I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I recently turned 50 years old. I described a few life lessons which received positive feedback from my friends. I am sharing that content here. It is my first post on Medium.
Today is a milestone birthday for me. I am now 50 years old. A half-century spent here on earth.
Sure seems like a long time, but the years have gone by faster than I expected.
They do for all of us. On days like this one, I think it is important to spend a little time looking back.
Reflection is good for the soul.
We can learn a lot gazing into the rear-view mirror. But, obsessing over the past can be dangerous. It is even more important to look to the future.
The past decade was the toughest of my life
I don’t really remember my 40th birthday. Not because I celebrated too much and woke up with a hangover. I genuinely have no recollection of turning 40.
What I do recall is that I was working really long hours trying to advance my career, and not doing much else.
I also know that I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I never would have guessed the good, the bad, and the ugly my future held.
My 40's ended up being the most difficult decade of my life.
Now those days are done. Below are three hard truths about life I learned during the past decade that I want to share with you.
1. Your body will betray you
No easy way to say this one — getting old sucks.
Many things in life get better with age, but your physical body is usually not one of them.
As my dad likes to remind me, “getting old is not for sissies”. As the years go by the wear and tear on your body starts to show.
I grow less hair on my head than I used to. Most of it is gray.
Hair grows in places I prefer it didn’t. Gross — I know.
Wrinkles appear, and controlling your weight gets harder as you grow older.
Believe me — your body will betray you. Mine did.
2. Your faith will be tested
I am a follower of Christ. I believe He is the risen Son of God and sits at the right hand of the Father. My faith in Christ remains the bedrock of my worldview.
The harsh realities of life will test your faith. They did mine.
My faith in God was tested more the past decade than in previous years. I experienced a spiritual crisis in my early 40's. I was able to get through it and come out a better man. It prepared me for the next storm I would face.
Nothing tested my faith more than the separation and eventual divorce from your mother. That event almost destroyed my faith in God. Somehow I was able to hold on.
It certainly devastated our family. Both of you suffered. I know it.
When your world is collapsing around you it is hard to believe that God loves you and wants the best for you. Believe me — he does.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2–4
3. You will experience more loss
The older you get the more loss you will experience.
Loved ones die, dreams end, and some friends fade away. Eventually, you start going to more funerals than weddings which can be depressing.
More friends and family passed away the past decade than I expected.
Each loss reminded me how precious life is.
None of us know when we will depart this world.
We lost Ruger, our family dog. Putting him down was a really difficult decision. I wept after saying goodbye.
Several dreams I had ended. Too many to list here. My relationship with several friends changed drastically during the divorce.
Methods that worked for me
This blog has been pretty depressing to write so far. Now I am going to pivot and talk about three methods I used to handle the harsh realities described above. I am not guaranteeing they will work for you. Rather I offer them as food for thought as you get older.
1. Take care of yourself
Your body may betray you, but you can offset the effects of aging by taking care of yourself. Simple works for me.
Stay in shape. Figure out what physical activity works best for you, and do it.
Control your weight. I weigh less now that I did at age 40. I feel much better, and my doctor is pleased with my progress.
I do a better job of grooming myself these days. I figure that no one wants to see a middle-aged man with long nose hairs, furrowed eyebrows or hair in an inappropriate place.
I decided to invest more money in my wardrobe. I dress nicer and sometimes even receive compliments. No reason to dress like a slob like many men do.
2. Ask your father for help
Like me, you have two fathers. Your heavenly Father, and your earthly father.
I recommend you ask both of them for help when life gets tough. I did. Both of them responded.
My parents were really helpful during the divorce. They provided all the support they could. My dad (Opa) went above and beyond what I expected.
He called me almost every day to check up on me during my darkest period. Opa wrote me encouraging letters. When I needed my dad the most — he was there for me.
God also responded in profound ways. I learned a lot about His love, patience, and hope during any period in my life.
Do not be afraid to ask God and me for help when you need it. We are both here for you and will do our part to get you through the storms of life.
3. Find your joy and have some fun
At age 40 I was pretty miserable. I did not enjoy life nearly as much as I should have. I worked too hard and did not play much. I certainly did not do a great job of being joyful with you.
Nowadays I am much better at having some fun. I found my joy. I like who I am and the life I live. You know this firsthand.
We have gone on many adventures together. Trips to Europe and New York City. Attending rock concerts, and visiting Washington DC on a regular basis.
I appreciate and value our time together. As you get older — avoid becoming miserable like I did. Rather find your joy and have some fun. It is a much better way to live.
Being your dad is one of the great joys of my life.