Among his many worries, as he faces the inevitability of growing older Mr. Brown frets a lot about money.

Brown fears he lacks the financial resources to make his way comfortably through his declining years. This is an eventuality he feels powerless to prevent, as apparently saying yes to life costs money.

I am plagued by the fear of having no money to retire on: it looks as though I will be working until I drop. I realize the disgusting self-indulgent irony of this: here I am traipsing around the Cotswolds, heading on to Italy, taking ski trips in British Columbia (albeit on someone else’s dime, at least for two thirds of it), and I have the gall to worry about money. But I can’t seem to avoid it. I don’t have the money to spend, but I don’t want to say no to what life is left. So I keep spending, and thus must keep working. 126

It is a disturbing idea that saying “Yes” to life may be unaffordable.

Perhaps aging is the time to start saying “Yes” to activities that are not a financial burden. Perhaps saying “Yes” to life might look like: sitting in the back yard watching the birds, reading to a child, going for a walk, sitting in silence, having an intimate conversation, cooking and sharing a meal. Saying yes to life does not have to cost anything. And, it may be that the more we genuinely say “Yes” to the simple possibilities life offers, the less we will find ourselves tormented with fears of loss.

Closely related to the fear Mr Brown experiences when he ponders aging is the regret that overwhelms him when he looks at the past.

On holiday in the Cotswolds in south central England, Brown writes,

Lying in bed, I couldn’t overcome the fear that I have wasted my life, wrecked it, spoiled it. 119

He “wrecked” and “spoiled” his life because, in his own assessment, he has not achieved enough of value in his professional life.

I look back on my life before forty and deplore what I see; I hate myself for my lack of seriousness, my lack of productivity…. I knew nothing, understood nothing, had not grasped how one must start working and keep working, early on and every day, if one is to create something to show for one’s life – as a writer, as a journalist, as a human being. I’m not talking about fame; I’m talking about something to show for one’s existence on the planet, to pay off the gods of regret. Even a decent stamp collection would do it. 15

The reason for Mr. Brown’s professional failure is clear to the author,

there is the argument to be made that there is not much point in literary ambition, after all, especially when you can argue (as I can) that I haven’t been anywhere near ambitious enough. 50

Mr. Brown has lacked adequate ambition to drive himself forward into the elusive land of adequate achievement.  And, as he looks forward from the gloomy state of 60 years old, Brown anticipates he sees no hope of making the journey to success in the future. He finds himself hindered he says, by fear.

I could have another thirty-five productive years. Let’s say twenty-five conservatively, if luck is with me. Let’s hope for it. That’s the same as being twenty-five and getting to fifty. That’s enough time to become the thing I want to be, whatever that is, time for another career, another self, another life, time to get it out of me, onto the page, into the air, into the heart. I wish it was not so hard not to be afraid. 125, 126

As long as I am living in the land of good, better, best, fear will always lurk just around the corner. The problem is measurement and evaluation. The goal of aging is not to finally reach the great heights of achievement but to resign entirely from the drivenness that always accompanies any life fuel by the need to achieve.

When I give up measuring there is much less to fear. My declining abilities do not matter. I no longer need to be seen as a great success. I begin to locate my identity within myself, rather than in making a big impression and racking up an impressive list of accomplishments. This is the route to true freedom.

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