I know you folks at the gym were enjoying a giggle at the sweatband on the scrawny middle aged dude who is only there to ride a bike. I knew it looked goofy when I put it on. It made my bald spot show. But, the thing is, I sweat a LOT, and it sometimes drips on my book when I’m on the recumbent bike. I hate that way more than I worry about how I look. So I go with what works.
That’s what us older dudes do.
All of my life I’ve had a hard time understanding the eccentric old person. For the first half of my life (and least I hope it was only half) I’ve worried about trying to encourage other people to respect me and like me. I figured everyone else starts off the same way. So what comes over a guy that makes him turn in the skinny jeans and opt for polyester shorts and long white socks? To wake up with wacky hair, look in the mirror, and decide “I can go with that.” To basically tell the world to go jump in a lake?
Over the last year, I finally get it.
You see, I know you are proud of your guns and abs. And I’m honest enough to admit, you look terrific. My “abs,” to the extent they can be called that, are marked up with a half dozen scars where doctors have taken out organs that are supposed to be pretty useful. No, I don’t do sit ups. But I get up…every morning, without all of my original parts. You do that, and I’ll tip my hat to you then.
And all of those weights you can bench press. Zowie. Time was that I was a strong guy, too. Much stronger than my size. Then I was run over by an eighteen wheeler. Fifteen broken bones and a punctured lung. To paraphrase Yoda, “When crushed you are, so good you will look not.” Have a truck dropped on you, and then let’s see what you’ve got.
This time last year, you were probably doing what you are doing now. You were here at the gym, lifting heavy things, flexing for girls, and staring at yourself in the mirror. This time last year, I was getting over a coma and being dead–twice–and was about to go another round of trying to check the big ticket on an operating table. I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror after that, too. I saw a wraith. So, yeah, the stairs up to the second floor where the bikes are take me a little longer than they should. But I came back from the freaking DEAD. Scoreboard.
When do you stop caring what other people think? When you finally realize that you are playing with house money. When you wake up to the fact that your days on this blue marble are numbered. When you’ve faced some big fights that you didn’t pick and are still here in spite of it. When you finally get it that “happy” trumps “cool,” but only all of the time. When some of what you thought was important is taken away from you, and you have to find joy with what is left. When life hits you square in the mouth, and you stand up and say, “Was that all you’ve got?”
My process probably was accelerated by outside events. But I’m not alone. That skinny octogenarian in the white t-shirt and the blue-veined legs marching on the treadmill? Chances are, he’s seen more than you have imagined, endured more than you could handle right now, and he probably has more grit than you can hope for at your age. He likely has overcome more before breakfast than you will face in the coming year. And if he looks goofy, deal with it. He’s comfortable and he doesn’t give a frog’s fat fanny what you think about it.
I’m playing Galaga with bonus lives right now. So I’ll read what I want to read and listen to the music I want to listen to. I’ll speak my mind when I feel like it, and if it shocks someone in the room, I’ll be blissfully unconcerned. I’ll wear what I want to wear. If I don’t want to go someplace, I’ll tell you that. And I’ll wear a terrycloth headband so that I don’t sweat on my books.
At the same time, I’ll enjoy all of the other privileges that come with not being twenty anymore. I’ll love my wife deeply and be completely devoted to her. She’s getting older, too, and with each year is that much better than some skinny little kid with too much makeup and implants. I’ll tell people I love them and not worry if it is cool or manly. I’ll hug the people that matter. I’ll take pride in my faith, even if others aren’t on board with it. I’ll stop during a 5K walk and take a picture of a woodpecker. Because woodpeckers.
I will find joy in a breath.
I will explore the universe by holding my sweetheart’s hand.
I will play the back nine with a joy that I was too scared to embrace during the first 9 holes.
And, even though it is likely in vain, I will urge you to live a fuller life now, before it is too late.