I have been at it for a few years now getting old, I mean. And, surprisingly, I have been learning some things about life and self I wish I had known years ago. I will call them discoveries rather than regrets, because I am grateful that this old dog can still be taught. There is a tangible pleasure about light bulbs coming on, the catch of breath they elicit and the challenges they offer. For instance:

Putting the past in place. The past may be denied but it can never be deleted. Being on the short end of time, I am learning to embrace my story, to own it and to live what is left of it more closely to the truth of my self. That does not preclude ignoring and respecting the truth of others.

Being present to the moment. Living ahead of one’s self shortchanges the gift of life. I now know that being impatient or always in a rush take me away from where I am supposed to be. Being present – to the person I am with, to the task I am doing, to the thought I am thinking – touches the meaning of life.

Acting more than reacting. I was taught early on to live for others so I became a pleaser. In effect I let others make my choices for me. Only relatively recently have I discovered that one’s life is created by one’s choices, that the choice to act is closer to the truth of self than the non-choice to react.

Being spontaneous. There is nothing more affirming of life than waltzing with a whim. I do that now, more often than not, trying not to regret all the opportunities I missed along the way. It is no longer a matter of finding time as it is enjoying the freedoms of this stage of the journey. It is like getting off the expressway and discovering the joys of the back road.

Taking time to take better care of self. In the past, I could shake off or ignore my aches and pains or live into them, thinking they would cure themselves. Not any more. Oftentimes the so-called golden years feel more like fool’s gold than anything else: eyesight dimming, hearing fading and arthritic joints screaming for attention – all impossible to ignore. EEGs, EKGs, MRIs and CAT Scans, as well as a glossary of daily pills are the new facts of life. When I ask myself, “What would I do without them?” the answer is clearly, “Not nearly as much!”

Getting old is not all that bad, as long as one intends to get older. At this point I am willing to admit that I need all the help I can get, realizing that most of that help has to come from within. Reminiscing about and learning from the past is important, but not as crucial as knowing that living is always about what lies ahead and choosing to make the most of the journey. I am grateful that this old dog has a curiosity that would put any cat to shame. And just maybe, eight more lives to live.