More years brings more experience, and new pain

There has been a little change in the air.

No, and I’m sorry to disappoint you, that statement has nothing to do with the winter coming to a close and warm air moving into our little oasis by the sea. I’m actually starting to believe this winter might never end, and we’ll be subjected to bitter temperatures, snow, ice and rabid saber-toothed tigers prowling Route 26 in search of caramel popcorn and boardwalk fries.

No, the change I’m referring to is more of the personal variety. And, to be open, there is more than one change taking place, but they all can be wrapped into one tiny little package of blame.

I’m getting older.

I’m not talking about the obvious signs — hair that went south for the winter long before winter showed its face, knees that sound like fireworks everytime I stand up, an air-sucking craving to watch “Murder She Wrote” until the wee morning hours, etc. These signs are a bit more subtle, and didn’t really mean much to me on a case-by-case basis until I was able to make the connection.

Is some of this simply a matter of me maturing a little bit over the years? Absolutely. Young Darin would have stuck his tongue into a moving fan blade in a split second for a simple dare. More-mature Darin would wonder what the dust on the blade would do to his teeth’s enamel, be terrified at the prospect of walking around with a bandage on his tongue like the kid in “A Christmas Story” and strutted away from the dare, comfortable enough to ignore the catcalls from the person who posed the challenge in the first place.

So, yeah, there are some advantages to sitting comfortably in the lap of the middle-age throne. See, I have learned over the years from past exploits and, more importantly, I am learning to put those lessons to use now. I start to do something, consider what has happened in the past when I tried the same thing and...

Well, usually I forget. It isn’t all unicorns and rainbows getting older, is it?

And there’s the other side to this “maturity” roller coaster we all ride at some point, if we are fortunate enough to last a while. Yes, wisdom has been gained from failed relationships, ridiculous skateboard stunts and home-improvement efforts that result in more emergency room visits than moments of pride. But there are other, more sinister, things at work, too.

For instance, on the night of my 40th birthday, I found myself waking up at 3 a.m. to use the bathroom. Innocent enough, right? Wrong. It’s like a car warranty expired on my bladder the day I hit that magic number, and the mechanic comes calling for me every night, invading my dreams of World Series glory with a sudden waterfall appearing in the left field bleachers.

I’d like to say that’s the only physical change that doesn’t spawn simply from past injuries or poor decisions, but it isn’t. The fact that I’m waking up at 3 a.m. to answer nature’s call is interesting enough to me since there were many nights I didn’t get home until that time, often smelling like Denny’s breakfast and Jameson. Now I’m often sound asleep by 10 p.m., smelling of Tums and diet ice cream — wondering when Ben & Jerry’s will just come up with a Tums-injected, low-calorie ice cream that I could ingest in one shot.

Is this to say that all these changes are bad? Not even close. Most of the changes have, in fact, been positive. I’ve gained experiences over the years that have helped me make better decisions consistently, and there is something to be said for having friends that I have known for decades — pretty much making them beyond reproach for me when it comes to trusting them completely.

I’ve learned to appreciate a sunset over the bay a little more than I used to, and I’ve grown to empathize with people in distant parts of the world rising up against tyrannical governments, placing their lives in peril for just a mere opportunity at true freedom. I like that I have a frame-of-reference now when comparing athletes I’ve admired from different generations of players, and I’ve learned to work a little smarter, though I admit to needing to loosen up a little when it comes to deadline stresses.

And, yeah, I have a long ways to go on that last one.

So, there you go. Another column with absolutely no point to it, yet here I sit writing it anyway, content with...

But I digress.

See, that’s another joy of getting a little older. I just say whatever’s on my mind now.