Of course, I’m not intending to finish things up right away. In fact, I plan to see my 100th birthday (such a nice, round number). It’s not an unrealistic goal, since centenarians are the fastest-growing age group in Canada. But being part of the cycles of nature, I am aware that we all, eventually, inevitably, will become memories that fade over time, and one day, we will be forgotten.
My worldly possessions fit neatly into my small apartment, so I won’t be leaving behind many tangible reminders of my earthly existence, nor would I want to be memorialised in the material things I accumulated during my lifetime. I’d rather leave behind ideas that may mean something to people in the future, or the present, who are focused on creating a new (and better) world in the shell of the old. Many of them, the people and the ideas, will be alive and flourishing long after I’m gone, I hope.
It took time and effort to regain my strength after being hit by a car three years ago. A friend introduced me to the gym, where I began working out on exercise machines about three or four days a week for over a year, and occasionally going to a group workout. Even with so little effort, I’ve experienced a significant increase in my strength, agility, flexibility, and balance. Encouraged, I’ve graduated to a workout regimen incorporating free weights, and committed to at least four days and doing one LesMills Body Pump session per week. Last week I had a consultation with an instructor who helped me create a personal training program. She asked my age, and looked surprised when I told her. She said she thought I was “61 or 62.” That’s still no spring chicken, but if she had said “50 or 51,” it would have been so blatantly untrue, it would have ruined the effect. To me it represented an achievement. When I was 61 and 62, and for several years after, I felt I was living at death’s door. I was physically weak and in constant pain, depressed, walking around in a mental fog, living in a community where I was a stranger, with no real friends, and with lots of anti-support from some “close” kin. These days, I’m as happy as any apocaloptimist can be, clear-minded, strong, and tolerably pain-free without medication.
Being able to travel (sometimes even to places where the food is not so nutritious or plentiful), to see my own life in new contexts, to meet people and learn to hear what they’re saying, these have also been healing.
In 2010, while I was still quite ill, I returned from British Columbia to my old neighbourhood in Montreal. Finding my little apartment in a west-end highrise was more than just wonderful luck; it was a blessing. Most of my neighbours are immigrants, like me. They come from many countries and cultures. There’s a general sense, though unspoken, that we’re all in this together. A few of us, most living in this building, get together often to dispel the gloom of Montreal’s long, cold winters, having potlucks and celebrating every possible occasion. Recently, one of my dear friends hosted a brunch for six to celebrate my birthday. The food was delicious and the wine was just plentiful enough. Our conversation, as always, was wide-ranging, and, even though we have diverse opinions, respectful of each other’s wisdom. Although I have Facebook friends I would like to meet one day, and appreciated the birthday wishes they posted (each a little dopamine hit), Facebook is a poor substitute for face-to-face, flesh and blood contact with mutually caring and trusted (and trustworthy) friends with whom we can freely share our own stories in our own words and know that others are listening. We share what we’ve seen, what we’ve learned, and what we know to be true. "Growing old" is still growing.
Tomorrow, we’ll be celebrating the winter solstice and the earth’s turning back toward the sun. This year, the solstice coincides with a full moon and a meteor shower. It seems auspicious. We will make it so.
I send my winter solstice wishes for Peace and Love to all my friends and to the world.