Perspective


underneath a catGet to a certain age, or a certain stage, and you’d really have to make an effort not to see that everyone approaches their lives from different angles.

Our formative years often shape how we’ll see our world, but I know people who survived horrific childhoods, yet still managed to live happy and peaceful lives. Their experiences in their youths shaped how they approached and nurtured the relationships they cultivated as they aged.

Other people grew up in the lap of luxury, but suffer through their days feeling that the entire world is against them, conspiring to refuse them the respect and goodies they deserve for merely existing. They can think of hundreds of little ways that life has just not treated them as well as they believed they deserved.

And then there are some who sail through their life without really knowing or caring that other people even exist.

perspective island

It’s all perspective.

In a recent conversation with my husband, I was stunned to realize how events in our shared lives, be they major or minor in scope, can be remembered in such drastically disparate ways that it seems like the antics of two different people living in two different worlds. Maybe that’s partly the difference in how men and women think, or maybe it has to do with how we’ve personally conducted ourselves during our long relationship.  Or maybe it’s a little of both, and a lot about how actions and words can be perceived in multiple ways, depending upon how the person receiving the actions or words receives, and interprets those interactions.

When we ascribe intent to words and actions, we alter how those words and actions are perceived.

When we attempt to interact in society, what we bring to the table varies wildly, depending on our own backgrounds, and the state of mind we were in when we approached a moment in our time. Were we tired? dyspeptic? broke? stressed?  Because all of those things will have a huge bearing on how we perceive what others say, write, or do.

perspectives good badYou really see perspective and interpretation at work when reading threads on social media. Because it is difficult to convey emotions verbally, spats and name-calling can suddenly erupt based on a simple misunderstanding, a failed attempt at humour or sarcasm, or a word used incorrectly.

But conversely, that’s one of the reasons that the arts we are able to enjoy on the internet can resonate so strongly within us; we are surprised and delighted when an image or a video or a song accurately reflects how we feel about a particular moment, or captures an emotion..  For a brief instant in time, we are completely in synch with another person’s gut take, and yet it is a shared experience, and all the more heady when many of us feel that same recognition simultaneously, and gather to share that experience, even if it’s only on the internet.

alice no going backWhile we might like to think that we are all, down deep, the same, it’s both true but not really true at all. We share the human experience, but each of us carries the history our parents bequeathed to us, and over time, we add our own experiences. Eventually we pass that on to our kids, who add their own experiences. And every bit of that combined familial and cultural mosaic makes our perspectives unique. At any given moment, how we approach any event – from how we choose our meals, to how we choose our elected officials – is a result of the lifetime of baggage we’ve brought along for the ride.

As we age and grow, we sift in the essences of the people, events, and emotions that we experience, and let those simmer in our soul stew. In time, we become a person very different from the person we were at birth. Life experiences are the fire that tempers our metal, as drastically as the fabled Philosopher’s Stone was said to turn brass into gold.

dylan quotePerspective allows us to understand that it is as painful for a poor man to lose a dollar, as it is for a billionaire to lose a billion, because for both, the loss is fear-provoking.

When I was a little kid, I was very, very near-sighted. However, I didn’t know that, since I had nothing to compare it to, and my family had no idea that I had such poor vision, until a teacher in my grade one class noticed that I couldn’t see what she was writing on the board. The day I got my first pair of glasses, my entire world changed, because now, I could see what went on around me like other people did.

My world changed, because my vision changed. And my perspective – quite literally the way I saw the world – was altered.

I wish that finding a little bit of insight into how others perceive what happens around them, was as simple as getting a new prescription for eyeglasses – what a better place that sort of world might be!   footprints

But instead, achieving perspective requires that we step back from our own values, attitudes and needs, and mentally and emotionally put ourselves into the shoes of someone unlike ourselves. Those shoes may be too tight, or far too roomy, but until we’ve walked a while in them, we cannot ever know the journey that other person is on.

Perspective.

tags:  Roxanne Tellier, perspective

The Rule of Three


In the rule of three, most everything can be divided into thirds. Life’s flow mostly falls into three stages; people tend to think in one of three ways. Three is mystical.

My first husband used to say, “Some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some people sit around asking, “what’s happening?” What can I say? It was the sixties. (And I’ve been married three times.)

