Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Random Musings On Half A Century

No, I'm not talking about my latest bike ride. I'm talking about my life and the milestone birthday coming up. Fifty years. Half a century. The big five-oh. "Well, how did I get here?" to channel The Talking Heads' "Once In A Lifetime." It wouldn't be much of a half-century if I couldn't spell out a few random musings and resolutions, now would it? So, accepting the risk that I'm only scratching the surface, here they are in no particular order. First, the random musings:

Any regrets? Yes, I have a few, and I'll undoubtedly build up a few more before I'm done. It can't be helped as long as I'm human and fallible. Life is sometimes about the regrets you choose to live with.

Sometimes the smallest life events slip past unnoticed, only to resurface years later after working their insidious, termite-like effect. A better analogy may be that tiny grain of sand irritating an oyster; it ends up as a pearl gracing a beautiful woman's neck. There are many grains of sand in my life. And some beautiful women too, thank God.

Why is it that as the "big" questions in your life get answered, they're replaced with other, more fundamental uncertainties? Your personal owner's manual should mention that somewhere.

I'm starting to be OK with myself. I've toasted success and faced failure. Neither had as much to do with me as I thought at the time. Anyway, blaming and/or boasting are highly overrated as personal growth strategies. I used to tell my boss that I wasn't as smart as he thought when things were going well, and not nearly as dumb as he thought when things were in the toilet. Little did he know...

I'm proud that those with authority over my life still have to earn it. I've never given a flying fig about titles, degrees, roles, functions and/or positions; they're irrelevant to me. It has never been about what you are; it's how you act and what you contribute that counts. As an attitude, it has certainly kept me from kissing a lot of miserable, worthless, undeserving asses along the way.

Life has thrown its challenges at me. I've known love and loss, exhilaration and grief, satisfaction and disappointment. That fertile loam has nourished me and shaped me into the person I am today. It has burnished some of my rough edges and illuminated a few blind spots. Yet the basic person would still be recognizable to those who knew me way back when. I guess that's a good thing.

I now understand my father a whole lot better. I understand that he was a very private, introverted man who felt powerful emotions that he could never express. I understand that, in his own way, he cared for us all very deeply. I came to this understanding late in my life and his...and then he was gone.

OK, now what? A few resolutions:

For whatever time I have left, I'm gonna live as fully and passionately as possible. I'll revel in watching my kids enter adulthood as beautiful, confident young women. I'll triathlon until someone physically carries me from the battlefield. I'll play drums until those bitchy rest home nurses pry the drumsticks from my gnarled hands. I'll dance 'til the band collapses from exhaustion. I'll read great books, listen to compelling music, ponder the unknowable, watch the stars and wonder about the universe, drink the world's great wines and marvel at sunsets over Italy's Amalfi Coast. Then I'll wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

I'll embrace worthwhile causes and support deserving organizations. I'll do my best to ease life's burdens for those around me. I'll claim fewer of the planet's finite resources for my own. I'll make more of a difference and spend less time complaining that history isn't unfolding according to MY plan.

I'll find rewarding work to do, work that connects me with talented, smart, energetic people, work that nourishes my soul. Hopefully it pays the bills but, if not, I need fewer bills not different work. I guess that mostly rules out the corporate world, but the corporate world and I parted company a long time ago. It just took me 10 years to recognize it.

Hmmm. Wow. 50 is not so bad. In fact I'm starting to feel sorry for 20 year-olds. All they have is youth, and (to paraphrase Mark Twain) they're too damn young to appreciate it.

Thanks for reading. Here's to another great half-century. C'mon along.


Flatman said...

Definitely the "post of the day"! Maybe the post of the year! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and am, in fact, printing it out to put in my little "notebook of cool stuff that I find..."

Thanks so much for sharing with us what goes on in that genius head of yours, which sits upon that mechanical body of yours. You inspire me to be a better triathlete, father, person.

I have the utmost respect for someone who can sit down and pen these kind of thoughts from the heart!

Wil said...

You consistently amaze me in so many ways. This is incredible.

bunnygirl said...

Wow. Thank you so much for that!

I love getting older for just the kind of insight you've described. I'm going to my 20 year high school reunion this weekend and was sitting here hijacked by emotions and insecurities I had thought resolved so, so long ago.

Thanks for putting me back on track.

And I'll be adopting as many of those resolutions as apply. Thanks again!

Keryn said...

A friend of mine recently berated me for being eager to turn 30. I told her I couldn't wait to get out of my 20's. I was looking forward to being a real grown up, to feeling more free, etc.

You are an inspiration. I can only hope I have half your wisdom, athleticism, and enthusiam when I turn 50. You rock, Vertical Man!

mipper said...

beautiful. happy birthday steve! i hope the next 50 see your resolutions come about. if anyone can make it happen, i believe it is definately you. again, happy birthday!

Spence said...

pure genius. you are amazing. I can hardly believe that it's free to read all these lucky we all are to have you at the other end of the keyboard. Thanks!

Vertical Man said...

Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting!

Spence, as I told you in my e-mail, I'm still amazed that anyone WANTS to read what I scribble!

Bunnygirl, good luck at your reunion. 20 years is sort of a "milestone" reunion isn't it? It was for me anyway. I can't wait to read your report.

Keryn, you may not want to make me the poster child for turning 50! I sat on my ass for most of my 20s, 30s and 40s! Only my doctor kicking me in the very same ass got me in the tri game 2 years ago. You're getting a WAY head start on me so it's you who is gonna rock!

Anonymous said...


Do I have to say something as profound when we celebrate my 40th? Can I say that I knew you when....? It has been fascinating to watch the transformation from afar.

Happy birthday a couple of days early, Oh Perfect Master. Check your lawn for the pink flamingos (just messing with you).

Best wishes.


Vertical Man said...

OK, Anonymous, remember I know who you are and (vaguely) where you live! Yes, you are welcome to be profound on your 40th. Yes, you can say you knew me "waaaaaaaaay back when" though you'll only be telling a story on yourself since everyone now knows how old I am!

tri-mama said...

There are never enough sage men in the world, thanks for letting us know you, or at least read your thoughts. Happy 1/2 century.