I celebrated a birthday last week.
I am now officially fifty-eight.
I am pretty sure that I am now older than my dad.
I should have seen it coming. I didn’t, but I should have.
About a decade back, I noticed the hair around my temples 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 at the temples; was jumping ship. Now all my hair is white and I have less of it than ever. Due to the COVID-19 thing and my unwillingness to get a “bootlegged” haircut, it is longer than it has been in years but things are clearly no better. I do have a great beard and get compliments on it 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 two or three years ago at a decent level. It seems like a lifetime ago. Perhaps two lifetimes… I retired in 2017, made a decent comeback in 2018 and reminded the world in 2019 why I retired in 2017. I am done. I am done playing ball but not done living. We moved to a remote log cabin earlier this year and there is always something to do. My days not spent at church are filled with hard work of the old fashioned kind. I got a new chainsaw for my birthday. I have to haul the trash a half mile on a four wheeler for weekly pick up. Cabins require constant upkeep. I love every minute.
Fifty-eight feels pretty good if you take the “how do you feel today?” part out of it. “Not as good as I used to” would be the honest answer. I do take comfort that I am not on regular medication. It seems to impress people at the doctor’s office more with each year passing but I haven’t put it on a tee-shirt. Not yet anyway. I am also not lactose intolerant which means I can still eat ice cream. Another win. You take what you can get as you get older.
In celebration, I have once again 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 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 every-other-year 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, sitting by a backyard fire on a cool evening, a soak in a hot tub, the way the stars fill the sky on clear nights, fresh snow, good music, 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-seven 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. It is a good prayer.
I don’t know what lies ahead or what this year has in store but I plan to fully live it. So here I come year fifty-nine…even though you are WAY too close to sixty, I am not afraid of you.
I have some living left to do!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the author of “12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not)”