In between calling bets, folding and raising we mumbled a comment each about 'getting on a bit':
"Time is no longer unlimited. It makes for greater focus."
"I've been through a lot, survived all kinds of situations. I don't worry about little things anymore."
"It's not too bad. I preferred being younger."
I think one of these was really said. I just made up the other two. No one really talks about anything meaningful at a poker table. We're all trying to win the hand. If nothing else, it is a game that demands concentration (for optimum play).
But what of getting older? Hitting the mid fifties?
It is a surprise somedays, to look in the mirror at myself and notice that my face and head have aged. Of course, I know that decades have passed since I was young. I was there. But at the same time, it doesn't feel like that long.
If I was to still look 35 or even 40, I would not find it discomforting or strange. It's as though the ageing of the body kind of rushes on ahead, on it's own volition, at a certain point and then calls out to you, 'Hey look! This is you! You've got grey! You've got wrinkles now! Less hair - on the head - and more inside the ears!'
Acceptance is the only option, of course. A cynical surrender. A dissassociative shrug.
On the inside remains the sterling will, the sharp focus, the tuned awareness. In fact, over time, some of the internal mechanisms have actually improved. Experience is the greatest of teachers. Lessons have been learnt. Dues paid.
And then you start to consider people who you have know or have met or interacted with over the last while who are in their sixties and seventies. You don't feel quite as distanced from them anymore. You understand the slight slowing down, the laid back attitude, the inner quiet that some possess.
You realise that you are on the verge of joining a new club. You are also on the verge of leaving an old one. Younger people aren't seeing you as one of them any more. They haven't for a while probably. But you are noticing it more. It's fine, it's alright, because you have been in the club for long enough. It's activities don't interest or inspire like they used to. You are seeking something different. Something with new rewards.
It is not all about more, more, more anymore. It is not about being as extreme as possible. It is not about affectation. It is not about talking up your game, seeking attention.
There is no time for these things. Time has become more precious. You want to fill it with things of true value. Things that are meaningful and enduring.
If you really think about it, you realise that it is all laid out for you. The process. The sequence of a life. It has been done by all before and will be done by all after. Your perception shifts in an age-appropriate way. In a sense, there is no option. You realise the limits of being. But you also realise the miraculous wonder and grace and beauty of it all. You realise that you are only a tiny player in a massive game. You, in truth, are of little consequence. You will, whether you like it or not, be leaving before too long. It may still be a few decades off but what's a few decades? Weren't you just 35 yesterday?
And time goes faster, too. That you can attest to. Days whiz by. A year isn't long. This has it's benefits, too, though. You know that you can plan things in advance, work towards things and that the future will bring reward if you do. You have seen how things work. You have made the mistakes. And you have learnt.
So, it seems, a life is just that. It is something to experience. A complex, intricate sequence of events that connect together in the form of days lived and things done. All the emotions generated and spent, all the people that have come and gone, the places visited, the experiences lived through. All that. And what? Here you sit writing about it all, and it's as though it was just a story. There is no proof. No one else cares, not really. It has all amounted to nothing - in some ways. And yet - there are feelings of, I don't know, accomplishment, achievement, value, dignity, honour, amusement, bewilderment, satisfaction, acceptance....
It's like... OK. Hmmm... OK. Let's just keep going, then. I kind of get the idea now. I'm past the middle, heading into the third act. I still have some options. I shouldn't waste them (like I have in the past) (as you do).
I have become someone. I have an identity. A past. I can work with it. There is a level of comfort, familiarity. I know what works and what doesn't. I'm going to gather up what remains available to me, take a clear and honest look at my current position and situation and see what I can do to create something interesting, something of worth.
Yeah, I'm still here. I'm going to give it a shot. See if I can't surprise myself, outdo myself, extend myself beyond limitations set in the past. If this is me now, who is the me that I am going to be in ten years from now? Who do I want that to be? Pretty sure no one else is going to make it happen. I'm going to step up. Yeah, I'm going to really start living. Not the kind of living you do when you are young and it's all presented to you, tank full and no limits. No, a new kind of living. Decidedly different. A take-control but let-it-go kind of thing. A new awareness. A new care. A new gratitude. And with all that - a new chance to fully discover and perhaps even become one's truest, true self.
Sounds like a plan.