I just turned 58.
Not too long before my birthday, I referred to myself on Facebook as middle-age, and was quickly reminded by so-called friends, online and in person, that I'm "middle" age only to the extent I expect to survive way past 100.
Boy, time sneaks up on you.
Anyway, almost every year since my 35th birthday, I've tried around this time to take a philosophical snapshot of where I stand, of the truths (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) guiding me at that particular chronological milestone.
Here's what speaks to me currently:
■ Make use of the time left. I've entered that no-man's-land in which every bump or twinge could be just another bump or twinge, or could be cancer or a blocked artery or some other cataclysm.
Few people have any clue how long they will remain here, of course. Teenagers die in car wrecks. Thirty-somethings drop dead of aneurysms. The difference is, most young people exist in a state of ignorance. They don't know they're mortal.
I recognize my mortality.
The other day Liz, my wife, hugged me in the kitchen and told me how much she loves me. Then she added, "It's sad, though. In 20 years, you'll be dead."
Yeah. Thanks a lot, Honey.
But she's probably right. Or I might be gone tomorrow.
That's why I make a point each day of doing at least one thing that's truly important, or else that I truly enjoy, rather than allowing the irrelevant to monopolize my waking hours.
■ Quit trying to figure everything out. As they aged, both my parents warned me: "No matter how old you get, you never stop having problems."
The world is a screwy place filled with screwy people doing screwy things.
By nature, I'm inclined to overthink, to waste energy and forfeit my peace sorting out the whys and wherefores of others' nutty actions as well as my own.
But I've almost stopped attempting to make it all make sense. The cosmos never will make sense, I've decided. This is a fallen world.
Just accept reality, I tell myself. Keep moving forward.
■ Remain squarely within the moment. I try not to overly mourn the past or fret about the nursing home in my future. Don't borrow trouble, my mom often said.
I possess today. Nothing more.
It's the same with you.
In fact, we don't even have today. We have this solitary moment.
Yesterday's gone. Tomorrow, as Jesus said, will take care of itself.
■ Be grateful. Even when I manage to live in the moment, there's plenty to grouse about. My shoulders hurt. My medical costs are obscene. To vote, I must choose between the Democrats and Republicans, which feels like choosing between Dumb and Dumber.
But focusing on my frustrations only causes my blood pressure to soar.
Thing is, I have plenty to be thankful for, too. Right here, right now, there's much to enjoy, if I choose. I'll bet it's the same with you.
In my case, I've got a young(er), energetic wife who loves me despite my crotchety grumbling and arthritic shoulders and errant memory.
I've got a responsible, gentle son and a sweet daughter-in-law.
I've got grandchildren who run to leap into my arms.
I've got enough of my back left that I can hoist the grandkids (one at a time) and plant big kisses on their foreheads.
I've got a church that's full of my friends and God's grace.
If you're reading these words on a page or screen, you've got eyes. If you're listening on a recording for the blind, you've got ears. If you slept in a bed last night, ate wormless food for breakfast, can walk around the block without worrying about getting murdered by thugs or a dictator's army, you're luckier than many people in this world.
■ Be nice. I've written this before, but to me, nice trumps everything else. I want to be kind to fellow drivers in traffic and waiters in restaurants. I try to speak to strangers in the post office and to love my family as they are.
And I only hang around others who are nice to me. I have no patience left for malcontents, gossips, soreheads and rude store clerks. People with chips on their shoulders need to vamoose.
I'm equally nice to myself. I reward me whenever possible. For what? Doesn't matter. I figure at this point I should have a few prizes coming: a lobster dinner, a hardcover book, a nap, a long drive in the country, a massage if I want it.
In 58 years, I've learned more than just these five truths. But these are the ones on my mind as another year passes and a new year rises ahead.