I have been alive on this planet for 62 years. Somehow, inexplicably, it was June 13, 2023, and I passed birthday number 62. I find this fact stunning.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be living the life I am. I've worked hard, taken risks, made choices, and had big assists of luck and privilege. I look around and just feel so incredibly grateful.
I'll admit it's not all great -- but only briefly
Then after a period of adjustment, I find my footing. Because really, what choice do I have, what choice do any of us have? We can either take care of the condition and maintain our health, or not take care of it, and it will get worse, and we'll suffer physically and mentally. Obsessing and complaining doesn't make it any better. In fact, I think obsessing makes it worse: it would take up more space in my thoughts and my life. So I take a deep breath and suck it up.
Beyond the physical, being in my 60s just feels so different. My ideas about the future are so different than they were 20 or even 10 years ago. The view ahead now looks bluntly finite. Of course, it always was, but my awareness of that finiteness is in sharper focus. I think of this often now, much more than I ever did before.
Talking about this is generally taboo. It's usually dismissed -- especially by anyone older than me -- with a laugh and a wave: "You're too young to think about that!" But the fact is, I do think about it, and I'm sure many people do, whether they admit it or not. Talking about death doesn't hasten its arrival. (Sorry, superstitious people. Our words don't really affect the universe.) Death is a reality. Perhaps talking about it might help us prepare psychologically, at least on a background level.
Thinking about death seems natural to me. When we're children we wonder about being teenagers, and when we're teens we wonder about being adults. To me, recognizing where I am -- or where I hope I am -- in the arc of my life is not morbid or premature. It just is.
One and done
In my worldview, this life is the only life we will ever have. I don't believe in any form of immortality, don't believe there are magic words I can say or rituals I can perform to achieve life after life. Aging has given me a greater understanding of why humans invented the beautiful fiction of everlasting life, but I can't generate even a flicker of belief in it. In my view, when we die, our physical bodies go the way of all animal bodies, and indeed of all living things. As Jerry Seinfeld said about the soup, This is the meal, buddy boy. So stock up.
I'm not saying this with anxiety or depression or fear. Just stating facts as I see them.
When we're being honest about death, the thing many of us fear most is not that we will die, but how we'll die. There are all kinds of deaths, and some sure as hell appear better than others. I'm so very grateful for activists who have fought for end-of-life autonomy and dignity, such as legal medical assistance in dying. I follow that story in Canada and hope the laws become more expansive. (An excellent documentary on this: How to Die in Oregon.)
I feel as strongly about end-of-life choices as I do about reproductive choices. Bodily integrity is paramount. And we don't have that in our world, not even close.
So here I am, 62 years old, and contemplating the road ahead. I know all the applicable cliches, as do you. Savor every moment, be grateful for what we have, blah blah blah. I do and I am, more than most people you will ever meet. These are the platitudes I subscribe to. Keep on keepin' on.