Friday, October 19, 2012

Life Stages

43) Life Stages

 have plenty of senior fraternity Brothers, but the eldest of my circle is turning 60.

He helped me obtain my first and only car, my beloved maroon '78 Firebird with Cragers (my 8-Track still works).

            I have another best friend who is already past 60, and as athletes, he can still run and swim circles around me.

            I have other sexagenarian cronies.  One, age 68, walks 17 miles around the Lehman College arboretum per workout, a few times a week, year-round, in between hours of piano practice.

            Their chronological ages amaze me since I do not measure them by years, unless it's the length of our friendships.

            My friends and I have grown up together, literally and figuratively made music together; run organizations together, graduated together, and traveled the world together.

            We've known each other's families, girl/boyfriends & spouses, been in business together, attended each other's weddings, and supported each other through divorce, parental care, disease, disaster, and death.

            We share values, senses of humor, intelligence, sophistication, curiosity, morality, commitment to causes, and support for each other.

            Yet most of us 'march to our own drummers'.  (Henry David Thoreau: "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.")

            I've watched Brothers, classmates, friends, and family buy their first homes; I've watched their kids grow up, and attended Christenings, Communions, and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. 

            We share each other's fortunes - life fortunes, if not financial ones.  Some have been up, some down, some stable, some still unfolding.

            There's always a laugh in the wings, a shoulder to cry on, a bed waiting for me, should I travel somewhere around the world, and a shirt off a back, if I need it.

            I've yet to start a family, or make the financial fortune I desire, but my classmates and Brothers are already speaking of being empty nesters, their kids' careers and with whom their kids date or live.  And they speak of downsizing their homes and retiring to Florida!  We discuss how to care for the thinning ranks of parents, and whether or not to prepay our funerals.

            This retirement to Florida scuttlebutt has me, yet again, realizing another paradigm shift in the personal lives of the group to which I belong, the group that makes up my age-wave.

            I may not be doing the same things they do, nor share the same interests, but I watch and learn.  And I consider myself rich.  My Dad just asked how frequently I gather or speak with Brothers and classmates, and the answer is weekly; I’m not sure what I would do without them.

            I can't really relate to some of what they are doing, they seem so far ahead of me; careers, big houses, autos, kids, retirement savings.

            Yet, others are approaching 60 and have elementary school kids.

Then I hang with younger men and women, and they seem so far behind, in certain ways, still wet behind the ears from college, maybe living at home, single, starting careers, just going out at 11pm.

            So it’s also choices, not just stages.  And it reinforces my decision to march to my own rhythm section and laugh about Don Quixote.

            Long ago I made a conscious, deliberate decision to avoid being caught in the 'keeping up with the Jones' and 'the grass being greener' elsewhere.  I don't believe the universe works that way, especially with the experiences I've had, and my learning from history and others’ mistakes.

            After all, if we cannot learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.  And why not learn from both my own and other's mistakes, rather than having to learn the hard way?  I’m smarter than that, and it seems to me, that the right to a brain, or sentience, implies the responsibility to use it; a responsibility to family, friends, society, and myself.

            So I tend my own garden, I tend my flock, I try to enjoy life each day (even amidst my complaining), and I manage my expectations.  This helps me to be more comfortable with who I am.

I still cannot see the path ahead, or the light at the end of the tunnel, but I generally, now, get to enjoy the journey.  I am responsible for my decisions, my choices, my attitude, and my own happiness.  I am motivated by goals, not fears.  And I have the support and friendship of others.

            I learn from all, respect my elders, and coach those younger.  We give, receive, and enjoy what we each have to offer.  We share each other's fortunes - life fortunes, if not financial ones, albeit financial wealth abounds.

            Although we come from different walks of life and spend our days toiling in diverse vocations and lifestyles, our wealth is not measured so much in dollars, as in friendship.

            Our bonds aren’t based on how much we have, nor lack.  It isn’t based on rubbing shoulders with the 'right' people, or people of the same economic class or political party, or religion.

            I define wealth by fun, relationships, happiness, fulfillment, and hopefully health and peace.

            Financial wealth is secondary, a tool, not an end.  It is a human invention, and fleeting; one cyber attack, nuclear incident, or major sunspot, or meteor, or major hurricane or earthquake, or tsunami, and the rules of society will change - most likely reverting to 'dog-eat-dog'.  Thus, the relationships will outshine the luster of gold.

            I believe relationships are based mostly on shared experience and shared values.  That, along with managing expectations are the keys to the kingdom: wealth and longevity: 'Live long, and prosper’.

            To wit, how do you measure wealth?  How do you steward your money?  Who's in your support circle - or corner?


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