On Turning 60

“Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.” — Leon Trotsky

At the aikido dojo recently, we got to talking about our ages. Sensei is 54, one of my fellow students just had his fiftieth birthday, and I turned 60.

The fellow who turned 50 allowed as how he was bothered by that milestone. Sensei asked me how I felt about mine. I said, “For some reason, I feel insanely proud….” The words just came out, but they’re true.

What am I so proud about?

Oh, I don’t have anything much to brag about. I’ve written no symphonies, no museums have hung my paintings, there are no patents in my name from these six decades. Objectively, I haven’t accomplished a hell of a lot.

Yet, here I am, and I feel immensely grateful to be up and around at all… I’m even swaggering with the joy of it.

All four limbs are working, I haven’t changed my glasses prescription for 35 years, and I’m closing in on being able to do 100 push-ups at once. Physically, I’ve been blessed. I’ve never been that much of a jock, just strong enough to do whatever I needed or wanted to do. I’m sure it comes from growing up in northern British Columbia. (My doctor tells me 60 is the new 40… I’m not sure whether I quite believe that.)

While my wife and I have occasional differences, I’ve been very lucky to have her for more than 20 years. I have a couple of old friends. Work relationships are good.

My mental faculties seem to be fully operational. Of course, one is often the last to realize in that realm…

It’s not that there are no signs of aging, there are. My stretches at aikido don’t go as far now. It’s a little easier for me to get tired. I’m not as interested in martial arts and other physical challenges as I might once have been. (Although I do have that push-up goal I’m going to accomplish.)

It is scary to realize that in 10 years I will be seventy. It’ll be a lot tougher to pretend then that I’m not so old, if I make it.

What do I want to do in the next decade?

Things to accomplish

I would really like to write another novel, of good enough quality that I don’t feel that I have to hide it in a drawer like the one I wrote in my thirties. I’ve got some more living under my belt, I know more about how people tick… I think I can make something of it.

My notes are finally coming together for it. Some more foundational work on characters and a little more background research, and I’ll be ready to try to lay out the scenes following the Butler strategy.

I love to learn blues and rock guitar. I’m studying with a working rock musician, teacher and music producer, and I’m slowly making progress. Maybe by the time I’m 80, I’ll be able to really rock out.

And painting… I still struggle with it, and still love it, especially when an image actually comes together for me… unfortunately not that often.

But in the end I will have as much time as I have, and not a moment more. You can take nothing with you. There is just this moment, and this one… I am so fortunate, and yes, blessed, to be here to witness as many as I can. And to meet a few people along the way.

I do sort of subscribe to the crazed Hunter S. Thompson take on the end, although in my own sedate and restrained way:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Pacing… That’s the thing.


Explore posts in the same categories: Aikido, Awareness, Martial arts, Writing

7 Comments on “On Turning 60”

  1. Rick Matz Says:

    I’ll be 54 and right behind you, brother.

  2. fencer Says:

    Thanks, Rick!


  3. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have lived life, even a teensy bit, like the Doctor. How drab, drab, drab it would have been to have lived like our Prime Minister. Better to have screwed it on like Gordon Campbell if you ask me.

  4. fencer Says:

    Hi Mr. Beer,

    I was reading up on Thompson a bit… he got the Dr. from the Universal Life Church, a sort of mail-order institution. I remember years ago in university, as one of my general protests about everything, I became a minister through the ULC. My roommates called me Rev when we drank too much beer and cherry liquor.

    It’s a toss-up for me between Harper and Campbell… Harper, for all his drabness, has the consolations of his megalomaniac desire for power in our parliamentary dictatorship.


  5. MDW Says:

    My hero is a guy I read about in a news article a couple years back. I can’t remember all the details, but basically he died at 104. He’d still be alive, but he got hit by a car while crossing the street.

    A one time boxer and “strong man” act at his 100th birthday party he would bend quarters in half with his fingers and apologize because he used to be able to do it with dimes.

    One of the guests that didn’t know him and came with a friend said he couldn’t figure out who the party was for. He said if you would have told me he was 70, he wouldn’t have believed it.

    Staying active mentally and physically seem to go a long way toward staying “young”. At least I hope so, otherwise I’m wasting a lot of time on the damn treadmill.


  6. Rick Matz Says:

    I plan on being the toughest guy in the nursing home.

  7. fencer Says:

    Hi Mark and Rick,

    That’s impressive that fellow you mention, Mark. That’s a strong guy. We’ve got to stay active and keep the range of motion as much as possible.

    Rick, I figure if I can tough out five push-ups in the rest home that might impress all the old girls…


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