1/3 of Americans love Trump, 1/3rd don’t. 1/3rd will go along with whatever everyone else is doing. one third of America

A third of American citizens believe there will be a Civil War very soon, a third think it’s unlikely, and another third don’t know why you’re bringing it up.

One-third of Americans think “substantially less” than 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Three successes of the same kind form a hat trick. A third of all people are overweight and obese, and there’s a good chance that a third of the world’s population will be African by 2100. The planet has lost a third of it’s farmable land in just the last forty years. Almost one third of our air pollution comes from the gasoline burned by vehicles.  And without a third leg, a stool won’t work.

A third is not a half, but it’s enough of a dent to show you mean business.

Three is a number that is big enough to matter, but small enough to comprehend. And it seems to be a pattern into which we naturally fall.

For years I’ve had a theory about aging. Hang around long enough and you see the  patterns playing out there as well.

In this case, I clearly see three stages of aging.

I have some friends who saw their own parents die shortly after retiring at 65; those friends were the ones who took early retirement, so that they can enjoy their ‘golden years’ while they still have excellent health.  And it’s really worked for them.

too old but we're the bandBut for the rest of us, and in my own observations, it goes a little like this.

In the first stage of getting older,  let’s say when people get into their early sixties, and can see their senior years rushing towards them, they generally still feel pretty good. The odd ache and pain is inevitable, and bad decisions made in their youth may be coming back to bite them, but the whole idea of getting ‘old’ seems almost laughable. Old was for your parents and grandparents, while you … you are still going to see rock concerts, and hanging out with people younger than yourself because you’re cool, and can blend in. Still fitting into those club clothes. Still able to hang out until past four a.m., now and again. Not all the time, but once in a while. Still got it.

Retirement represents possibilities! Time to shake off those shackles, maybe look into doing something they’ve put off for years, while they were ‘working for the man.’ Do what they love, rather than what pays a salary. And hey! A pension! Yeah, free money!

we grow old because we stop playingMost of us know there will be tough decisions that we will have to make in time, but we fool ourselves that that time is far away. Where we will live, and how we will manage our finances, are concerns, but .. just a sec! Right now, I don’t feel ‘old,’ so I’ll push aside any thoughts that remind me of how close I am to my own future.

This is the stage when you should be enjoying getting out and travelling. If you start to have trouble breathing, all of those higher altitude destinations will be out of the question. (If you haven’t already, quit smoking now.)  If you have decent mobility, and enjoy exploring travel destinations by foot – do it now. You’ll be glad that you did.

But too many of us are fairly delusional about embracing the concept of aging. Example: I was talking to someone about creating a rock n roll retirement home. He said he was really interested, and would look into it when he got older. He’s 68.

In the second stage of aging, things start to get real. You start having more things go wrong with your health, and you’re less able to do some of the things you used to do, but overall, you’re managing, with medications, regular doctor visits, and surgeries to either lop off the stuff that’s not working or to put stuff back from where it fell off. Most of the time you don’t notice that you’ve subtly normalized a slowing down of your world. You walk slower, you eat less, and you rarely feel like staying up late. You check your calendar before accepting an invitation that’s too far in the future.

'Help me Rhonda I've fallen & I can't get back up.'This is the point where organizations like CARP and AARP say you’ve got to face your future head on. Ask yourself, “Will my home work for me as I age? Should I re-fit my residence with devices to help me stay self-sufficient and independent, or should I consider selling or moving? Will my community be there to support me through the ups and downs of aging? Do I have enough sympatico friends to get me through the long days and weeks when work is not there to fill those hours?

At this point, all possibilities are still viable, but with restrictions. Expectations of what can be accomplished in a day change greatly. There’s not much desire to take on too many new things; dealing with the changes going on around you are enough to keep you busy.

You may find that you become more dependent on help from others for some activities, like getting around in the winter, when it’s more difficult. If you’re dealing with multiple chronic conditions, or a lot of pain, you may need to keep that in mind before planning travel. For Canadians, any travel or moving decisions can also become contingent on being able to access healthcare when necessary, in order to stay healthy and on the go.

Man about lady in rocking chair with roll bars: 'Never too old to rock and roll.'This might be a time when you enjoy leisure activities with family and friends.

