(I’m not old, I’m perennial)
It’s the last day of 2017 and I’ve been 80 for 10 days. Here’s what’s bad about being 80:
I can’t run
I can’t ski
It’s hard handwriting thank-you letters which is the polite way to do it
(osteoarthritis is responsible for all the above)
Here’s what’s good about being 80:
People are solicitous, asking if I want to sit.
They open bottles for me and let me go first.
I don’t get groped or harassed
I can fall back on “Well, I’m old,” to justify mistakes
My strong muscles which have always been there have suddenly become a remarkable anomaly to people who hug me
I’m viewed as an elder (even though I feel like a newbie)
I can look back over 8 decades and hence can remember:
When song birds and empty spaces were plentiful
When there were only 2 billion people in the world and consequently less stress, clean air and water, way less traffic, more opportunity to pull yourself up by your bootstraps
When it was safe for a kid to play alone, outside, in the street or the forest
All the challenges and tradegies that I survived (hence, I know I can again)
How to make lemons into lemonade & not sweat the small stuff
I’m less scared of embracing uncertainty
I’ve had time to learn to forgive and the time to reflect and learn from my experiences
I know what I need so I can jettison what is unnecessary
I’m less susceptible to stress (“This too shall pass”)
I no longer hold grudges (with the exception of Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney both of whom I still believe should be tried for crimes against humanity)
I’ve learned to be more tolerant and patient
I have less ego stake in outcomes
I know there are many things that I will never do or do again and it doesn’t matter (start a new business, go to Myanmar, drive a Ferrari, learn to sail, get married, etc)
So, for me, there’s way more positives than negatives about being smack dab in the midst of oldness. But then, I have my health.
One more thing: There has never been a time in my 80 years when I have felt what I’m feeling today: utter terror that our country is being taken into a possible dictatorship, with a KGB-type intelligence/surveillence; that poor people, people of color, formerly well-paid blue collar working people, will never again be able to afford good schooling, a home, health care, freedom from violence and stress and that too many won’t even know it’s happening because they aren’t getting true news/facts.
2017 showed us—at least those of us who are still able and willing to access truthful news—that the threats to our democracy and to our environment are far worse than any of us dared imagine. The seeds of fascism are all around us.
So my plea to those who follow me on social media is to harness every ounce of your abilities, imagination and courage to do all that you can, in collaboration with others, to stop the destruction of Democracy and civil society. Join others in non-violent efforts not just to resist but to transform the social and political landscape. I am doing it by working with groups on the ground in various parts of the country who go door to door, finding out what people are worried about and helping them understand why those now in power do not intend to help them. Quite the opposite. There are so many people and organizations out there working to educate potential voters and to build long-term people’s movements with the aim of establishing a vibrant, democratic civil society. We must make it possible for single mothers to earn a living wage and have access to affordable child care; do away with mass incarceration and the privatization of prisons; sexual harassment and violence against women must end; former unionized workers must be retrained for the new economy and given jobs not promises; student debt must be forgiven and schools must be improved for all young people; our public lands must be protected and all forms of extraction halted; racism must be made a shameful (and acknowledged) part of our past. There is so much to be done and all of it is possible if all of us can muster the will and determination to fight back against what’s happening.
Greed and selfishness are not the pillars of a stable society so let’s be fierce in this New Year.