The third stage of Elderhood: Making sure your life mattered!
today at 8:00 am
The first stage of my passage to Elderhood took place in my mid-sixties, give or take. I looked in the mirror and recognized the disconnect between the image I presented to the world and the soul behind the reflection, and I asked myself, How did I get here and how do I want to live the rest of my life? It was a time to deal with the regrets of the past and to recalibrate the way I measured success, failure, and most importantly, time.
In my seventies I transitioned to the second stage, the question being, Why am I still here? Quite simply, I had to have a purpose for getting out of bed in the morning! I made the behavioral change from self-service to being of-service, using my life’s experiences to try and make a positive difference in communities more familiar with scorn than respect.
Now, in my eighties, the third stage is upon me and the question I’m asking is, Why was I here? Did I make a difference during my time on earth and how will I be remembered when I’m gone? What is left for me to do to justify my time here on earth?
I can spend a part of each day to revel and marvel at the blessing of life itself; to give gratitude for my many privileges and blessings; to enjoy the intimacy of family and the warmth of good friends; to have fun doing the NY Times Sunday crossword; to have an opinion and write my screeds for the ChicagoNow blog every Thursday.
I can whittle down the list of projects I’m motivated and committed to undertake: complete my memoir, edit a new anthology of short stories and finish a stage play I’ve been working on.
The problem is, the necessary raw energy is in short supply; my eighty-seven year old energy tank is running out of steam.
So it’s essential I prioritize. And put personal pleasures aside.
Events of the past days have made it clear, if my contribution to the betterment of the world I entered is to have any impact whatsoever, I must accelerate my efforts to end the systemic racism that will drive this country to civil war if not forcefully addressed.
I cannot brandish a Billy Club and battle the far-right Boogaloo Boys who incite the chaos. But there is power in airing an unwavering voice wherever I can be heard: Black Lives Matter.
I can acknowledge the sin of slavery as the cause of the injustice… and demand that the nation atones for the sin of our forefathers.
I can join in the demand for police reform.
I can insist on the restructure of the failed programs that put band aids on the symptoms and millions of dollars in the hands of inept bureaucrats.
I can vote.
I can lead workshops that inspire men and women to rid themselves of the victim mentality that caps their abilities and perpetuates the myth of their inaptitude.
I can believe in the power of love.
What I will not countenance is a headstone with an uninspired inscription! (Here lies Howard Englander, 1932 – 20??, “Ho Hum”). That will not be my epitaph.