Then there’s the last stage that comes along, when it becomes crucial to have someone around who can help with even basic daily living activities. Bathing, cooking and shopping become chores that are fraught with tension. As your body wears out, it may become necessary to hire outside help for personal care assistance, or to move into a residence where they will see to your daily needs.

Now, the thing is, how old you are at any of these stages is not important. What IS important is to be continually taking the ‘temperature’ of your physical condition, and to be enjoying every moment to it’s fullest extent. Some people are old at 60, others live far into their nineties in great physical shape. It will be your genetic background, and how you treated your body during the younger years that will determine how well you weather the senior years.

Some people find the discussion of aging too frightening. They hope and pray they’ll never get to the stage where they need to admit that they need help. But the only way to avoid aging is to die young. And for a lot of us… it’s too late for that option.

 

 

Bronte on aging

 

Okay, enough of all that. Everybody lift your beers into the air and let’s say it together!

Happy Canada Day!

 

 

You Can Choose


life is all about choicesOh yes, you can choose. You can choose pretty much every aspect of your life, from the small to the large, from the clothes you wear to the colour of your hair, and the music that you listen to, and of course, to the politicians you elect to run your country and ultimately tell you … what you can choose.

But it’s not all lollipops and roses, this ability to choose. First off, once we’ve chosen, we might not be happy with what we chose, and we might not want to take responsibility for how our choice worked out.

That’s free choice. And it can be exhausting.

Now, of course, there’s some stuff that is best when it’s our choice. That’s the prime directive from our childhood – it’s all about getting out from under the right of other people to make choices for us. We can’t wait for the day when we’re on our own, able to decide what we want to eat, drink, and wear, and how we wish to behave without being told what we can and cannot do.

And yes, we find out the hard way that these choices are always available to us .. as soon as we are able to pay … financially, physically, and emotionally … for the right to choose, and the consequences of what we have chosen.

It’s a child’s parents who have to teach children how to make smart choices.

One thing that parenting magazines stress is that giving kids virtually unlimited power to make choices is damaging to the child.

Some kids are better at decisions than others; some kids shut down when confronted with too many choices.

But one thing is certain. “An infinite number of choices will make a child anxious and insecure, ” says Dr Gorski. “Think how you feel when you have a dozen important decisions to make. What we think are small issues, such as what to wear, or what to eat, are huge to a child. Having to make too many choices – even kid sized ones – can be overwhelming.”

Children are more comfortable within boundaries. “A child who acts up is begging with her behaviour to be shown limits. ”

I know exactly how they feel. It’s not so different when we get older. Yes, it’s great to be able to choose our destinies – that’s what being an adult is about! However there are times when it’s just so much easier if someone else makes the choice for us.

Take music, for instance. It’s great to be able to access any song we want to hear, and to hear it as many times as we would like, but sometimes, it’s more relaxing to let a radio station’s programmer made that decision. Not only might we hear songs we like, but we might even hear new songs we wouldn’t have found on our own.

no choice is still a choice. jpgOr TV programs. Remember how we used to follow a series for years .. like Seinfeld, or Friends, and Thursday was the night you didn’t go out because you might miss an episode?

Well, it’s not like that anymore, because there are 500 channels on the satellite, and then there’s NetFlix, Hulu, Kanopy, and a half dozen other additional outlets, and then you can also stream television episodes from any point in the history of broadcasting, and watch them at any time of the day or night.

All you have to do is choose which episode … And again .. that’s stressful. What if you decide to watch this one episode, or this movie, and there’s another better one you don’t have time to watch because there’s only so much time in anyone’s life?

You can choose. But sometimes, it is great when someone else chooses for you. Isn’t it great when you ask your official or unofficial ‘other’ what they want to do, and they tell you? In detail? What they want to eat, where they’d like to go, and what they’d like to do after that? It can feel really good to hand over the reins to someone else, occasionally.

If you are the one who is always tasked with making choices and decisions, even about petty things, like what to eat for dinner, it can become exhausting. Deciding what to make, gathering the items needed, and then preparing the meal … and doing that day after day after month after year … the excitement wears off pretty quickly.

choice is energyYou can choose to agree, or disagree, or to start a dialogue where your preferences are considered and best of all, suddenly, you have more choices!

