Saturday, September 20, 2008

Some thoughts on aging

Well, it happened...I caught the dreaded flu that has been flying around the town but not before I merrily burned the candle at both ends and in the middle. Early this month, I passed a serious milestone birthday-wise...six decades on the planet! The celebrations extended over the better part of a week with relatives and friends arriving from out of town, brunch, lunch and coffee gatherings, phone calls, the party and the aftermath. Just about the time the dust was settling, the flu arrived and I've been shivering under the covers and having my way with boxes of lotion infused tissues ever since. Finally I feel well enough to put some more-or-less coherent sentences together.

When I was a child, adults in their 60's seemed antiquated to me. Now that I'm there myself, I don't know if I seem just as elderly to the children in my life, but I feel no different on the inside than my young self. What has changed is that I'm much more choosy about what I take on of late. The big question when I consider a new project or interest is "How much of my precious time do I want to dedicate to this?" It has proven to be a good question to ask on all kinds of levels, not least because the halfway point of my life is well behind me. It helps weed out the things I think I ought to do and helps me focus on the things that are truly important to me, the things I love and am passionate about. When the "guilts" strike, self-imposed or otherwise, it helps to have this basic principle to work from. Asking it seems to break through that obsessive dedication to work and housekeeping to which our society compels us. Chores that seemed to be obligations set in stone have lost most of their power to sidetrack me from a good novel, an afternoon in the garden or goofing off with my grandchildren. "Wasted" time is anything but wasted.

Another imponderable of getting older is the decline in stamina from earlier days. It's getting quite noticeable - I can still put in a very long day when I need to but I pay a bigger price than I used to. One can react (and one has, repeatedly!) by taking up a fitness program. Again, The Question (see "precious time" etc. above) comes in very handy - followed by "Am I enjoying this?" and "Could I get the same effect doing something I love...or something less boring?" For me, hiking up a mountain or walking with friends beats laps in the pool any day. And the iPod has been a golden discovery - there are things I can do while listening to my favourite podcasts that would otherwise bore me rigid...and not just running the treadmill - dishes, vacuuming, what-have-you, all fly past painlessly to the strains of Craftlit, CastOn or Escape Pod. If I listen to something improving (CBC's Ideas or French language lessons), I feel that I'm multi-tasking. Not to say that some onerous chores are without reward - I'm as fond of a clean house as the next person but I find myself more and more reluctant to pour time into the attaining of it without the proverbial spoonful of sugar.

Enough for some comic relief, here are the lyrics my friend Lesley wrote in honour of my birthday, which a group of friends sang for me to the tune of "My Favourite Things":

Merlot and iphones and needles for knitting,
Naots, orthotics and new iMac settings,

Bundles of sheep wool all tied up with string,

These are a few of your favorite things.

IPods and 'blogging' and 'hot' reading glasses,

Face cream and French scarves and free Belfry passes,

Lattes and sci-fi and music that swings,

These are a few of your favorite things.

When the pipes leak

When the bones creak,

When the knees go bad,

You simply remember your favorite things,

And then you don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and Harry and warm purple sweaters,

No dish with garlic or laced with red peppers,

Bathrobes and slipper and France in the Spring

These are a few of your favorite things.

When the joints ache,

When the wind breaks,

When the eyes grow dim,

Then we'll remember the great life we had,

And then we won't feel too bad.

Thanks Lesley!

Next post I'll share what I got for my birthday...lots of yummy fibre!

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