At midnight tonight, I turn 50 years old. Fifty. 5-0. A half-century of me. From a rainy night in 1962 (or so I was told) to now, that's a political span that stretches from JFK to Barack Hussein Obama.
A long time ago, the major league baseball players started looking very young and now the managers and executives do.
Trying to be cool was long ago abandoned for simply aiming to be dignified.
Parents are long since gone, as are some friendships and marriages that were once so pivotal but have now faded away like the full head of hair, the wrinkle-free face and the comfort of youthful ignorance.
I can hear the clock of mortality ticking and I wish I could forgive and forget a few things, but I'm still working on it.
The more I tried to control in the past, the more it slipped through my fingers. Taking the low road got me nothing. Taking the high road got me everything. It's too bad there were too many wrong turns on those routes, especially in young and dumb years when arrogance was a weapon causing self-inflicted wounds.
Ha! These are the crazy ideas buzzing like flies over a birthday cake I'm not going to eat because it has too many calories I don't need. Eighteen months ago, in May 2011, I set today as a deadline to control something I could control: My weight.
I was a mess too heavy, unhealthy, and I could see a frightening future for a man with cholesterol and diabetes in his family.
My goal was to lose 50 pounds in 18 months and I'm very happy to say I've lost nearly 60. I weighed 292 pounds back then. My pants were a 42 waist and even that was getting snug.
Walking up the stairs in my home was growing laborious. I had back pain directly connected to the blubber mass hanging over my belt and obscuring those appendages called my feet.
Because I'm tall nearly 6-foot-5 many nice people told me I "carried the weight well."
Yeah, I carried it so well I almost needed a wheelbarrel to haul my gut around town.
How did I lose it? I started slowly. I refused to indulge unnatural, fad diets that would have only lightened my wallet.
In a sense, I embraced the most radical fitness regimen there is I started eating right and exercising.
I cut down my portions, severely restricted sweets my personal kryptonite and fried foods and heavy carbohydrates. Workouts began on a treadmill, walking at first and then running.
Twice, I came close to injury last December and a month ago. Both times it was from running too far, too fast.
Last December, my knees were killing me. Last month, it was my shins.
The cure was simple rest. All that "running through the pain" stuff is bunk.
Your body tells you what it can do, what is good for it, what isn't good for it.
We just have to listen. Stretching properly helps, too.
Right now, I can run 20 miles a week with no problem. A dear friend wanted me to run in the upcoming California International Marathon, but it was too much too soon.
Why rush it? The journey of evolving fitness is best savored over the course of time.
I now weigh 234 pounds and use a pant size 36 that is starting to feel loose. Yeah, 6 inches makes a huge difference.
People always ask me what's my target weight and goal. Forget that. No goal is more easily broken than an artificial one.
The goal is to be healthy and fit until time is up. If that means dropping 10 to 15 more pounds, great. If it happens, it will happen naturally.
Why do I prattle on so much about weight loss? Because if I can lose the weight and get fitter, so can you. You don't have to "feel the burn," but you can feel a lot better.
You don't have to spend a ton of money by joining a fancy gym and you don't have to run for exercise just get your heart rate up.
Do it because your fitness is something you can control. Being fit creates more opportunities to enjoy life.
I thought I would dread turning 50, but I don't because I feel good and strong. I'm going to try to prolong that feeling as long as possible and try to come up with answers to the crazy thoughts and ideas inspired by this milestone.
Think of me on Monday. I'll be drinking a toast to your health and mine and to the good life within our reach if we want it.