What we learn, as kids, and what we take with us into our adulthoods, is that every group in which we are included is a community, and that not everyone’s needs can be met all of the time. Fair is not always equal. We resent if there is one person making all of the decisions all of the time. We need to spread the freedom of choice around and amongst us.

As we grow and begin to reason, we also see the consequences of our choices, and learn that what might be fun or easy in the short run, could be disastrous in the longer run. Not flossing in your teens might feel like you are getting away with something … but you’ll be making some dentist rich in your forties from the consequences. We learn that we may have to deal with the regret of making a bad choice, but that we can’t always know what is best, and that mistakes, and how we deal with them, are also a part of life.

Choice can be a liberating or a limiting thing, depending on circumstances. There are days when, just like a child, it’s best to limit your choices, to ask yourself to be responsible for just so much, and no more. Limiting the amount of decisions you need to make can be as beautiful a thing as having the reason and responsibility to make really big choices.

You can choose that too.

 

If Aging is Inevitable …


It really is unfortunate that Trump decided to pause his retirement to be a part time president.  He’s happier golfing, or lying in bed eating cheeseburgers, and I think we all would be delighted to see him go back to those pastimes full time. trump in bed w chzburgers

That being said, being aware of the declining thought processes of a 71 year old person who insists on being the center of attention 24/7 has, for good or ill, has shone a spotlight on how to age disgracefully.

Trump embodies much of the fears, confused thinking, and self indulgence associated with declining mental health.

One of the first and most important signs of this psychological decline is what is called ‘doom thinking,” or thought processes becoming instantly hostile, stressed or sad. With this mindset, anything that doesn’t resemble the familiar is perceived as threatening.

Another sign is extreme mood swings, with periods of elation, anger, depression or even rage. Disorganized speech, evasive answers to even the simplest questions, and a tendency to wander mentally while responding are also warnings.

Cognition EqualsPaying attention to our own physical and mental needs as we age should be a top priority for everyone – not just for our own good, but out of respect for those who will share those senior years with us.

I recently entered a study that focuses on the impact of aging on memory. I’d noticed myself having more difficulty memorizing song lyrics; I could remember the words to songs I’d sung 40 years ago, but was struggling to remember new lyrics at rehearsal. I also found myself having a tough time coming up with just the right word to use, whether in writing a column, or in discussion with others.

accept responsibilityBut it wasn’t until I began the interview process of  the study that I realized how many workarounds I’d unconsciously adapted, in order to conceal the normal mental decline we all face during the aging process. I also began to notice how often I blamed circumstances or other people when I made an error, rather than recognizing that the error was my own fault.

Our brains are wonderful things; they are extraordinarily adept at finding the least difficult way to do things.  And that is great, during our youth and middle age, when we’re negotiating our way through school, a career, relationships and all the matters that we have to contend with in the full throes of life.

But as we approach and enter retirement, a lot of the distractions have faded away, and we have less worries to occupy our thoughts. That’s when we may discover that we’ve lost some of our mental agility, along with the supple physicality of our youths.

brain stimThe study that I’m a part of requires confidentiality on the specifics, but I can say that it involves electrical and cognitive brain stimulation on a daily basis, and includes cognitive remediation (computer games) for an eight week period.

It also includes daily discussions on known methods of combating mental decline. Most of these have been around for quite some time, but so many of us fail to plan for a time when we no longer have to answer to anyone but ourselves.

Everyone approaches retirement differently, and how we hope to spend our days is often based on how we have spent our time in the previous four decades. Some are looking forward to afternoon naps and endless NetFlix, while others want to get into volunteerism, cookery, or further education.

If one’s daily work kept the wolf from the door, but didn’t fulfill an artistic urge, this might be the first chance some will have to finally pursue their ambitions.

The most important thing is to HAVE a plan. Drifting into retirement without any idea of where you’re going next, will ensure you go nowhere of interest  Time will pass; whether or not you enjoy that time is up to you.

retire happy(A good book on planning for retirement is one I read a few years back, by Canadian Ernie J. ZelinskyHow to Retire Happy, Wild and Free. It’s a great follow up to his previous book … The Joy of Not Working: 21st Century Edition – A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked. The focus of both books is on enjoying life and both encourage physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and improvements.)

