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The Flatlander

Don't Steal The Joy Of Others Among Key Lessons of Midlife

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Midlife.

It’s a word I’ve been thinking on lately.
Some television documentary used it a few nights ago describing my generation. Truth is, unless I live to 112, I’m well past midlife and headed down the hill.

And I’m okay with this.

In the mid-fifties, life is better than it’s ever been. My three adult children are raised and doing great in the professional world, and in the world of higher education. Because they are busy, there are no grandchildren yet, but I believe I’m a better parent to them today than I was 20 years ago, and that’s a good sign for grands.

We do have two weddings on the calendar this year. There’s some mid-life responsibility in that. Imagine the shock recently when my oldest daughter shared with me how it’s not free getting married in the church where she and her fiancée attend. Renting the reception hall, post-wedding is a cool five thousand dollars, then there’s the second “party” reception at a downtown venue where we’ll feed 250 people.

Another cool five grand. Those kinds of things come at you in mid-life, but they are far surpassed by the joy of seeing adult children happy and becoming productive world citizens.

I fulfilled a spousal promise to my wife during the last 12 months to get checked out medically. Aside from carrying too much weight and a sleep apnea issue, I’m doing okay for a guy at 55. Nevermind that I throw the machine in the floor nightly. The most eye-opening part of the experience is the complete broken nature of the health care system and the persistence a person must have to move just about any health care process forward. It is broken, upside down, and exorbitantly expensive. That’s another column someday, but no wonder the average, every day, working American is angry and rebellious toward the system. I put political parties and health care bureaucracy in the same boat.

The simple morning routine of getting out of bed to the first act of the day where I brush my teeth is a reminder about this point in life.
It begins with the simple effort getting out of the bed with excruciating neck and shoulder pain likely brought on by the combination of hitting thousands of tennis balls over a lifetime, and leaning forward in an awkward manner reading a computer screen. It hurts like the Dickens just getting upright.

Then there’s that first two to three steps where one knee feels as though it could blow at any moment, and it takes a good five to six steps to get my back straight. I may or may not say a bad word at this point depending on the pain level. But this is how each day begins.

People keep saying how important it is to slow down and take things in stride during midlife. I find just the opposite.

There are so many things I wish to do, and I can feel the clock ticking down on the time there is left to do it. More places to see. More places to learn about. I tried and failed at a good several things last year including chicken farming and beekeeping. But I tried, and I learned, and these are the color elements of a life story.

A new mid-life venture popped up on the radar screen just a few days ago when I decided to launch a one-acre pecan grove. I’m not sure why, other than a voice somewhere down-deep said to do it, and it sounded like something I’d enjoy. So, we now have 16 bare root Caddo and Kanza variety trees on the way. There’s more to this than just sticking trees in the ground. It requires a long-term commitment to irrigation and fertilizing and disease and pest monitoring. Some people think it’s crazy for a 55-year-old man to start something that won’t “produce” for a good 5 to 10 years. I can’t imagine a moment’s joy that every part of this process won’t bring.

It’s said the best time to plant a shade tree was 30 years ago, and the second-best time is today.

True enough.

Mid-life has taught me how not to steal the joy from people, especially close family members who may want to do something for me. As much as I’d like to help them do whatever it is they’re doing, it’s their joy doing this for me on their own. They want to burn a beautiful pork shoulder into char in my honor? Be my guest. It took me a long time to learn that. Don’t steal people’s joy.

I’ve learned in midlife how to be a helper, and how to always be a rookie at something.
And I’ve learned (and I’m still working on this but getting better) just to relax. Not more than a few minutes into writing this column I learned that some hacker in New Jersey drained my bank account over the weekend buying crypto currency. I did what I could do and will handle the rest on Monday morning. No need ruining my weekend about things I can’t change.

But I may need Editor Lori Freeze to buy my lunch today since I am bank account poor, and am her favorite number-one helper, anyway.

See you in next week’s newspaper.

(Steve Watkins is a writer/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at steve@stonecountyleader.com)

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