”I’ve learned my lines. The house lights have dimmed and I’ve just walked center stage for the third act of the play I started writing long ago. And within the physical, economic and intellectual framework of being an 'old guy,' the third act is full of opportunity to grow, acting on my own terms, at my own pace.
His declaration was contained in an email exchange between us about freedom in old age that began when Marc wrote:
”One aspect of The Third Act that old people underplay, is the gift of freedom from the banal exigencies of daily life.
“When I get up on the morning after a heavy blizzard and look out the window at the pure, clean expanse of snow, trees and bushes heavy with last night’s results, I smile, and take another sip of strong, black coffee, and turn on NPR for background noise while I ponder my plans for the day.”
Yessss. As I've mentioned here in the past, in the near 50 years of my working life, I mostly had fascinating jobs I was eager to get to each day. But the regimentation, the morning schedule to shower, dress, feed the cat, gulp of coffee and get to the subway – well, I always wished for more flexibility and more time to myself.
The funny thing is now that I've got all the flexibility I want, I still maintain a morning routine and it's not all that different except for the subway. The important difference is that it is all my choice these days.
Marc continues by recounting the stuff he doesn't do anymore:
”I haven’t shaved in nearly a decade, and I’m not going outside to shovel out my car and slip and slide my way to a job that someone else is welcome to.
“No need to make nice to that silly pompous bastard down the hall; no need to pretend interest in which team is going to the Super Bowl, or listen to the back-biting remarks that pass for conversation in the office.”
Me too. Nowadays, I'm learning to walk away when whatever it is isn't engaging, amusing or fulfilling anymore. That can be as simple as not finishing a book that doesn't grab me enough or as complex as leaving behind a person who causes more pain than companionship.
That doesn't mean there are no obligations. Only that I can choose them for myself now and, as Marc says, I no longer need to pretend to care when I don't.
I can't speak for you, but I know that until Marc mentioned it, I had not appreciated enough this gift of freedom that arrived unexpectedly with old age.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Episode at Michael's