So, what are a few things that anyone can put into practice to build new brain cells, and alleviate mental decline?

Cognitive impairment is not inevitable. You can really reduce the risk of age-related memory loss by keeping mentally stimulated, through activities that stimulate new connections between nerve cells. To develop neurological ‘plasticity’, indulge in mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and crafts like drawing and painting, that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort.

healthy eating. jpgIt is tempting to ease up on our diets as we age, but it’s probably more important  to be nutritionally wise as you age, than it is during the more physically active years. It’s not just about how much or little you eat, as it is what you’re eating. Reducing consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources and of trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, along with a concentration of foods high in the B vitamins can help lower your homocysteine levels, which are often linked to an increased risk of dementia. Eat your greens, and enjoy more grains.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which is designed to reduce blood pressure, but could also protect against dementia.

The ten foods considered healthy are:

    •    green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale 
    •    other vegetables, such as red peppers, squash, carrots and broccoli 
    •    nuts 
    •    berries, including blueberries and strawberries 
    •    beans, lentils and soybeans 
    •    wholegrains 
    •    seafood 
    •    poultry 
    •    olive oil 
    •    wine (in moderation)

Five foods considered unhealthy include red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried or fast foods. So .. all the fun stuff. <le sigh>

 Beyond staying lean, it’s particularly important to keep a stern eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. Diabetes is not a given as you age.

Although you may not want to hear it, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake are pretty much essential. Some say up to two alcoholic drinks a day is safe for men, with slightly less being ideal for women. Excessive drinking is a major risk factor for dementia.

Good, refreshing sleep is probably the greatest gift you can give your brain cells. A deep, REM sleep of from six to eight hours a night replenishes the brain, and allows ‘janitor cells’ to clear away dead cells and make room for the new. There is some evidence that sleeping on your left side makes that process easier for your body.

https://dailyhealthpost.com/6-hidden-health-benefits-of-sleeping-on-your-left-side-that-you-should-know-about/

Anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, or exhausted people are at an increased risk of cognitive decline in old age. Keeping control of our emotions will help. Having a circle of friends and acquaintances with whom you enjoy interacting is also very important for keeping a positive attitude.

Despite the aches and pains often associated with aging, older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain.

MDS LogoExercise is known for promoting both body and mind, with the elderly seeing especially great improvements. But it is not known which type of exercise is best for the elderly. To help address this, the traditional fitness group conducted mainly repetitive exercises like cycling or Nordic walking, while the dance group was challenged with something new each week.

Consistently changes in dance routines of different genres were implemented. These included the likes of jazz, square, Latin-American, and line dancing. To help keep the dances more challenging, speed and rhythms were changed every week to simulate the learning process as the seniors learned new routines.

Both groups were found to have increases in their hippocampus regions of the brain – an important area prone to age-related decline and affected by neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. the hippocampus is also known for playing key roles in memory, learning, and even balance.

 “Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity. In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance,” says Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany.”

Aging is not for sissies .. or the lazy. But with mindfulness, self love, and an open mind, it can be the best time of your life. Live! Love! Dance!

admire kind people

For more information on the paid study on aging and memory:

http://www.camh.ca/en/research/research_areas/studies_and_recruitment/study-websites/Pages/PACt-MD.aspx

 

Of Time and Tides


not ready for growingupNext week, I’ll be heading to British Columbia to visit my daughter, granddaughters, family and friends. My husband gifted me the fare; he knows I’ve been aching to see the girls. I’ll be there for my daughter’s birthday, and to reacquaint myself with my granddaughters, who are teetering on the brink of their teenage years, at ages 11 and 13. My daughter will have her hands full for the next decade with these two little minxes.

I, on the other hand, have ‘grandmother privilege.‘ I get to see them when they’re on their best behaviour, and to leave the room for a nap or to visit friends when they’re acting up. Life is good!

For years I was unable to travel. A weird combination of finances and bureaucracy kept me from obtaining the necessary identification to board a train or plane. My clever friend, Barbette Kensington, steered me through the morass of paperwork, and now … I am a genuine, legally viable, traveling person!

So I’m looking forward to this trip, for many reasons, and despite my insane fear of flying. It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to travel, and one that I’ve not been able to do in over 16 years.

