It’s been six months of this, I figure. Half a year. One-hundred and eighty-two days, more or less, of a ratcheted-up life, expected and still surprising in exactly how busy I’ve been.
Relatively. For me. Your busyness may vary.
Filmmaking and baby-making were responsible, not wanting to give short shrift to other factors but not really sure what shrift is. There are a million metaphors, in fact, from steam building to balls rolling to amps amping to pipers piping, but it was just busy. I can easily go a calendar year without venturing further than a 30-mile radius from my house, as sad as that sounds, and I probably broke some records this year. I spent a lovely weekend in Portland with my lovely wife last spring, and some more loveliness a little closer to home in August, not to mention a few hours in the North Cascades in front of a camera, and those are only the sedate highlights.
I also made two trips to Austin and one to Phoenix, perfecting my packing skills and learning to accept my fate: I will be traveling from now on.
On the other hand, so many details have remained the same. I have a solid hunch that I might be minimally more content if I were 20 pounds lighter, but my weight has stayed exactly the same this past year and I’m generally OK with it. My income seems on track to be exactly the same, although I’m spending more money (see: Travel). I’ve learned a few minor skills that involve cooking and photography, but they’re really minor. Tiny skills about apertures and proper pancakes, but it’s generally been a polishing year, just practicing what I know and knowing that I should practice.
And yet. Something happened last month that gave me pause, and here it is.
I went to the doctor for a physical, and the message I received was essentially Last year you were really healthy, particularly for a 54-year-old, but in general just really healthy. This year, somehow, you’re healthier. This makes no sense but y’know. I guess just keep doing what you’re doing.
This was sort of a tongue-in-cheek message, since of course there are plenty of unseen age-related health issues that could be forming as I write. Cells mutating into future malignancy. Arthritis creeping into once-pristine joints. Scar tissue forming, arterial sludge building, electrical signals degrading, everything degrading. This is aging, possible to ignore but not to avoid.
Still. It made me wonder. My lifestyle, aside from the busyness (back to that in a sec), has remained static as far as I can see. My diet hasn’t changed. My exercise routine hasn’t changed (it’s decreased, in fact, in the past few months, with the travel particularly). Other than the pancake expertise, I can’t think of any major changes that could account for the health uptick.
Except. I feel happier. And so I wonder.
Happiness. Oh, elusive happiness. Even contentment has always been a phantom state, appearing in my peripheral vision for a moment and then whisk, gone. Dissatisfaction isn’t a pathology, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not as though I’ve been depressed and grumpy my entire life, but lately I’ve been happier and so I wonder about causation and correlation and really spectacular cholesterol levels.
It’s just something to ponder, happiness. A grandchild has to take some responsibility here, of course. The generally affirming experience of working on a creative project for most of the summer with young energy everywhere I look also gets a nod. I can think of other things, if I want to think.
But pulling back to look? I was busy. Maybe I shouldn’t be thinking as much as I should be doing.
I don’t do resolutions said everyone always. We all seem to agree that goals are good, setting and achieving, but we sniff at tying them to the calendar, and hello? Calendars are what we are, this side of living in a cave and, I dunno, sleeping all the time.
It doesn’t seem much of a secret, but the secret to aging well has always, at least empirically, appeared to me to be change. As opposed to growing older and sliding over into the slow lane, routine maintenance alone requires more effort. Everything that shouldn’t stiffen will stiffen with far less downtime than before, and I’m including arteries. Which are important.
So now I ponder the new calendar year, a completely artificial construct but like that’s news. Maybe I need to legislate change, codify it, write it down and say I’m going to do it, and then do it. Maybe I need some real New Year’s resolutions this time.
And maybe I need them because I need to keep moving, and because it worked so well last year. Because it would be fun next November to have another good physical exam and lab work. Because getting away with my wife for the occasional weekend takes some stamina and planning. Because this film will be released in the spring or early summer and it’d be fun to say yeah, the hardest part was gaining 20 pounds so I looked a little older than I am. Because I haven’t done push-ups in a few years and I used to feel really good when I did push-ups.
Because change for change’s sake isn’t a bad idea at all, but change for the sake of improving the quality of life is an attractive goal, and I’m attracted.
So, maybe. I’ve got three days off this coming weekend, with a quiet house as the reverend heads to Grandson Land, so it’s time for cleaning and straightening and maybe thinking about this next year. Maybe documenting it, too. But definitely thinking about doing, which will require examining what I’ve done and where I can improve, which means sort of a confessional experience, which is, as it turns out, the definition, archaic as it is, of shrift. Let me not short it, then.