Our dying cannot be deferred. Wisdom 2:5
One of my favorite quotes is by Lily Tomlin’s character “Trudy,” the bag lady. She says, “I can take reality in small doses, but as a way of life I find it much too confining.”
Reality can often be overrated, but it is good to go through a reality check once in a while, especially after turning 70. I read somewhere that people my age need to avoid the “mutton-dressed-like-a-lamb” look, in a pathetic attempt to dress young. No matter how youthful you think you look, there’s no greater slap of truth than bright daylight.
With that in mind, I decided to have my photo updated for the second time since I have been writing this column. When I go through a major transition, I always do something like sell my house and move or shave off part of my beard. The day I retired, I shaved off what was left of the full beard I grew in my first year of ordination.
It was a lot less trouble than moving. This is the first time I have seen my full face in almost 45 years. It’s sobering.
Reality isn’t the way you wish things were, but the way they actually are.
“The world of pretend is a cage, not a cocoon. We can only lie to ourselves for so long. Denying the truth doesn’t change the truth. De Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt, it’s a freakin’ ocean,” Meredith Grey, a character on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” said.
I am willing to face reality, but, as author Shauna Niequist says, “I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my every day to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”
The greatest freedom is to be what we really are. Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
My worst nightmare now is to pretend I am younger than I am, not realizing that people are laughing behind my back. My goal now is to be one of the coolest old priests in the diocese and avoid having to go to some old priest home. As Hubert Humphrey said, “Oh my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.”
Father J. Ronald Knott