Getting older is a privilege as well, although many of us hate to think about it. As our loved ones, idols and contemporaries succumb to time, it starts to seem like the world we once knew is fading away, leaving us adrift in an altered space.

Coming to grips with aging looks a lot like getting thru the stages of grief. You’re gonna have to go through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before you finally come to acceptance.

I have my own theory on how we deal with getting older; I think I read it somewhere, but it’s mine now. Basically, there’s three stages.

In the first stage, you feel pretty much like you always did. You still want to do all of the things you used to do, and for the most part, you are able to socialize, travel, and maintain your hobbies with maybe a little more resting time needed than before. But you’re still a you that you recognize, and if you’ve got a few bucks, you can finally relax and enjoy life.

In the second stage, something goes wrong, either physically or mentally. Maybe you break a hip, or have a stroke. Now you’re wishing you had gotten in that trip to Peru before your lungs decided high altitudes were no longer an option. You get a little angry that your social calendar looks barer than it used to, and you might start to tell people that you’re “not as young as you used to be,” in order to get out of doing any sort of strenuous movement … like walking up the stairs.

do not regret growing olderIn the third stage, you can’t do very much at all, and there isn’t much you look forward to anymore. That’s the last bit of the human journey, and probably the least anticipated.

Aging is inevitable, and few would prefer the alternative. Ready or not, at some time in your late fifties or early sixties, you will realize that you’re nearing, or in, that first stage, and that you have no idea when exactly the second stage will kick in.

We live in wonderful times. While we can’t turn back the clock, we can be grateful that medical science now allows an array of options for dealing with aging bodies. Hip surgeries and knee replacements are commonplace. Who knows what miracles will be available as we age and need a few more drastic nips and tucks?

laser surgery. jpgWe simply can’t anticipate what the future will hold, for good or ill. As a kid, I never dreamed that there would someday be a surgery available to correct vision … I had just assumed that I’d eventually lose my sight entirely, as both of my grandmothers had. Thanks to lasers, I had two decades of perfect vision. One of these days, I’ll have more laser surgery, and that will correct the effects of aging as well.

It would be great if there were big advances in cancer treatments. Cancer is a cruel bitch, and she’s taken away too many of my loved ones. Last fall, I had to finally admit that it was time to stop smoking, and I quit cold turkey. I’ll be dealing with the damage that I did to myself from here on in, and keeping my fingers crossed that I escape the Big C.

Took me too long to realize that you only need to change a few letters to go from ‘excuse’ to ‘exercise.’ A regular exercise program makes me feel a lot less stressed. Maybe the aquafit will also help me lose a few pounds. Couldn’t hurt. For sure it’s refocusing my attention on how good it feels to be able to stretch without pain.

The first stage of aging can be a bit of a shock – it’s almost as though our bodies are betraying us. After years of doing pretty much whatever was asked of them, our bodies have gone mutinous, and are demanding that we treat them with more care.

There’s several reasons for these changes, but they are all inevitable, so you may as well get used to them.

” Two biological phenomena appear related to the aging process:

• Accumulation of waste products in the cells
• Loss of elasticity of the connective body tissue

These changes, sometimes called nongenetic, occur at the cellular level. They have a direct bearing upon many declines we experience in our physical and sensory capabilities.

Many bodily changes take place over the entire lifespan— some beginning with birth. They are part of a relentless, post-maturational phenomenon called senescence (biological aging).

Senescence results in a decrease in the physical capacity of an individual, accompanied by an increase in a person’s vulnerability. As a result, any product or environment may become less friendly and less supportive for some people while adequately providing support for others.

Most of the changes that characterize senescence occur slowly. As they occur, individuals adapt to them. For example, people with arthritis may select utensils with larger and softer handles to ease the pain and enhance their grip.”

http://www.transgenerational.org/aging/aging-process.htm)

While the changes are inevitable, how we deal with them is up to us. Denying the realities of aging only leads to a more rapid decline, and if we try to force ourselves to perform at the same level, mentally or physically, as we did in our prime, we’re doomed to failure, and to setting up a negative feedback loop that tells us that it’s no use to even try for what improvement we can rationally expect.

