I celebrated a birthday last week. I am now officially fifty-nine. I saw my reflection in a window recently and wondered, “Who is the old dude?” I am pretty sure I am now older than my dad. I should have seen it coming. I didn’t, but I should have. It is like Christmas most years. It sneaks up on you because the date never changes.
About a decade and a half back, I noticed my hair was turning bright white and the upper-back-part of my head was going flat. It used to be round back there and suddenly it wasn’t. I remember wondering, “How can your head go flat?” I felt like I had a cranial blow out. I have since solved the mystery. What of my hair that wasn’t turning white was jumping ship. Now most all my hair is white and I have less of it than ever. The fact that checking for ticks after spending a day in the woods is easier than ever is a small consolation. I do have a great beard and get compliments quite often but let’s be honest; I would trade my glorious beard for a full head of hair in a minute.
Feeling physically older is a fairly recent phenomenon. I felt as young at fifty as I did at forty. I still played copious amounts of softball up until three or four years ago at a decent level. It now seems like a lifetime ago. I retired in 2017, made a decent comeback in 2018 and reminded myself in 2019 why I retired in 2017. I am done playing ball but not done living. We moved to a remote log cabin last year and there is always something to do. My days not spent at church are filled with hard work of the old fashioned kind. Cabins require constant upkeep. The work never ends. I love every minute.
Fifty-nine feels pretty good if you can get past the “how do you feel today?” part. “Not as good as I used to” would be the honest answer. I can now be injured doing nothing. Sleep injuries happen. Every day, I have two or three things wrong with me that would have precipitated an emergency room visit a couple decades back. I also gained ten pounds since my last birthday. I remain in the “before” stage concerning “before and after” photos. Terrible.
That all being said, I have decided to share seven pieces of unsolicited advice with you. Now that I am an old dude, I think I am supposed to do that kind of thing.
Here you go:
- Fill your bucket list Regardless of your age, life comes with no guarantees and no clear expiration date. If you have stuff you still want to do, you had best crack at it. I am going to Egypt in January. I still need to see the Northern Lights.
- Make time for important things I have a mental file labeled, “Things I Will Never Regret.” I put something into it every day. Quality time with the aging people you love fits quite nicely. So does coffee each morning with Melissa. 6:00 a.m. sharp.
- Lean into what amazes you I find myself desperate for the presence of God these days. I enjoy nature as never before and I am blown away by sunrises and sunsets, rushing rivers and the way a forest changes with the seasons. I love the way clouds below you look from a plane, my semi-annual trips to Israel and that I get invited to travel to so many wonderful places, meet such interesting people and see such incredible things.
- Live Humbly I find myself more aware of the contributions of others to my success these days; more comfortable with the big picture, less concerned about the little stuff and thankful to God for any abilities He may have had entrusted to me. I am so grateful for the friends, mentors, peers and the staff with whom I have served over the years. You are never tempted to think you are the smartest person in the room when you realize you are the most blessed.
- Keep it Simple Since life has forced me to slow down, I have developed an appreciation the for the things you miss at high speeds. Time with children and grandchildren, building a bon fire on a cool evening, a soak in a hot tub, the way the stars fill the sky on clear nights, fresh snow, classic rock, flowers in spring and beautiful leaves in the fall, a really good steak and the sound of running water are such things.
- Age without getting old Aging is inevitable but getting old is optional. I can feel myself drifting toward being more impatient, inflexible, recalcitrant and less inclined to try new things with each passing year. I have decided to fight it tooth (increasingly crowns and implants) and nail because there is no upside.
- Finish Well I sometimes flip over my proverbial baseball card and look at the stats on the back. Not bad. I have been married thirty-eight years, raised two incredible children, have four beautiful grandchildren nearby and have more people who care about me than I deserve. My life has been spent doing something that matters and I have few regrets. I am proud of the life I have lived and honored by the people who have shared that life with me. Having run well, I pray for the grace to finish well.
I don’t know what lies ahead and I know the clock is ticking but I am aiming for you sixty and you need to know that I am not afraid of you.
So, “Who is the old dude?” A guy with some serious living left to do!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the author a blog with over 3.5 million reads called, “12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not)” and the author of the book, “Love God. Love People. Don’t Do Dumb Crap” which is available on Amazon.