Shrinking Into the Next Phase of Life

The body contracts a bit, the spirit expands

Posted Feb 02, 2015

the body contracts but the spirit expands
photo illustration for John Schuster

For the 10,000 boomers every day who turn 65:

I am with the crowd that does not make resolutions. I’d rather reflect and trust that I have ample momentum stemming from my values and goals, and that I will flow, more or less, into this no-longer-new year of 2015.

The aging process is an endurance contest for body and spirit. The body will eventually lose, but the spirit can keep winning. There are plenty of things we can do for our bodies, some wiser than others. Joan Rivers said that she had so much plastic surgery that when she died she'd donate her body to Tupperware. That is one response.

I recently noticed the body factor when I put on some still-in-very-good-shape dress pants, still new-looking from the lack of wear. I noticed they were baggy and uber-pleated like those of all men of any age some years ago. But mine were also too long. My reaction was: “Shoo—oot!! Why are they flopping around on my shoe and almost to the floor in the heel?” Simple explanation. I weigh the same as I used to. But I've shrunk a little bit. I'm about an inch shorter than I used to be at my 6-foot peak. What a bummer that is! This is an unwanted reminder that my body is in these slowly fading years.

So how do I think about this? I feel vital. I have dreams and hopes about what I want to do with work and life. But knock knock—there's a little tap at the door that reminds me often enough that I am physically on the decline.

So the good news here is on the spiritual/emotional side. Wisdom and my internal life are the gifts this age brings, not a bad trade-off for baggy pants, thinning hair, and character-expressive wrinkles. It would be nice to have both youth and wisdom. But I can keep on moving ahead without trying to freeze my body in time like our culture seems obsessed with. It is not like I am without health at all—I am playing tennis and biking and gardening. And thank God I can say I am pain free, a luxury you don’t know you have until you have to live with pain.

I will continue appreciating the life of the body and the spirit, and the inner life of meaning and perspective may be the most important part, always and very much at this stage. I will also hem my pants, and get some new ones.

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