What we really crave is a happy aging experience, and that’s easier to get to when we aim for smaller goals, with less dramatic gains, but gains that are progressive and ongoing. In a positive feedback loop of self-reinforcing and self- energizing behaviours, we can find the sweet spot of feeling comfortable at any age.

those who love deeply never grow old. jpgThere’s got to be joy in our lives. That’s what really motivates us, and leads us to the healthy actions and interactions that make getting up every morning something to anticipate rather than dread.

We need ‘fresh air and friendly faces,’ people that we care about and people who care about us. We need to love and be loved, and to hold dear those whom we treasure for the good impact they’ve had in our lives.

We need to appreciate where we’ve been, and what we’ve done, while embracing new experiences that stretch our abilities. And sometimes we need to get on an airplane even when we’re terrified of flying.

There’s no sense in denying your ‘golden years;’ there’s only the reality of how you’ll choose to live them. My choice is to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.

mark twain on travel

 

Don’t Get Around Much Anymore …


Ach and oy vey! This house move is cramping my style, big time. Haven’t been able to get out to a lot of events, because time’s a ticking, and there’s only so many hours in a day. I’d like to say I’ve become more selective in my outing choices. But the truth is, moving and packing is a bitch. There just isn’t any time to gallivant around.

But let me tell you about two recent events I did manage to squeeze in. Both were wonders in their own ways.

Kensington Market Jazz Festival

molly johnson jazz.jpgA few weeks ago, I was having lunch with friends in the Market, when Molly Johnson came bopping along. Molly may be a Canadian icon – a singer, songwriter, broadcaster and philanthropist  – but that day she was a woman on a mission, distributing posters and postcards to the local shops, in aid of her latest project – the first annual Kensington Market Jazz Festival. It was the first I’d heard of it. When I asked how I could help, she asked if my friend Barbette and I would volunteer to handle door duties at some of the gigs.

Could I?  Well – time is tight – so, one gig was all I could commit to. And what a gig! The first act of the night at The Boat was an up and coming sax player. Alison Young. She and her quartet performed a strong, solid set. Loved it! She’s got a record coming out soon. .. and you should buy it.

A quick pause for the cause .. ran into Eric Alper hanging at the venue next door … and then we were on to the second set.

I’ve always considered The Shuffle Demons one of Toronto’s seminal acts, combining jazz and street wisdom in a playful, theatrical fashion.  And hot damn! Really good players.

So  I was thrilled to do door for the guys. Richard Underhill is, amongst other things, a past mayoral candidate. He’s a smart dude, a good dude, always on the ball. And a hell of a band leader.

As we took in the dough at the door … and it was very well attended, so we were kept very busy … I heard Richard say to his wife, “Just try to video our entry.”

I warned Barbette … we were in for some FUN!

And sure enough, The Shuffle Demons made an impeccable entrance, coming up The  Boat’s stairs in full regalia, tootling their tootlers, dancing with jin jinglers tied on to  their heels  They blew their hoo hoovers, they blanged their tar tinglers …  you get the drift.

It was just the start. Two hours later, I was exhausted! I had sung along, screamed along, danced along!

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I had a very good time.

Bohemian Embassy Redux

(all Bohemian Embassy artist pics are courtesy of Sue Peters, with thanks!.)

Friday past – An evening of memories, poetry, and wonderful song!

Way before I hit the Big Smoke, an actor/writer/poet named Don Cullen had staked out a turf he called the Bohemian Embassy.  You may also remember him from his 20 years as a regular on Wayne and Shuster.

His Bohemian Embassy was a place where musicians, artists, poets, and those with a theatrical bent, could come to test their fledgling wings. The Embassy moved around a bit, first appearing on St Nicholas Street, from 1960 through 1966, and then reappearing at Harbourfront, from 1974 to 1976.

Couldn’t happen today. We’re too busy converting our history into condos.

But back then, oh, it could. And it did happen.

bohemian-embassy-sept-2016-don-cullenDon Cullen was the Pied Piper of Possibilities, of that first break,  when the world was wide open to the new. New music, new sounds … whatever could be dreamed up, this was a place where it could be showcased.

