behaviors which make us right.
Writer Martin Amis has always held particular disgust and contempt for the aged, saying,
Old age is not for old people. It's like starring in a low budget horror film, saving the worst till last.
Amis, now 73, also wrote:
And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit.
What Amis so bitterly believes about aging I am quite sure he is living right now. He had much more to say about the awfulness of being older, setting the stage for a very shitty old age for himself.
Look, I dunno about you, but two things. Lots of folks out there infected by such foul thinking about how we age.
Second, I'm not one of them. If you are, you probably already hate me, my writing, and my lifestyle.
Those of you in the muddy middle, seeking hope, there is plenty.
There's a choice. The same way for me to choose to work hard at changing a lifetime of messaging that I was never worthy of love, you can change societal messaging that anything after thirty (or whatever) isn't worth living.
I am off to finish my time in Thailand, sell my home (eventually) and keep right on trotting around the world, working out, eating well, and laughing as much as possible. And collecting kisses.
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