I’ve been thinking about mortality lately- my own and of those that I love- both two and four-legged. Not in a morose way, just in a sort of reality check way that has me more aware of certain things- a good thing, really. It has been building for a while, but it crystallized at lunch yesterday- our first lunch out since Dan’s shoulder surgery just over a week ago. This was his second shoulder surgery in three months, and it has all taken its toll on him. He shared his concerns with me, wondering if he’ll truly be able to return to life as usual, teaching his beloved yoga classes, and realizing that he will never be able to teach the same high-intensity classes that he is known for. I did my best to reassure him, reminding him that he is so much more as a teacher and a man than the asanas (yoga poses) he is able to demonstrate. I get it, though- being able to do is an important part of my teaching approach in music as well.
I understand Dan’s fears. He is sixty-four and has always been very active (thus the two shoulder surgeries and upcoming knee replacement…). We both know that the road to recovery gets harder as we age- but we are both determined to age well as best we can. By ‘age well’ I don’t mean facelifts and Botox, but instead keeping our spark and ability to remain active. I’m ten years younger than Dan and am already feeling some of what is to come. I apologize to my Mom for ever giving her any grief about complaining over her aches and pains. She was ninety-two…I have no idea how she did so well. I’m already a big wuss and I’m only in my fifties.
Another jolt of reality hit when I photographed my dogs later in the afternoon. For the first time I really saw them as they are- not the puppies that I found in the alley (Coops) and at the Humane Society (Sophie). Where did the time go? They are getting old, white beginning to mark their faces, and they are slowing down. Sophie will be ten in December, Coops, nine in March. They still hopefully have several good years ahead of them, but- like Dan and I both- they have tipped over the side of the mountain. I went back into my albums to find other photos of them throughout the years to look for the subtle signs….
There was the evidence, the subtle changes from puppyhood to mature dog, to really mature dog that happened without me seeing them. Maybe we’re not meant to notice all of those changes as they happen. Maybe we’re supposed to be focused on the beauty of the moment? I see those changes more and more in myself- wrinkles popping up prolifically, gray hair that I spend ridiculous amounts of money to keep under wraps. Like Dan, I am determined to stay active and independent until my last breath- or at least as close to it as I can. But, there is so much more to aging than that, I think.
Instead of focusing on the fewer days left that we all have together, I’m going to throw myself into a well of gratitude for all the joy, all of the life we have experienced together. Every single day is a gift -both the good ones and the seemingly not so good ones. Wrinkles, aches and pains, gray muzzles- all are badges of life well-lived. I learned that lesson best from my mom, who I think was even more beautiful at ninety-two than ever before. Age brings with it wisdom, perspective, acceptance, and- if we do it right- a wonderfully rich life. Every moment is precious, and I see that now in a new light. I’m feeing pretty wealthy in all the right ways today- a perfect Thanksgiving gift.