As a middle-aged man, I’m sometimes asked by younger men what they might expect when they get to be middle-aged. I’m always flattered they think I have some sharable knowledge of value, and so I put some thought into my answers, trying my middling best to give a more rounded view on the subject akin to my more rounded body shape.
Physical happenings aside, such as. requiring reading glasses to cut my fingernails (don’t ask about the toes) or bending over (and standing back up) in measured, grimacing sections, I like to say there are many advantages of being middle-aged – most importantly being alive.
I mean it. It’s an accomplishment, and it bodes well for the future. I explain that when you make it to the half-way point, so to speak, you most likely have more positive things about you, body and soul, than negative. It’s sort of like an old car that is still dependable and durable. It’s been built right, and with continued care, upkeep and a little luck it can keep chugging along, no matter what the odometer reads.
Another thing I always mention is that once I hit middle age I seemed to have lost the capacity to be bored. I make the joke how I used to go shopping with my wife, and clichéd as it may sound, would lose interest and find a spot to sit and wait for her to finish. For years, doing this, I would fidget and fret, check the time, my phone, my cuticles, anything to distract as I agonized in place. But I discovered, with delight, that with advancing age came advancing calm in relation to such shopping trips. I found that when I did settle into a resting area, say for example in a bustling mall, I could sit as serene and content as a potted plant, staring benignly at passerby while thinking about nothing more than not thinking about nothing more.
In that spirit, in the hope of helping men of any age reach such a non-aware nirvana while being cognizant of our more home-centric lives in this age of COVID, I have listed below 10 things to stare at this summer. I have chosen only inanimate objects, as stillness, I believe, is important to achieving a relaxed state. And because fixating for a time on a loved one, roommate, friend, even a pet, might not be welcome or might result in a tension-inducing, dominance-challenge, i.e. the “staring contest.”
I have also included with each of the 10 items a “non-action step” to take (is that an oxymoron? ) and a meditation to read before you begin. Perhaps these words will mean something different to you after you have finished?
I leave you with one final thought about what to expect when you reach middle age. Something I am totally certain will apply to every man who is looking forward, or is dreading, these years:
You will know what it is like when you get there.
In the meantime, start staring.
Non-Action Step: Don’t fill.
Meditation: “It is the empty space that makes a bowl useful.” Laozi
Non-Action Step: Don’t shake.
Non-Action Step: Don’t open.
Meditation: “The more a man judges, the less he loves.” Honor de Balzac
Non-Action Step: Don’t bounce.
Meditation: “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” Heraclitus
Non-Action Step: Don’t start.
Non-Action Step: Don’t wear.
Meditation: “The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.” Gautama Buddha
Non-Action Step: Don’t step.
Non-Action Step: Don’t soak.
Meditation: “A man of wisdom delights in water.” Confucius
Non-Action Step: Don’t spend.
Meditation: “Money often costs too much.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Non-Action Step: Don’t type.
Mediation: “Simplicity is the glory of expression.” Walt Whitman