“The only alternative to getting older is—you guessed it, so stop watching from the sidelines and get in the game.”
Let’s face it—the only viable alternative to getting older is not one most of us are interested in. Yes, there’s that icy cryogenic thing, but other than megalomaniac nutjobs in the movies, who really wants to get stashed in a freezer with the baby peas and cauliflower? So you can be thawed fifty or a few thousand years later like a flash frozen ice age T-Rex and try to pick up where you left off before you decided to try life as a Popsicle? Not me. And I suspect not you.
So, what are you gonna do when getting older is the only game there is?
You are going to play as though your life depended on winning—because it does.
I’m about to dabble in a sports metaphor and those who know me well will fall out laughing, swear that I know as much about sports as I do about quantum mechanics and wait for me to make a fool of myself. But I think the comparison is apt, so I shall plunge ahead, risking ridicule and derision and hope I do know enough about sports to fake my way through this.
Most athletic games are divided into periods—quarters, innings, sets or the like, which only theoretically correspond to actual time telling devices used by regular people because in sporting matches, they have the miraculous ability to stop time. In real life however, we have no such power and must let the clock run—minutes, hours, days, years flying by—whoosh! Never to be seen again. We have no pause, instant replay or measures of time that hang in the air endlessly awaiting our decision to restart the clock.
The game of life stays in progress and whether you are ready or not, we have to keep on keepin’ on. In addition to the magical “stop action” that occurs in sporting contests, many games also grant the competitors the privilege of a half time. A break right in the middle of the game! It doesn’t matter who’s winning or who’s losing—
everyone gets an intermission. Yep. Just like that, the gift of a time out is yours without even asking for it! So no matter how the game is going half time offers an opportunity to regroup, change strategy, evaluate, assess strengths and weakness—yours and your opponent’s. Back in the locker room the coach uses pep talks, threats, prayers, shame, rants, praise–whatever is necessary for the team to either maintain the lead, or snatch victory from the wide open, hungry jaws of defeat. Half time is the chance for the game to begin anew. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life could be the same way?
That’s what this time of your life is.
Although becoming a centenarian is more and more common these days, I accept that I’m pushing it when I say 50 is the half way mark in the game of life —but since our forties and fifties have long been considered “middle age”, there is plenty of precedent for this argument. So humor me, OK?
I used my late 40’s to assess what I liked and didn’t like about my life, to examine where I was, where I wanted to be, who and what I wanted to keep in my life, what needed to go and most importantly to decide how I wanted to approach living the next half of my life. At 50, I took myself a half-time and so should you.
We don’t have an undo button in life. What we’ve already done, the part of life we have lived already is past. But we certainly can make completely new kinds of choices going forward—you still have the have the rest of your life—however long that is.
You’re in the game.
You need a break.
Take one while you can.
1) Draw a circle—one you will think of as an old fashioned analog clock—you know like the ones we learned to tell time on with the “big hand” and “little hand” before the digital revolution relegated time telling skills to the same “has-been” pile of memories as an abacus and gathering the family around a rotary dial phone to share a “long distance” call. Make your circle big, really big.
2) Then draw a vertical line through the middle as though it were six o’clock. Except I want you to think of six o’clock as 0—where your life began and twelve o’clock as 50.
3) Freely fill in (using any method you choose) the space between zero and fifty (six and twelve)—in other words, fill up the left side of the circle—with what you have done—the significant achievements and happenings that have taken place in your life thus far: school degrees, jobs, marriage, children, moves, even divorce and deaths. It may be pretty crowded or fairly empty—that depends of course on what you have done with the first half of your life.
4) Then look at the wonder of the other half of the circle—the part that goes from 50 to zero (twelve to six). What you have is a huge blank space that you can fill in any way you choose. Using the experience you have gained through the grace of aging and consider carefully, thoughtfully, whimsically what you would like to see take the place of the empty space. And remember—you are free to go outside of the lines!