What does it mean to be fifty? I haven't a clue. I'm still wrestling with issues from forty-five.

One difference, though: at fifty, I don't feel like I have my shoulders pinned to the mat.

And this surprises me. I mean, purely from a physical standpoint, I have gone from acceptable if not noteworthy to just this side of frail. Or so it seems to me, anyway; I filled up an entire Dumpster with the detritus of my last ten years yesterday, carting roughly a ton of junk across the parking lot, and I felt like I'd been juggling bowling balls. It doesn't help that I still have about 800 lb of stuff to go. (Why didn't I finish? The answer is in that word "filled".)

But that massive disposal operation is ultimately a metaphor for Where Things Stand at the beginning of my second half-century. For roughly twenty years, I've been more or less content to go with the flow, to let the chips fall, to pile up the clichés. Something — I'm not sure what — has set up a diversion. Something has changed. And perhaps that's my task for the next five years: to figure out exactly what that something may be.

So I have to clean yet another house, sort through the emotions, the neuroses, the random thoughts, find out what's worth keeping and what can be tossed. It's a scary proposition, to say the least. Yet somehow, I'm not particularly scared.

And maybe, just maybe, that's what's changed. Fear may do you some good when you're younger; at fifty, it's just one more thing that gets in the way. While I'm not about to claim that I've suddenly become hell on wheels, I'm reasonably certain that the person I was at forty-five, while he might have made noises about, say, driving across the country or buying a new home, would never have followed through.

Things are about to get very interesting indeed.

The Vent

25 November 2003

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