I have been waiting my whole life to feel like an adult, thinking that at some point I would feel differently, that I’d cross some imaginary line and feel grown up. But that day has never come, and as I’m cresting the hill and looking at seventy just down the road, it has gradually dawned on me that it is never going to come. I will always feel twelve.
That people perceive me as an adult strikes me as a cosmic joke. When I was in my forties and learning to fly, I’d rent an airplane, and as I walked out on the tarmac with the keys in my hand, I’d get this rush. Holy shit! They just gave me the keys to a friggin’ airplane! Don’t they know I’m twelve? This is crazy! Crazy fun. Crazy exciting. Crazy thrilling. As I’d do my preflight inspection, I’d summon all my attention because I didn’t want to blow my cover. I knew if they realized I was twelve, they’d run out and take the keys away from me. Taxiing down the runway. Talking to the tower. All of it was absolutely delicious. Why? Because I’m twelve, and I’m flying an airplane!
Being perceived as an adult definitely has its advantages. People listen when I talk. I get respect that they might not give a young person. When I say something, people think I know what I’m talking about, even though sometimes I don’t. It’s just because the words are coming out of a sixty-five-year-old mouth, and people don’t realize a twelve-year-old is speaking them. Even children obey me. They don’t know that I’m only a couple of years older than them.
Before we bought the farm from Geneva, I remember her exclaiming one day out in the yard, “I’m eighty-two, and I don’t know how I got here.” Now I understand. I’m sixty-five, and I don’t know how I got here.
What age do you feel?
No one is guaranteed that they will make it to the end of the day. Death is not an abstract concept. It’s a reality. It’s a given that we will die, we just don’t know when or how. Some deaths come with a warning, other deaths are sudden, but either way, we die, and are gone from this world. Death is ever present in our life.
Death gives us the freedom to live life. The fact that we will die and everyone and everything will be taken from us is not a morose thought. It’s an empowering thought. When you realize that it all goes, either in one fell swoop on your death bed, or in drips and dribbles as you go through life, if you truly understand this, you are free. You’re not attached. You’re not clutching and desperate. Every experience becomes precious, because you realize you’re being allowed to live a little bit longer. You don’t take for granted what is happening, because you know it will never happen again. You don’t take people for granted, because you realize that person won’t always be in your life. They can be taken from you at any moment, and someday they will be, or you from them. But you’re together now, and you’re having this experience now, and how sweet it is! How joyful to feel this and see this and do this, What a gift! because it will all end. With death, this will all be over. But, it ain’t over yet! You are savoring it! Death is teaching you to savor life.
I have had two house fires in my life, both homes reduced to charcoal heaps. All the stuff was gone, but look what remained - family and friends who helped us. Someday, like those houses, we too will be ashes, but our words will remain. You may be reading this and I may already be dead. It’s entirely possible. We’re still reading words that were written 2,000 years ago, learning from them. What do you want your words that remain to be? What will be your legacy? Make it something good. Something worthwhile. Something beautiful. Something from the heart. Something true. This is the gift of knowing we will die. It calls us to be great in this moment, while we still can. You’re alive right now, so take what’s left of your life and make it something great.
Amor fati. Love what is. Everything is beautiful, but not everyone sees the beauty. Our work is to refine our vision so that we can see the Truth - the perfection in life as it is. Sometimes our greatest lessons come from our hardest experiences. Every moment is an opportunity to learn and to love.