A few things I’ve learned in my 70 years

Posted

One of the advantages of growing older has been learning to live more spontaneously. That doesn’t mean that I’m acting more impulsively, but it does mean that I’m resolving to appreciate the good times.

That’s no small achievement for someone who always has been a major worrywart – to the point where it was tough to enjoy my down time. For instance, during my working days, as soon as I met the deadline for that day’s newspaper, I’d start worrying about the next day’s edition.

Although that was perhaps an occupational hazard, my tendency to obsess about what’s coming next too often prevented me from having fun on vacations; instead, I’d spend some of my vacation time worrying about the work awaiting me in the newsroom.

Being a worrywart also diminished my ability to completely enjoy birthdays and celebrations, including my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah 13 years ago. My concerns about the details that had to be taken care of, and dealing with the various problems that cropped up during the event, prevented me from fully enjoying it.

That admission was something I only recently acknowledged, and it was cathartic since it’s helped me to gradually learn to savor life’s simple pleasures.

Ironically, it was the pandemic, which put an end to so many activities that helped me realize it was important to overcome my worrywart tendencies.

I’d been working on that for a while now, but it wasn’t until a week before turning 70, in mid-August, while doing a 5K race in North Attleboro, that I began to put my worrywart self into perspective.

The race was held during early August’s extreme heat wave, and it was a struggle. I told myself that I was fortunate to still be doing races 48 years after first hitting the road, and I took it easy to compensate for the heat.

Then, with two-tenths of a mile left in the race, my worries melted away when I saw that my younger daughter and her friend, who had long ago finished their races, had returned to the course to exhort me to finish.

I was awfully proud of Alana at that moment, and my pride increased later, at the awards ceremony, when it turned out that not only did my daughter win the 20-29 women’s age group, but I had taken second in mine (60-69) – the last time that I’d be racing in that age bracket.

Observations at age 70 

Besides having an epiphany of sorts over my worrywart tendencies, I’ve had a few other revelations since turning 70:

  • It would be a less contentious society if people realized that none of us are getting off this planet upright. It’s a shame that our mortality can’t convince us to treat one another with respect, civility and modesty, instead of the nonstop bickering, complaining and angry tirades that have dominated the nation for way too long.
  • Our health is everything. If you didn’t subscribe to that viewpoint before the COVID-19 pandemic, you should do so now.
  • We should embrace our friends and neighbors. We need each other. If the isolation brought on by the pandemic taught us anything, it was that we can’t live a full life by ourselves; we need to be part of a community.
  • We should try to accentuate the positive. That’s not easy to do in a country where raw hatred, racism and antisemitism are being zealously promoted by white supremacists, who are more emboldened today than they’ve been in decades.
  • Don’t get into social media spats. I’ve never had a personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account and don’t regret it.

Remembering younger days 

You know you’re really old when:

  • You remember rabbit ears on your TV and having only three networks. Now there are hundreds of channels and so many streaming services that our entertainment selections are actually limited. Example: We have cable TV and five streaming services – and still can’t watch movies made by other streaming services, even Oscar-winning films. How about a streaming service that offers the best of all of them? It’ll never happen, because too many people are making too much money off the current restrictive set-up.
  • Too many athletes, TV personalities, actors and actresses I grew up with are dying. Three recent deaths that made me feel very old were those of Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, at age 88, “Star Trek” star Nichelle Nichols, at 89 (Lt. Nyota Uhuru on that iconic ’60s TV show), and Tony Dow, at 77 (Beaver’s brother Wally on “Leave It to Beaver”).

Russell, who won 11 of 13 possible NBA championships during his stint with the Celtics, including two as a player-coach, after he became the first Black coach in professional sports history, was the GOAT – Greatest of All Time – before former Patriots and now Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady was called the GOAT.

The NBA said Russell’s fabled No. 6 will be retired league-wide, meaning that no one else will ever wear it except for a few current players, who will be given an exception. (Major League Baseball years ago did the same thing for the No. 42, worn by Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, who broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947.)

That’s a fitting tribute to Russell, who was not only a great athlete, but also a pioneering civil rights advocate who marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

LARRY KESSLER (larrythek65@gmail.com) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at https://larrytheklineup.blogspot.com.