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Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Age is a concept I haven't quite grasped yet. When I was young I believed it was all in the mind. I have a different idea now that my body keeps breaking down, but it's hard to let go of the illusion. A lot of how I feel is indeed in my mind, and in most ways my physical age is a meaningless number, as I've been telling everyone (and myself) since I turned 30, many decades ago.

I don't think the number means anything to me, but I often think it defines me in some way to other people. And I guess I understand that, because I do it too, with some people. I don't do it nearly as much now as I did when I was younger, of course. Once you've run through all those numbers yourself, you start to realize just how little they can tell you about someone.

If I worked a little harder at maintenance, the years might not be assaulting my body with progressive decrepitude. I have internal barometers that have nothing to do with chronological age except for what natural deterioration contributes. One of these is simply how I feel on any given day. In fact, that's what brought me to this train of thought today.

Some time between getting out of bed and getting dressed, I wrenched something in my shoulder. It was either while I was toweling off after a shower or while I was pulling on a T-shirt. All I know for sure is that I used to be able to perform both of those acts without having to use a bag of frozen peas to ice down my shoulder, neck and back for the rest of the day.

At first the shoulder was on fire with pain, but later on it hurt only when I moved in a certain way. Then this afternoon it would hurt only when I deliberately tried to make it hurt. So, you know, I stopped doing that. I'm old, not stupid.

The other internal age is based on how I'm thinking at a given moment. This is completely different from how I'm feeling physically. It's more like the attitude I take toward what's going on in my life. When I'm watching a baseball game, for example, I might as well be ten, because I look at it the same way I did then. All the outside issues — free agency, big contracts, revenue deficiencies, interleague play, contraction ... I could go on and on but I'm trying to make the point that these outside issues evaporate. They don't exist, because I'm ten.

Of course, the difference between today and back when I was really ten is that the players are now half my age. This was a gradual and somewhat sobering thing, the realization that as time wears on, everybody else gets younger. One day you're younger than average and the next you're older, and there's nothing you can do about it. The good thing is, it happens at a time in your life when if you've learned anything at all, you've learned it doesn't really matter.

Another example: When I'm out on my own in public, I'm fourteen. Awkward, head down, hoping nobody notices me. I'm not saying all fourteen-year-olds are like that. I'm saying that's what I was like at fourteen, and I haven't matured much in some ways since then. The difference is that I've acquired the experience to know what's going on. That doesn't change how I act, just how I feel about it afterward. I cut myself a lot more slack than I did when I was fourteen.

That experience stuff is great. The more years you've lived, the more you know what to do, what not to do, and most of all what not to take as seriously as you did when you were younger. That's the secret to aging gracefully. Not that I'm aging. Or graceful. But it doesn't bother me if you think I'm an old fool or a case of arrested development. You're probably right. So what?


A rose, at night.

Sometimes it helps to live alone, because there's no one around the house whose job it is to remind me how old I am. On the other hand, there's no one to lie and tell me I'm still young, either. It's a trade-off, I guess, if you've made the choice to live that way. In my case, it's just the way things are.

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