Time flies. Time for my annual birthday column.
My birthday column is a once-a-year moment to reflect on life and time passing by. It’s also a birthday gift to myself because the column involves no hard research or effort. It just flies off the keyboard in about, say, 30 minutes.
People often ask how I come up with things to write about. In fact, the reverse is true. I could write 10 columns a day. I call it diarrhea of the brain. Both a gift and a curse.
I’ve been writing this column for over 30 years. When I started, I was younger than average. Now I am older than average.
I recently changed out my column photo. The first reaction from my friends was horror. “Go back to the original photo. It makes you look so much better.” I had to point out that the new photo looks worse because I do in fact look worse. That’s the nature of the aging process. Nothing I can do about that.
I wear the big glasses because I need more eyeglass real estate for my progressive lenses. I realize they don’t look great. I’m simply sacrificing cosmetics for efficiency.
One big late-in-life surprise: I never thought my severe nearsightedness would be an asset. But in this age of smartphones, my smartphone screen is like a 55-inch desk monitor. I stick it right up to my near-sighted eyes and I can see anything crystal clear.
As a result, I don’t have a home laptop or computer. I can do everything I need to do on my smartphone. This has proven to be an enormous convenience, freeing me from having to be at my desk in the office.
For some this might seem a curse. Work never stops. But for a workaholic like me, it’s wonderful. From the minute I roll over and turn off my alarm at 7 a.m.. I am working. By the time I’m on my feet, I have answered a dozen or so emails from my software developers in India.
Growing old has its challenges. I have had to reduce my singles tennis and increase my golf. This was made easier by the fact that I grew up playing golf and only switched to tennis when being a father made golf impractical. Now that the children are grown, I have rediscovered my original love of golf.
I was born with a slight curvature of the spine, scoliosis, so I constantly battle back pain. As a result, I have to do a series of stretches before getting out of bed.
At first I just counted numerically to control the duration of my stretches. Then a thought occurred to me. Counting numbers does absolutely no good. Why not do something better?
So now when I pull my knee to my chest, I say the Lord’s Prayer. Then I arch my back and say the Apostle’s Creed. Then I rotate my back in figure eights while singing the Doxology (switching directions when I go from all creatures here below to all the creatures up above.) More stretches follow to the tune of Gloria Patri and my favorite Corporate Confession of Faith (taken from Psalm 51 when King David was asking God to forgive his adulterous, murderous behavior with Bathsheba.)
So by the time I walk out of my bedroom, I am spiritually pumped. I can’t begin to tell you what wonders this has done for my life. I heartily recommend it. (Although Ginny, not a morning person, does not fully appreciate my stretch routine.)
The older I get, the more I appreciate being a Christian. I think it interesting that I have become so, as I was not very religious until mid life. (Thank you, Ginny!!).
I really started embracing Christianity as a practical matter. Society needs religion to maintain its cohesiveness. It was functional. Plus, everybody in Mississippi seems to be a believer. I was just fitting in.
What a pleasant surprise to eventually find that it was not only practical, both individually and socially, but also real. Faith is the greatest gift, far surpassing any amount of wealth or any other material asset.
From faith springs everything you need in life. With faith and careful study of the Bible, everything makes sense. It’s all laid out, right before our eyes. And yet so many let it go.
We cling to our sins but our sins do us no favors. God wants us to be happy, not sad. It is our sins that cause our misery, not the other way around. It’s like an alcoholic clinging to the one thing destroying his life. God doesn’t want us to sin not to make us miserable but to make us happy.
I’m still learning. One thing I’ve learned is that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Nobody is any more or less important. So you should treat everyone with utmost respect and love no matter who they are or their station in life. Kindness is the more important trait a human can have.
I love humor and I am always cracking jokes. I love to kid people and make them laugh. I am enchanted by laughter. I mean, what is laughter? It is so uniquely human. It is this magical way people connect. My friends know to never take me too seriously.
We evolved in an environment that hardly changed for thousands, millions of years. Yet today we live in a completely different world with air conditioning, cars, divine food, smartphones, instant everything. It’s no wonder so many battle mental illness. We weren’t designed for this.
Fortunately, we have a brain that has an enormous capacity to adapt. Much of growing up and finding happiness is learning to adapt and find a delicate balance in a complex, ever-changing world for which we are ill suited. It’s an enormously difficult task that each of us must master. It takes time, patience, trial and error. Behind everyone’s eyes there is a swirling storm.
I had hoped by now, career-wise, I would be winding down and coasting in. Instead, my life is nothing like that. Thank goodness I read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” 20 ago. I was prepared. Not only is change accelerating, the pace of change is accelerating. Nobody escapes this whirlwind.
Resistance is futile. A better way is to embrace the change and plunge forward. There is no guarantee of success, but there is the guarantee of failure if you don’t try your mightiest. This is where faith really helps. You’re not driving. You don’t control the results, but you can pray for guidance, hope and faith. This will be granted.
The newspaper industry as I once knew it has crumbled. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of, but the days of print dominance are gone with the wind. I’m so blessed to have been a part of that wonderful community of dedicated journalists, the smell of fresh ink and the throb of the press as it produced thousands of copies per hour.
I’m doing my best to get a phoenix to arise from these ashes. We now have a statewide news network of 20 local websites. Our webstats are exploding and we are adding features and functionalities weekly. Finally, the tech tools are available to smaller players and it’s exciting to be fully immersed in this new digital ecosystem. There will always be a significant role for a printed product, but you’ve got to combine it with a cutting-edge digital experience.
Not sure how long I get to enjoy my current energy and health. At my age, it can disappear overnight. But for right now, at this point in time, I’ve never been more excited to be alive.
What an easy column to write. Took 20 minutes. My birthday gift to myself. I’m getting faster as I age!