Thursday, February 27, 2020

Turning 50

I turned 50 this week. My wife is planning a big birthday party, which I am trying like hell to squash. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate her efforts, but I just don’t see the point. My 50th birthday felt just like all the others. The day was the same as other days. I got up at 5 a.m., went to the gym, and tried like hell to write a scene that day. Same as any other day.

What turning 50 has changed, maybe, is that I’m thinking about aging well a little more this week. Heart disease (and other bad things) run in my family. (My 18-year-old freshman, Audrey, a distance runner at Denison University, called and said she had to take a physical for the Denison Athletic Department. “I had to check every box on the sheet,” she said. “Heart disease, diabetes, cancer…” “Sorry, kid,” I said.)

I’m trying to make better choices regarding my health, but that didn’t start this week; it began last summer when I went gluten-free. Haven’t lost weight, but I feel better. And I’m exercising. Years of hockey left me with an arthritic back. Running hurts my back, and my body breaks down. It’s an admission that's been a long time coming because I enjoy the solitude of running. I’ve found that weight lifting, though, makes everything feel better, tighter. So I try to get in the weight room every day. I see many benefits to doing this. My back feels a hell of a lot better, and when that happens my golf game is much improved.

But I’m not lifting weights to play golf. I’m doing it to write.

When I’m up early and exercising, my writing is better. I’m more focused. I get more done in less time, which means a lot to me because I don’t have a lot of spare time.
Haruki Murakami, in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, writes about his relationship with “serious” running, which he defines as six miles every day. I know that very often distance runners (cross country and track) have the highest GPAs on college campuses, and I imagine endorphins have a lot to do with that.

My goal at age 50 is only to set myself up to be writing at 60, 70, and 80. I think about Hemingway’s decline in his 50s and how it all ended at 61. My own father passed at 63, far too young.

So, yes, there might be a party I’m not supposed to know about. And, yes, there will probably be lots of gag gifts, and I’ll laugh, and we will no doubt all have a good time. But the truth is I’m treating 50 like any other day. Because the goal of 50 is to make sure I’m still writing at 60.

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