Monday, March 2, 2009

Getting Older or Getting Better

It's been a productive day in Streeterville. I got the rest of the laundry done, ran errands, applied for a couple of jobs, and got an application off for a writing fellowship for this coming summer. Not holding my breath on that one, but who knows? The weather has been marginally better today, 21 degrees as per the National Weather Service. It has been partly cloudy and bright out today as opposed to yesterday's blowing lake effect snow.

The sun woke me up this morning when it came streaming in the window and landed straight in my eyes. I thought that perhaps it would be a great March day today, but as it turns out, the lake is still wholly frozen. That means that the view from the 14th floor is still wholly white, as lake views go. Not even little melty spots. Ice as far as the eye can see off toward Michigan and/or Indiana. The jury is still out on the wind chill factor, but let's just say that when the wind off Lake Michigan hits you in the face it hurts.

I have a friend who recently turned 59 years old, and is somewhat obsessed with getting old. Fifty-nine is as close to 60 years old as you can get and not be 60. Sixty is that spot in our minds, at least most of our minds, where you are unavoidably old. It's a landmark. Hair has gone gray, even if some fight against it and dye the gray. Lines appear in our faces, even if some get some surgery to get rid of them. Our metabolisms slow down and it gets increasingly hard to take off weight. Some get tummy tucks, liposuction, and maybe a tushy tuck. Some start running marathons to burn calories. Some, with the resources to do so, get a personal trainer and consult nutritionists.

So, what to do? There are several options when one reaches this age. One option is to spend as much money as possible getting artificial solutions, the plastic surgery, the dyed hair, and deny, deny, deny. I think we all have seen enough of aging actors who have taken this option and we all know how we laugh at them and tsk, tsk at how phony they look. (Think Joan Rivers.)

Another option is to get healthier to fight the aging process. Exercise, marathon running, biking, active lifestyles. Start actually watching what you eat. Actively fight the aging process and keep it at bay. Trouble is that you still get older. You just get older in a healthier manner. At least you can sometimes thumb your nose at younger people when you kick their ass in a 10K race or amaze them with your play on a tennis court. You'll, in all probability, be an old fart for a really long time.

A third option, and don't get me wrong here, I'm not advocating this, is to just give in to it. I know those who have done this. Just let it all hang out. Continue to drink copious amounts of beer while eating chips. Sit on the couch and watch endless TV. Drive everywhere you go. Make fun of people your own age who do stuff that you think is for younger people. Get fat and old and be at peace with it. This may very well be a good approach for your psyche, but the down side is that it often leads to early heart attacks and an early exit from the ballgame of life. "You're outta here," says the Grim Reaper. Ready to go? I'm not.

Of course, none of these options is mutually exclusive. In real life most of us may choose one from column A and two from column B. I personally run long distances and try to watch my weight, but I still like deep dish pizza regularly and I've accepted the thinning gray hair on top of my head. I refuse to get fat and old. I accept that I may not look like the youngster I once was, so I will not be dying hair getting hair transplants, or getting any plastic surgery done.

I sometimes look at Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and marvel. They look older than dirt, but they still keep on keeping on. You have to admire their ability to do that. It's a model to aspire to. I'm still active. I still keep on producing creative things. And on the plus side, I don't look nearly as old as Mick Jagger or Keith Richards.

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