The benefits of being an old athlete are clear -- we are fit and capable, look as good as can be expected, and have energy for all sorts of activities -- we trick our minds and bodies into feeling and acting young, and the feedback systems within us tend to make it so. We hide from the knowledge that it will not go on forever -- we will not still be competing triathlons if we live to be 100. And the odds that we live to be 100 are not all that hot.
I was able to think about that hidden knowledge, and still repress the bad feeling until two weeks ago, when I suffered a detached retina as a side effect of cataract surgery. I am now afraid of being blind, and feeling my age. If the surgery is effective, and my sight is restored, will I revert back to a child-like state of forgetful denial, or will I be changed?
I can speak with my head -- going back to denial is a good idea -- it is rational -- there is no use making myself miserable by imagining a grim future. With a little help from Shakespeare, Julius Caesar said it a long time ago -- "The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come." Well, that was my head talking -- the logic is unassailable -- but good luck controlling my feelings and imagination.
I hope I have the chance to reread this in a year and see whether I have returned to denial, and pushed awareness of my frailty down. The other option is really frightening.