Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Next 18 Years

In a few days I will be 62 years old. This isn't a big deal birthday. It isn't one of those landmark years like 60 was and 70 will be. It's just another birthday. The only thing new to report is that this year, for the first time, I have been thinking about how much life I have left.

This isn't a maudlin exercise. It is just a simple calculation. For whatever reason, I have thought for some time that I will probably live to the age of 80. I might change my mind in my late 70s, but for now, 80 seems about right. If that turns out to be the case, it means that I have 18 years left to live.
So now the question is, how do I want to spend those 18 years?
This has been a dilemma for me lately. I don't feel inspired to make a "bucket list" of things I want to do before I die. I have, in fact, done pretty much everything I set out to do, plus a few things I never dreamed I would. I don't feel like I have unfinished business. And yet, I don't want to just drift aimlessly across the finish line. I want these 18 years to mean something.

When I look back on my life, I see that most of it has been about "doing" something:

  • Becoming educated
  • Building careers
  • Raising a family
  • Starting businesses
  • Rehabbing houses
  • Renovating gardens
  • Traveling
  • Working, working, working
I have no interest in revisiting any of these things. I believe I am finished with the "doing" phase of my life. I am ready to explore the meaning of the saying: I am a human being, not a human doing.

And so I want the next 18 years to be about "being" something:

  • Being engaged.
  • Being useful.
  • Being curious.
  • Being happy.
  • Being generous. 
  • Being willing to be willing to consider new ideas.
  • Being loving, and thus, being loved.
I don't know what will be in front of me as these years unfold. But I can use this "being" list to make decisions about what I want to do. For example: Will this activity engage my interest? Is it of any use to  myself or anyone else? Do I even care about it? Will I be happy doing it? Will this be something good to share? Will this expand my world view? And most importantly: Is this what love would do? 
This feels like a graceful and purposeful approach to the grand finale of this lifetime. As I wrote this post, I could feel myself relaxing into it.
Now I'm ready for some birthday cake.