At 55, life is lived a tad slower

I have a birthday coming up later this month. I am taking this one, No. 55, personally. Though I am not much for placing significance on the anniversaries of my coming into this world, this particular one feels a bit more important. I am waxing some?what more philosophic as I mark five years of AARP eligibility.

Despite the fact that I can still cover the miles in my running shoes, usually about 18 a week, I have begun to feel myself slowing down. In my younger days, I played basketball three or four times a week. And I was pretty good at it. As my ability to compete began to fade, I was thankful my desire to run up and down the court also subsided. It was a good fit.

In my 40s, I took up jogging to fill the exercise gap as my waistline began to expand. I played some golf and bowled in a league. These hobbies have kept me in relatively good shape and have kept me off medications that generally seem to follow in the wake of the aging process.

Lately, I have learned a few lessons about the toll my foray into middle age has taken on my physical prowess. The first blow to my ego came when I agreed to become a member of a dodge ball team for the high school?s GAP tournament in February. I didn?t knock out a single enemy. I couldn?t throw, and I was unable to make a catch of anyone?s toss. As I apologized to my teammates, I came to the realization that I had gone from athletic to pathetic.

Then, my running world was jarred when I failed a planned workout on my treadmill. I had to slow down the machine in order to finish. I had previously counted on the fact that in order to improve my race times, all I had to do was increase the intensity of my training.

But now I am beginning to see that I may not be able to get better just by working harder. And I don?t like those kinds of limits.

Fortunately, I believe I can still be competitive?at least in my age group.

While it is somewhat comforting to know that friends and family members are in the same boat when it comes to growing older, the process becomes more difficult as the years pile on. There is no question the water is seeping into that boat, and it takes more and more help to keep up with the bailing. I am not sure I am ready for that.

I am definitely ready to be a grandpa, though. And I know my wife will be a fantastic grandma. Times are different than they were for us as a young couple, however. We already had a child just three years into our marriage.

I do see the need for our kids to create some financial stability in their lives before taking on parenthood. That makes good sense in a lot of ways, and I am proud of them for thinking things through. But I also want to be healthy enough to romp with the grandchildren when they do arrive.

Less I sound line Donnie Downer, I am honestly enjoying this period of my life. I believe the years have brought at least some wisdom, and I have mellowed a bit.

I still think politicians, especially in Kansas, are completely out of touch with reality. But I am less likely to engage in heated discussions with people with whom I disagree politically.

I am more likely to make my points less aggressively, if at all. I choose to reserve my argumentative energies for the most critical issues and, quite frankly, the ones on which I have the best chance at influencing.

Hollering into the winds of a hurricane is not only exhausting, it is ineffective. I still want to make a difference, but I have learned to pick my battles.

At this time in my life, I still think I am mentally strong. I desire to do my job well. I remember most of the names of my students, at the least the current ones.

I enjoy incorporating new instructional methods and technologies into my teaching.

I still get a kick out of teenagers and their perceptions that they have all the answers to life?s questions. They help keep me on my intellectual toes.

Though I occasionally catch the far-off strains of the retirement sirens singing to me, I want to continue to get better at what I do. In the world of education, standing still means moving backward.

I am also enjoying the freedom that comes with spontaneity. If my wife and I want to go somewhere, we go. We don?t need to make arrangements for all the members of a full house. As long as we are carrying a cell phone, we can have instant access to everyone we care about.

We are no longer living paycheck to paycheck, which is a great feeling. Though it never feels like enough, we have some money set aside for when we begin our lives of leisure as retirees some day. If we desire to help someone financially, we can.

Finally, I am still in relatively good health. My age is merely the equivalent of eight dog years. My body mass index is within the prescribed range for my height, so as long as I don?t put on a bunch of pounds or begin to shrink, I should be good to go for a while longer.

So, I am thinking this birthday thing isn?t all bad. I should embrace my age and look forward to the annual benchmark. It certainly beats the alternative.