Today I rise at 4:30 AM to go do my civic duty and work the polls again. Working the polls is the suckiest day ever. Up at o’dark thirty. Sixteen hours before I return home. In a frigid 65º room for 15 of those hours. It’s not an easy gig. But, today I feel this odd sense of peace.
As part of my duties of working at the polls, I check the IDs of probably 300-350 people, confirming their dates of birth. This is an interesting exercise from a couple of perspectives. One, I realize I’m a lot older than I look and feel sometimes. I want to ask some of the people who were born five years on either side of my birthdate “Really, you’re only 50? You look 70.” or “You’re only 60? You look 80.” Vanity aside, the thing that brings me peace is looking at them showing their age it’s a welcome reminder that this life is not permanent. As much as it seems like it, it does not go on forever. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine. We get up every morning for thousands upon thousands of mornings. We go to bed every night for thousands upon thousands of nights. It’s easy to take them for granted that one more morning will always come, but I know better than most now that many who make plans for tomorrow won’t be there there to see tomorrow. Many who make plans for tonight won’t be there to see tonight. And no one ever thinks they will be that one person. I think age is a gift to us to remind us that we are not here forever, it’s a gift many of us neglect or even deny.
That brings me to my second point in this experience of watching people of various ages present their IDs to me and being forced to face their age. The embarrassment of people at their ages is so prevalent among people over 30 and almost universal in people over 50. I cannot tell you how many people make jokes about their ages at their own expense. So many say “Shhh…. You don’t have to say it out loud.” or some variation of that. I get a few “You’re supposed to say I don’t look my age.” Everyone wants to cling to youth with every fiber of her being. We hate aging. We hate the process. We hate the results. We hate even talking about it. I get a guy coming through my line who is 92 years old. He can barely hear. His son is with him. He’s so stooped over, his his is bowed to about where the middle of his chest would be if he were standing upright. After he’s been processed and has walked away the guy working next to me asks how old he is. I tell him. People marvel that he’s still up “kicking around”. In addition to clinging to youth, we just cling to this life, period. “If I can’t stay young, I at least want to stay around.” I’m taking mental notes about how we are conditioned to hate the fact we are inevitably getting older, that we are closer and closer to the finish line.
In spite of our best efforts, we know that this life is limited in duration. It’s like a race where you don’t know the distance of the race. Is it a a sprint? Will I make it 15 years and I can just run flat out? Is it a marathon? Will I be around 90 years and I need to save my energy for those last miles? God only knows. It makes it a difficult race to run. But, the thing about a race is that we typically look forward to the finish line. We like being closer to the end than to the beginning. We don’t look behind us and mourn how far we’ve come from the starting line. We look forward and press on to the finish line. Why? Because at the end of the race is the good stuff. It’s the rest. What we have set out to do has been accomplished. But, we have been seduced by the course. It’s pretty. We sit down and look at the flowers. We hang out at the rest stations. We actually do everything we can to extend the race, dreading the end because we are enjoying the course so much.
What is happening to me is, for a variety of reasons, my eyes are being opened and I’m seeing this life for what it is. It’s temporary. It can be enjoyable, but no matter how comfortable I get, this is not my real Home. I watched a movie this weekend “Astral City” that brought this home for me again. I’m taking an email course covering A Course In Miracles that is helping me look at the world with fresh eyes and when I do, I start seeing right through the illusion to what is real.
Today is not all looking at people with morbid fascination envisioning their impending deaths. There were also many young people coming through. There were fresh faced teens voting for the first time, just starting their lives. There were 20 and 30 somethings with infants and toddlers. I look upon them with fond memories. They bring me peace, too. Happy memories. I’m not jealous of them. I had that time in my life. I absolutely loved it. I’m happy for them. I silently bless each of them as I watch them with their young families. I miss being around little kids. That was the best time of my life. But that time is over and I can let it go as I move forward to what comes next. I’m not going to fight aging. I embrace it. I’m not sprinting toward the finish line. I don’t know how far out it is. I need to pace myself, but I’m looking forward to crossing it and collecting my prize.