Counteracting “the Fear”

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When you’re young – anything younger than 50, that is – you have a sense that you have time. And by time, I mean all the time necessary to get all of your goals accomplished. But if you are one of the lucky ones (?) who lives without goals and vision, then you are immune to “the Fear”.  But I think these people are few and demand our pity.  The ranks of the age fearing are burgeoning and the answers sought, evasive. And despite the varied breadth of our goals, hopes, and dreams, how much time is really enough?

Now, let me tell you about “the Fear”. It arrived one day about eight years ago when I thought that ‘the rest of the story’ would be to ride it out. I resolved to make no changes. It was too risky, since anything done at that point on could delay retirement, make me sick, ruin my reputation, or worse! So I seethed with a fire inside my head, whose flames whispered “Do it!”, and with a sense within the same space eager to extinguish the spark. I settled for settling, for a brief moment, until I realized the magic question to every answer – “What is the worst thing that could happen?” And when I discovered that, short of dying in the process, there was no situation that was unfixable or permanent.  A new freedom emerged from ‘the Fear’ and a ‘Fearlessness’ was born.

When you are in your 50’s, you embrace a boldness that empowers decisions and choices. A sense that you already may have seen the best of it offers a frustrating cold comfort and a modest relief.  We are off the hook – we have raised our children, worked, and if we are lucky, had a “career” that was successful, or at the very least, profitable.  But is success the same as passion?  Is the paycheck that buys the summer home or yacht, or finances the Disney vacations worth the sacrifice of our time and creativity?  Inspirational posters admonish us to pursue and do what we love.   And if we are lucky, a  realization occurs to us that our careers keep us from our passions only if we lack the imagination to design a way to meld the two. With admiration, I observe friends who abandon profitable careers to pursue passion.  And with a morbid determination, I wrack my brain for a way to combine passion with a modest income.  In the end, I come up short and ultimately, I am somewhat deterred, but not completely without hope or desire.

In any case, with each passing year, there is a sense that time is fleeting. Every birthday is one less that you will celebrate, every new year is a step closer to the end. Christmases, Thanksgivings – they are markers on the road to ‘Old’. When you are younger, these events lack this additional dimension, and I long for these happier, light hearted days.

To counteract “the Fear”, I actively seek ways to maintain joy and fuel passion despite the grim prognosis.  With a few more than 60 days remaining until a milestone birthday (at this point, they are all milestones), and to assist in the crossover to a new decade, my granddaughter created a plan to make “a thing” of me for the last 60 days of 59 (and honestly, if you don’t make a thing of yourself, who will?).  The event, titled “60 Days to 60!”, is a two month long extravaganza designed to acknowledge the importance of feting yourself.  With the goal of inciting a “peak experience” every day until November 16th, I embark on an adventure that identifies the little and big joys, and the passion, in the everyday.  The last leg of the journey – the “12 Days of Mami” will replace the traditional birthday week.  With great excitement, I accept this challenge, offered by an eight year old who, despite her youth, understands mortality on some level – and the need to have fun while your here. Now that’s a reason to make a “thing” of yourself, isn’t it?

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