My birthday is Saturday. A big one, but I don’t recognise all the maxims people toss around about ageing. I’m ageing. I like it. Not only is the alternative death, but I’m happier with myself and in general every year that passes.


Slowing down? Getting forgetful?

I’ve always misplaced my keys.

When I was 24 I had a boyfriend threaten to break up with me every afternoon, because I spent at least  half an hour (every afternoon) searching for my car in the university lot. Things like that don’t happen anymore. (Neither that particular form of absent-mindedness, nor that particular unhealthy relationship dynamic.) 

My joints are stiff. They are also stronger. So are my muscles. I have much better balance and trust myself physically in ways that I would have never dreamt of at 30. If I break something, I’ll heal more slowly. I’m aware of that. But I also know how to (and do) take care of myself as best I can, and that there are – and have never been – any guarantees regarding the health of this body. I know now not to take it for granted.

The big difference I have noticed this year (my 50th – during which I hiked a 14-pointer for the first time, and went downhill skiing for the first time) is that I’m learning what is important to me, and choosing more carefully how I spend my time. I’m no longer interested in the latest fads. I don’t need to stay up-to-date and “relevant” because much of that information it isn’t relevant to what is important to me: I don’t need the social clout of celebrity gossip to try to stay in step with my peers.

And sometimes it is just a case of “been there, done that”: Lady Gaga’s mermaid in a wheelchair, anyone?

My fiftieth birthday present to myself.

I can honestly say I have much less fear and anxiety when it comes to what other people think. (Notice, I did not say “no fear and anxiety”: we all fear the trolls, I think.)

Yes, I’m the only mature adult on the slope with her arms out “like an airplane landing” – but that is not “childish” or “child-like” – it is fearless, make no mistake. 

“I’m too old,” is what people say when they haven’t found the courage to say, “I don’t want to.”

I know what I want.


And I know that what I want is also likely to change. At least I hope so. 

I’m not bothering with snap chat or vine or whatever the latest social media is, not because it is “too complicated” (like so many people promoting ageism whine), but because I spent a month teaching myself Flash right before Mac decided not to use it with the iPad, and it became suddenly obsolete. All those containers for information become obsolete.

People don’t. The content of life doesn’t.

Choosing where and how and with whom I spend my time on this earth is wise, not a sign of failing intelligence.

I disavow all self-deprecation when it comes to ageing. 

Young people are amazing and have a lot to offer. But, as far as I can tell, teenagers don’t need pandering to.  The ones that are bright have moved into the realm we know of as “knowing we don’t know” anyway. Let’s be smart enough not to undermine or discount our own value. If you have lived 50 years and think you have nothing to teach a 16 year-old, or that you-at-50 have nothing to learn from an 80 year-old, well…. I’m really not sure what to say. 

I’ve been lucky to have a few wonderful role models to prepare me for this shift. The people who, after life stops forcing changes on you (education, job, kids), still seek out change and growth. I love you/them for that. They’ve made me realize that, beyond the curtain where media doesn’t venture, there must be a pony*.

If I am “slower”, it’s because I take  more time to rummage through all the prerequisite knowledge I’ve gathered before drawing conclusions. Hell, I should probably aim at being slower in that way. That would be the wise thing.

Maybe the wisest thing is no longer being afraid to write a friend – or my kids – and say, “I miss you. I want to see you.”

I will slow down, slowly and surely, but the turtles that hold up our place in the universe are damned wise – all the way down.

I believe I have just written my middle-age manifesto. 

*Yeah. A reference to an episode of a very bad 80s sitcom. The little girl suspects that all good things happen after bedtime. She’s right. There was a pony.

This Choice is Who You Are has been my mantra these past years: a mantra for becoming the person I want to be. I believe that choosing to live with the attention that poetry demands is a good start.

In the Podcasts, I look to other artists to learn from their experiences.

I ask poets how their work with poetry influences the choices they make in their daily lives, and how these, in turn, affect their sense of self and their relationships.

How are they using the experience of art to shape The Good Life for themselves?

richard-berlinRichard M. Berlin is a physician and poet who received his undergraduate and medical education at Northwestern University. The winner of numerous poetry awards, his first collection of poems How JFK Killed My Father won the Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions. His second collection of poetry, Secret Wounds won the 2010 John Ciardi Poetry Prize from the University of Missouri – Kansas City and was published by BkMk Press.  In addition,  Secret Wounds was chosen as the best poetry book of 2011 in the USA Book News Awards.  His third collection of poetry Practice was published in 2015.  He is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, Code Blue and The Prophecy. Berlin’s poetry has been published in a broad array of  literary journals, medical journals and anthologies including the 2015 release of  Liberation: New Works on Freedom from Internationally Renowned Poets.  His column “Poetry of the Times” has been featured monthly for sixteen years in Psychiatric Times. He has also established a creative writing prize in honor of his father for medical students, nursing students, and resident physicians at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Senior Affiliate of Psychiatry at the medical school, he is the author of more than sixty scientific papers and has edited Sleep Disorders in Psychiatric Practice  and Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment, and the Creative Process. He practices psychiatry in a small town in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts.

Poems read or referred to in the podcast:

Stephen Dunn’s “Tenderness“.
Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman“.
If You Ask Me My Name” by Richard M. Berlin.
A Headlong Act of Love” by Richard M. Berlin
“The Fisherman” by Richard M. Berlin, published in the Liberation anthology, edited by Mark Ludwig and published by Beacon Press.


 Original music and artwork by Karl R. Powell.

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