Paul Prather: Sharing words of wisdom as my birthday approaches

Contributing columnistMarch 22, 2013 

Paul Prather

In a few days I'll celebrate my 57th birthday.

I employ the word "celebrate" advisedly, of course. It's not as if I'll throw myself a bacchanalia. I'll probably treat myself to a long nap.

Every year about this time, I used to write a column in which I'd take stock. I'd examine what I'd learned during the previous 12 months, or else review the accumulated truisms that 35 or 48 or 51 years had taught me.

Then temporarily I fell out of that habit.

This year I decided to bow to the hue and cry of the reading masses by reinstituting my annual column of birthday wisdom.

OK, there was no actual hue or cry. Not one hue. Not a single lone, pitiful cry.

Nonetheless, I present here an olio of my observations, rules and musings about life for those of us fast departing middle age. Employ them at your risk.

■ Life never stops throwing you curve balls. Turned out, even the real estate and stock markets could crash. I've known people who ate salads, exercised faithfully and didn't smoke — who got cancer anyhow. The world is weird and unfair. Quit trying to make it make sense.

■ Life never stops giving gifts. After I lost my first wife, I thought I'd never be happy again. Then, in my 50s, I got a new wife and a whole new adventure. I even got grandchildren, and there's nothing grander than that. No matter how old you are, something wonderful may await around the next corner.

■ As you age, many things become more difficult. Things like bending over to pick up your socks, reading the ingredients labels on medicine bottles or remembering where you parked your truck.

■ As you age, a few things get easier. Things like cutting your grass or keeping your house clean. You'll pay others to do what you don't want to.

■ As you age, you drive slower. One reason is that you're no longer in a rush to get anywhere. The other reason is that you keep forgetting you're steering a car in traffic, not dozing in a self-propelled recliner.

■ As you age, you dress for comfort. If you can't wear jeans and a baggy shirt to it, you don't go. "Sorry, I'd love to attend your wedding, but I'd have to shave and put on a tie. Yes, I know I'm your father. But it's a matter of priorities."

■ As you age, you don't get better looking. After you're, oh, 50-ish, it's a lost cause. Hair thins. Teeth fall out. Shoulders round. Waist and hips broaden. You won't be getting any freebies based on your beauty. Sorry. Even after Botox, hair implants and liposuction, you'll just look like a ghoulish old person trying vainly to stay young. Think Sylvester Stallone or Joan Rivers.

■ As you age, new celebrities get younger and more obscure. You peruse a magazine's list of "The 50 Hottest Stars of 2013" and not only do you not recognize any of them, but they all appear to be 14 years old.

■ As you age, few things are as simple as they once appeared. I'm not talking here about setting up your computer's wireless router. The more you experience, the less the cosmos appears to be made up of black-and-white certainties. As a friend said, after a while what you see are varying shades of gray.

■ As you age, nice trumps everything else. To borrow a sentiment from the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey, the older you get the less you're impressed by others' intelligence, beauty, money, wit or power. After you've wised up, about the only thing that matters is whether people are kind, humble and generous of spirit. Similarly, you should attempt, despite your inclinations, to be nice, too.

A few other, scattered observations:

■ You'll rarely have an original thought. All those grand opinions we spout about politics and religion mainly arrived in our heads via talk radio, the Internet or some doddering professor we had in 1975.

■ Try to think for yourself anyway. That shouldn't stop you from at least attempting to use the perfectly serviceable brains God gave you.

■ There are a lot of good people in the world. The people you'd least suspect of having a heart will stun you with their compassion and generosity.

■ There are a lot of bad people, too. Sometimes those you trusted most will turn out to be mean, un-self-aware narcissists.

■ We're only passing through. The Bible's writers (and Shakespeare) liked to remind us that, measured against the scope of eternity, our lives are mere vapors that appear momentarily, then drift away. The better news is that, consequently, there's no need to worry much. In the end, hardly anything you do or don't do truly matters. So why waste time grieving over the past or fretting about tomorrow? Instead, focus on this moment. Enjoy today.

■ Usually, people who talk the most about God know him the least. Don't let the religious blowhards crush your spirit. Jesus didn't.

■ Don't judge. Your smuggest words have a way of coming back to slap your face. You never know why a person is the way he is or did what she did. Don't announce what you'd do if you were in her circumstances. God might let you find out.

Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You can e-mail him at pratpd@yahoo.com.

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