The New 60
BY Robert Levithan
February 28 2011 7:50 PM ET
When I was in graduate school, we were discussing emotional decoys, ways that clients hide their true feelings. My professor gave me a bit of gold: “You, Levithan,” he said “have a very interesting decoy: You reveal so much that what remains hidden is difficult to see.” Bingo!
I have few qualms about revealing my story in all of its messy glory. Underneath, however, I am very, very private. The vault is closed — to me as well as others. Turning 60 has begun to spring the lock. After all, what am I waiting for?
I have to admit that my life is mostly wonderful, and I also can admit that I have moments when I feel such isolation, that I dull this pain with work and thrills. Recently, one of my doctor’s was asking me a series of life-style related questions and I was struck by how they revealed an underlying addiction: Risk. I am a risk junkie. I ride a Segway without a helmet, I love extreme sports and I love to take risks with my heart. I embrace extreme physical pleasure. By working with people in crisis, I keep the day-to-day stakes high. What I fear is boredom.
The challenge of course is to differentiate between quiet contentment and boredom. One is peace, the other is hell, and my inability to discern the difference has become a handicap.
Our culture encourages distraction. It is not easy to get quiet and meet the demons, to observe the mind—and to realize that we are not the chatter. Illness forced me to listen, to hear the craziness and to offer yet another chance to remember that I am not my thoughts or my feelings — that I am actually fine, with the flu--within the existential dilemma of being human.
When I was facing death from AIDS, I was often at my best. I need to go back to loving my mortality…to balancing my desire to live healthily til 90 with the very real possibility that this might be my last year on Planet Earth.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference…