Riding the standup roller coaster in Jurassic Park

Column by Jim Bishop

“To be loved, to be loved,

Oh, what a feeling,

To be loved …”

– The late Jackie Wilson

If things improve with age, then you’ve just about reached perfection.

This was one of the more encouraging messages received a year ago amid a larger number of birthday greeting reminders of my having taken up permanent residency in the Paleolithic Era.

And, as this disorientated dinosaur sinks deeper into the tar pit of torpor, another warning sounds – birth dates on calendar are closer than they appear.

In a few days, another chapter of my autobiography concludes and I turn the page, wondering what lines will be written there and how and when the story ends. I don’t fixate on the uncertainties; in fact, it’s good that we don’t know what lies ahead for each of us, not even what might transpire an hour from now.

Each of us has access to signposts for the journey, however, based on observing and experience, through seeking divine guidance and by making informed decisions (not easy, but I’m convinced that many detours and disappointments are of our own making).

So, have I learned anything over the past year about myself, about human nature and the larger forces that prod me on?

For starters, I’m well aware that certain options in my life are narrowing. I’m not a marketable commodity were I to try making a career change with three years to retirement, and that’s a mite disconcerting. I don’t think it’s the best timing to quit my current job or consider grad school, either.

Everywhere I go, I take advantage of senior discounts. There are a few perks in growing older; this is one of them.

I find myself, without thinking, humming or singing along to the canned music in business establishments – except for places that play that wretched contemporary hit/hip-hop music. Songs like “Turnaround” by Jimmie Rodgers, Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” and “Wasted on the Way” by Crosby, Stills and Nash put a lump in my throat, as does “Dance With My Father” by the late Luther Vandross and the Righteous Brothers’ “White Cliffs of Dover.”

The Apostle Paul, who had his share of trials and adversity, put it so well, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11).

I feel most contented when pursuing tasks that I enjoy and draw energy from, even work-related (imagine that!) – writing about a person or an event that I believe merits public recognition; taking photographs – especially candid ones – and surprising someone with prints; dishing out stacks of wax from days of yore on my weekly “Friday Night Jukebox” show on WEMC-FM; and joining in rich, four-part acapella harmony in the time-honored hymns of the church in Sunday morning worship.

More and more, simple pleasures keep my motor running – heading on down the highway with the top down on the Miata on a warm, sunny day with vintage music pulsing from the CD player; putting my best/worst foot forward with friends at our regular Leather and Lace country-western dances; nursing that third cup of coffee on an unhurried Saturday morning.

I affirm the verity of this observation from the late Peyton C. Marsh: “The three things we crave most in life – happiness, freedom and peace of mind – are always attained by giving them to someone else.”

I’m drawn to persons who seem to exude these qualities in hopes they rub off on me in greater measure. It seems easy to become more withdrawn, self-centered and anxious about the ‘morrow with passing time, affirming that “life is good” while acknowledging my limitations in dealing with the bad and the ugly.

I’ve become more and more selective in what extracurriculars I choose to pursue, to watch less TV and even fewer movies, to avoid getting caught up in the “gotta have” mentality, whether its access to 200 channels of entertainment or thousands of songs I’ll never get around to playing on an iPod.

I’m facing the reality of spending an entire day in active physical labor and suffering the consequences, struggling to tread water in a churning sea of technological change, missing appointments even though written in plain view and forgetting persons’ names within minutes of introduction.

On the other hand, I’m frequently reminded that there are few emotional rushes that compare to the sense of being loved, of a grandchild running full throttle at you and wrapping his arms around your legs, of completing a difficult task and having someone else say, “Nice job.”

I fret, unduly, that those earliest concerns related to survival of the fittest – eating, sleeping and pooping regularly – will elude me in the days ahead.

It may be a jungle out there, but through thicket and thin, I plan to live forever.

Safari, so good.

 

Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be reached at bishopj@emu.edu.


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