If you think about it, this is just the over-fifty version of the same problem we’ve been fighting all our lives: finding the balance.
I once heard a guy named Dennis Palumbo give a talk to a bunch of harried writers. Dennis is really interesting because he was a psychotherapist to famous movie stars, all unnamed and unidentifiable from his sanitized anecdotes, darn it. At the end, Dennis said he was going to give us the best piece of advice for success and happiness we could possibly ever receive. Then he leaned forward, smiled benevolently, and said
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
It was so comforting, and it reached me in an existential way. Since we’re already enough, and this applies even more to older people, anything we do on top of that is gravy. It’s not necessary, at this age, to kick ass and take names anymore. Sometimes, it’s better to slow down and just…pay attention.
For example, recently I had to set aside a rush project because our grandson, at preschool, had a fever. Once home, the sick 3-year-old of course didn’t want to nap, so I promised to stay in his bedroom while he slept. Over the next 90 minutes he awoke several times, saw me in the easy chair, and fell back asleep. But one time, in order to convince him to sleep, I had to clamber into his bed and lay down next to him. While he slept, I studied his freckled nose, red hair, and perfect lute-shaped ear. I noticed his small shoulder, destined to one day resemble his daddy’s (my son). Like an eagle’s wingspan it would reach from here to there, and carry all kinds of burdens upon it. But right then, last Friday afternoon, it was just a knobby little thing, and I loved the sight of it. Suddenly, I felt acutely aware of the passage of time, and my mortality. Nothing was more important than savoring this moment, and burning it into my memory banks. “These are the ‘good old days’,” I thought, hearing Carly Simon’s voice in my head.
Race around like a headless chicken if you must, but make time to stop and notice where you are in life, today, in this exact moment. We’re finally at an age where we can do that. We have the smarts and the discipline. Love your life. You are enough.