The memories flowed from the speakers .. of the days when a young Margaret Atwood could read her first scribblings to a rapt audience; where Milton Acorn and Al Purdy found a place to showcase their poems;  where Lorne Michaels practiced his directing; where players as diverse as Gordon Lightfoot and Klaas von Graft could hone their craft, while Bob Dylan, famously, was denied a spot on the roster.

Several luminaries were unable to join the gathering, held at the Toronto Library Yorkville branch, including John Robert Columbo, Sylvia Tyson, and Ms Atwood herself (though she did send a beautiful floral bouquet, with a sweet note, signed “Peggy.”)

But those who came, and entertained us, included our hostess Linda Goldman (who also helped fund the reunion,) Mr. Cullen himself, Chick Roberts (The Sinners/The Dirty Shames,) Klaas von Graft and Beverlie Robertson (The Chanteclaires,) Judith Orban, Joanne Crabtree, Owen McBride, Sharon Hampson (Sharon, Lois and Bram,) Keith McKie (Kensington Market,) Riverboat performer Dede Higgins, poet and author Robert Priest, musician and satirist Nancy White, and Terry Jones and David Woodhead of Perth County Conspiracy, accompanied by Nancy Solway, and Bob Cohen.

And each one showed that the faith, and the talent that Don Cullen had seen in them, so many years before, had not been misplaced.

There was that old Yorkville hippie spirit in the room, as performer after performer trotted out their memories, talents, and affection for Cullen and the venue he created. Nancy White’s rendition of her song, “Popular Don Cullen,” had the audience joining in wholeheartedly, as did so many of the other performers’ classic Canadiana and folk offerings.

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Keith McKie’s songs were  ethereal and timeless.

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Perth County Conspiracy’s mini set was simply beautiful – the harmonies were sublime.

 

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And poet Robert Priest did not disappoint, as he read the first poem he’d written and debuted at the Embassy, and concluded with a new poem on social injustice that had the audience howling with laughter. Priest’s writing is sublime, and his reach wide. As a songwriter, he co-wrote (with Nancy Simmonds) the international hit, “Song Instead of a Kiss” for Alannah Myles.

I went to this event expecting a nostalgia fest, centered on a time before my own. Instead, I was enthralled, touched, invigorated, and thoroughly entertained by each of those who came to give of their time and their hearts to the “Popular Don Cullen.”

And now … back to packing up my world … if you need me, you’ll have to dig me out from under the hoard …

 

Rosemary Solway, Bob Cohen,Yorkville , Nancy White, Keith McKie, Perth County Conspiracy, Robert Priest , Nancy Simmonds, Alannah Myles.

Epiphany – Life Changes


We sold our house a month and a half ago … got a good price, and a long lead time, so we’re pretty happy about that. My husband is retiring in December, and I won’t be that far behind him. And this is a fairly large property, that feels too big for he and I to care for. Well, we probably could. We just don’t care to.

Big changes in life are like earthquakes; all that was simmering below the surface is suddenly revealed in the upheaval.

The last six weeks have been traumatic. At first, the relief of selling, along with the funds that will follow, made me giddy with excitement. And then, after the thrill wore off, ugly reality set in. I’ve been a home owner for almost thirty years, and a hoarder for at least the last ten. Faced with the need to evaluate what I value, and what is valuable – two very different things – it was time to finally decide the direction my life will take for the next chapter.

I sank into a paralysis of indecision, tortured by what I would be giving up … my large back yard, and gardens; this beautiful street; the lake at the bottom of the hill. The house, I realized, had never really mattered, but being an owner of a house did. If I decided I wanted to put up shelves, paint a wall, even put a nail in a cupboard to hold my measuring spoons, those were MY decisions, and the consequences mine to answer for.

Renting will be very different. I will have to ask ‘permission’ to do so many things, including keeping a pet. I understand that. Owning property is a big deal. Making sure that property retains value is a big deal. I can’t expect to freely treat a rental unit as I would a home in which I have a financial stake.

However, losing that autonomy is also a big deal. In many ways it feels like a surrender, like going home to the parents after making a stab at liberation. I’m an independent cuss, so that doesn’t feel very good at all.

It also smacks of the other end of life, of the surrendering of independence in pursuit of once more being taken care of by others.

So I am simultaneously feeling like a young bird, leaving the nest, and an old dog, hoping its owners will still appreciate and comfort it as it ages.

 

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