Saturday, August 31, 2019

you turn 50 only once

I have a few little toys sitting atop my work station in the office. One is a plastic squid that's perched on my right-hand monitor; another is a plastic octopus that sits on one of my bookshelves; a third critter is a cute stuffed walrus that keeps the octopus company. I got all of these toys at the Lotte World Mall Aquarium souvenir shop, hence the sea theme. But today, I introduce a new animal, an el-cheapo toy purchased on August 19 at the local Daiso (dollar store): it symbolizes and commemorates my having turned fifty today:

Can't say as I feel any different. I didn't sense my passage through any sort of cosmic, existential membrane separating my forties from my fifties. That said, the signs of age are there, but only because they've been there for a while: graying head hair (this began a decade ago), increasingly graying chest and scrote hair, pains that never quite go away, thoughts that push through my brain more sluggishly than in the past, words and turns of phrase that exit my mouth with greater difficulty. Indiana Jones told Marion Ravenwood that "it's not the years, honey—it's the mileage." I've walked a lot over the past decade. A lot. So, yeah: it's definitely the mileage. And it's not just the wear and tear on the feet, either, but also the way the sun bakes your brain. I love walking, but it takes a toll.

While I was in France last year, my French Papa reassured me that life is good through one's sixties; the real difficulties don't set in until one's seventies. Meanwhile, despite now being "in my fifties" (as I'll have to get used to saying), I have role models like Keanu Reeves to look up to: at 54, the man is an unstoppable athletic powerhouse, so really, what's my excuse for being in the shape I'm in, right? Your body is a visible record of your life-choices: the lifestyle you choose is a reflection of your values, i.e., what you prioritize. If my body looks and is unhealthy, then health obviously isn't my greatest priority, nor even a high priority. Change the values, change the lifestyle. QED.

Perhaps the upcoming walk will open a door to a new way of living. It's getting to a point where I do need to think about leaving my adolescent notions of diet and exercise behind; with diabetes and high blood pressure constantly haunting my steps, I really do wonder whether I'll make it much beyond sixty. To that end, I'll be swearing off soda during the walk, and I've also decided that, as much as possible, I'll eat real food at every place I can, i.e., real Korean food at local restaurants instead of the sort of crap I ate in 2017, to wit: fast food, convenience-store junk food, and little else. While it's true that burning 5000-6000 calories a day can make a person feel as if he can eat with impunity, bad eating also takes a toll, especially for those of us old farts who are now in our fifties. Maybe it's time to stop paying this particular tollkeeper, eh? And it wouldn't be a moment too soon: who knows what seeds I've already planted for future cancers, aneurysms, strokes, heart attacks, and degenerative disorders? Leonard Nimoy quit smoking decades before he died, but his COPD caught up with him—a long and patient strain of karma, a sly and methodical angel of death.

Then again, why worry overly? We all have to cark it sometime. As Sean Connery's Malone said in "The Untouchables": Oh, what the hell—you gotta die of somethin'!


Charles said...

That has to be the most morbid birthday post I've ever seen.

Happy birthday, you old dinosaur!

Kevin Kim said...

I like to think of it as gleeful abandon in the face of the inevitable. Enjoy life while you have it!

John Mac said...

I think you make good and valid points here. Still, you need to also do the things you enjoy in life. There's no question I'd be healthier if I gave up beer, but I wouldn't be happier. It's a balancing act.

Like you, I walk for a purpose. Primarily better health, both physical and mental. I'm feeling the negative effects more now at 64, but I intend to keep on keeping on until my body says "no mas!". I don't think there is any question that staying active extends your life. Unless you get hit by a bus.

I will look forward to your reflections on turning 60 in a short ten years from now. Happy birthday!