Senescent Choices

By John Thomas Dodds

road

 

Life it seems is what I wake up with. All of a sudden it is today. Sure, I have a few aches and pains. Daily, my body expands and flattens, my feet grow wider as I shrink. Not going gently into the night bits and pieces fall apart, are manufactured and left overnight on my night-stand. I am here, having journeyed a lifetime to get to where I have a need to step out of the picture, and elevate the consciousness of illusion in an endeavor to know myself.

We don’t travel on an unmarked road; however, it is possible to miss the milestones and signs along the way that provide choices. Sometimes we need to recollect what just happened along the route in order to make sense of it all. Sometimes oncoming decisions need to be made immediately without the opportunity to reflect, and if we don’t pay attention, the road may just come to a dead end having missed our cutoff. That’s where choice comes in. Cancer was a sign that said time to turn here.

A sexagenarian friend of mine is financially able to retire comfortably, but remains dedicated to pursuing a line of work he says all his previous working life has led him to. After an expensive divorce, a bout with cancer and lingering aftermath, an early golden handshake, and a gift card from the government for officially being old, you’d think it would be time to stop expanding in the universal scheme of things, whoa down, slow down, leave behind the rebound, spend time staying healthy doing the daily come along, and not much more. Anything but back to work. Yet. Who knows where that road may lead?

I’m not saying that it’s ever time to stop. If you don’t use it, you know, it wears down from lack of friction with life, and rusts. Neuroscience research shows the brain’s biological growth reaches full maturity around age 25. If it did keep growing no one would be able to wear those ubiquitous baseball caps. Continuous higher learning and occupational attainment, on the other hand changes the brain and every experience brings on cognitive growth. Decision making, planning, relationships, the part of the brain that makes us human just keeps chucking along when we use it, for better or worse. H.L. Mencken’s observation that the older he grew, the more he distrusted the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom probably has some merit based on some of the curmudgeons I know. Older brains chock full of expert erudition relevant to a pursuit or passion when utilized for solving problems and coming up with solutions slows the mental aging process.

So who’s to say which is the better choice, keeping the pedal to the metal on the road you’re on, or taking the next turn to follow your dreams? No matter how long it takes there is an ending to everything. Is it possible that what we are after, after all, is an expression of self, and in that an understanding of what it is we are meant to do? All choices are worthy of consideration, or for what reason would we have to wonder, we have to question. I made the choice to follow my dream and take the exit heading for a quiet (sometimes) small village on the shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico and have no regrets. As John Barrymore put it: “Man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”

 

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