Now that I have your attention—perhaps you were thinking that this entry would offer a plaintive sadness about the slow departure of youthfulness?—let me come clean: What I really hope we can think about together is the second section of the Pennsylvania Dutch aphorism: “Too late we grow smart!” While the first part of the saying is always true—who can avoid the inevitability of aging?—the second part doesn’t necessarily have to be true. Or at least that’s what most of us would hope!
Now that I’ve arrived at “too soon old”, I am starting to realize that this might just be the time in life when I grow smart! Having discovered that I have missed the smart-mark way too often, this makes me excited. Now I’m coming to realize the small satisfactions that come when newer bits of brainpower are showing up, here and there, in these Older Bob days.
For example, after years of eating way too fast—with attendant digestive results—I have finally come to realize that drawn-out chewing slows down my meals and helps me enjoy food more completely. Driving the speed limit on trips relieves the pressure of high-stakes speeding on my driver’s psyche. Saying “No” has taken off the weight of trying to be “all things to all men”—something St. Paul must have certainly found stressful. I practice tai chi as a form of mindful exercise. For several years, my spouse and I have been part of a daily Silver Sneakers class, and find matters of fitness—stamina, strength, balance and flexibility—improving consistently. We have dialed back our diet to healthy dimensions and have reaped those results. We live frugally, so are gradually adding to savings that can be part of our legacy.
All of this later-in-life smartness, though, doesn’t eliminate the possibility that there are entire landscapes in my life where I could be more shrewd or circumspect. For example, I could turn down the volume on my mansplaining, squelch my tendencies to snap judgments or read more widely. I’m not yet a paragon of generosity or hospitality; I’ve let too many former talents go to seed and could probably work on my abilities to engage people with whom I fundamentally disagree about most things. There’s still a lot of smartness waiting for me to incorporate into my lifestyle.
How about your growing older and smarter? How’s it working out for you? Where could you let go of your mourning about spent youth? In what areas of life, large or small, could you add to your wisdom? Which of the folks smarter than you—including those younger than you—could help you whittle down your rough edges and fill in your empty places? Now that you’re older, it’s eminently possible that this is exactly the right time in life to add layers to your wisdom, in ways that are satisfying to you—and that fulfill even more of God’s will for the world.
Along with Old Bob here, you can rejoice in your too-soon oldness because it could also be the best time for your NOT-too-late smartness!
Plaintive sadness begone….
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