I’ll Take Mortality for $200, Alex


by Roxanne Tellier

When did people start ending every conversation with “be safe. Keep yourself safe”? Am I the only one that wonders when it was decided that we are living in a time of war or zombie attacks? And why is it so incredibly sad to know that the enemy we’re being cautioned against is a disease too often spread to us by our own loved ones and ‘friends’?  

Gary 17 pic by Lisa MacIntosh

The other day I suddenly thought about Gary ‘17’ Webb. For a few moments I wondered how he was doing, and what clubs he was monitoring for his webpage. And then I remembered that he’d passed in December of 2020 – not from COVID, but from another health issue.

It got me thinking about the sadly large number of friends and acquaintances that we’ve lost during this time. It’s an extensive list, and it continues to grow, from the pandemic, but also from the complications of health care in a time of ‘plague.’ Without funerals, and often with memorials and tributes put on hold indefinitely, how many of the dead will fade from our thoughts in the coming years? Humans need to gather to mourn; COVID took that away from us.

Greg Simpson pic by Chico Sanchez

We lost so many in our music/entertainment community over the last two years. And countless more in other fields and endeavors. Sometime in the future, someone will ask you when one of these luminaries passed, and you won’t remember, lost in the flood of the names of the famous and infamous whose leaving went almost unnoticed in the sheer volume of deaths recorded.

Humans are funny creatures. Of all of the living species, we are likely the only species that understands that we are finite beings. We are born, we live our lives, and at some point, we die. It’s the natural order of things; we see it in all of the living beings around us, in nature, in the seasons. We know without a doubt that we are finite. But most of us choose to pretend that we are not.

Society and civilization depend on the collective mind believing that there is a productive and better future to come. It’s our gamble. It’s why we buy insurance. There’d be no economic incentive to build cities or empires if we didn’t believe that our hard work and sacrifices wouldn’t ultimately pay off, for us, and for our heirs. We want a future; we can’t anticipate a time when there won’t be one for us. 

I recently read that a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the most productive age in human life is between 60-70 years of age. The second most productive stage of the human being is from 70 to 80 years of age. The third. most productive stage is from 50 to 60 years of age.    

Nicholas Brooks

That means that the best years of your life are between 60 and 80 years of age, and that, at age 60, you reach the TOP of your potential and this continues into your 80s.   

And yet, because of our submerged, unvoiced fear of aging and death, birthdays after 50 are too often greeted with sadness, gifts of tonics and hemorrhoid creams, black balloons, and cards that inform us that we’ve gone “Over the Hill.”

While we may have, in our youth, invested in collectibles, antiques and art, we are now informed that not all things increase in value with age. People, it would seem, diminish in worth.

But how can that be? In some societies, elders are revered as wisdom holders, the keepers of the culture, the teachers, the mentors, replete with the wisdom of a life well spent! In an ideal world, an elder that has walked the path in their field would be actively sought after for their insights.

In our modern world, long term care facilities are often modern-day ice floes upon which we place our old and sick, so that they might drift far away, and not disturb our fast-paced lives. During COVID, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, even suggested that patriotic oldsters would gladly die to save the economy.  

But failing to respect and access the accumulated knowledge and experience that many elders possess is to potentially throw away some of the most valuable assets that we possess. Ideally, our society would accept and anticipate becoming a respected elder, who is available to provide valuable insights, based on their years of experience.   

Not all elders are wise, nor are they always right in their opinions. But no one is right, all the time, and even the wunderkinds don’t understand every field that exists.

There are some instances in which an elder should be discouraged from commenting, and in that, I would include technology that they have not yet encountered, understood, or conquered. It would be folly to ask, as members of the U.S. Congress did recently, that senior members, who are not fluent in current internet tech, rule on how technology will go forward in the years to come, when they will most likely not be around to live under those rules.

Each of us must respect the stages of life. We must also be aware that those coming up behind us will need the time and space to enter into the workplace and develop their own experience and wisdom. In time, their wisdom will be of use to the generation that is coming up behind them.

If we all could look forward to a beneficial aging, rather than a collective shunning, we could be more proactive in our ‘golden’ years.

It’s not a crime, or shameful, to realize how aging will affect us. While there will be a lucky few that escape the ravages of time largely unscathed, many of us already know what lies ahead, in terms of wellness and personal vulnerability.  

I decided long ago that I would be honest with myself about how aging and illness would affect my life, my living quarters, and my need for independence. 

A few years ago, I was contemplating the purchase of an e-scooter, something that I could use to do errands, and to maintain some independence from needing to use public transit or cadging rides from others. But the more I thought about a two wheeled scooter, the more I realized that it wouldn’t really suit my long-term needs. I needed something with room to transport groceries, or library items. I also worried about maintaining my balance on two wheels.

So, when I saw an ad for a beat-up old mobility scooter on the buy and sell board of my supermarket, I decided to go for it. It was going for much less than a scooter, new or used, and I figured it would be a good ‘first vehicle’ for me. And I was right. Learning to steer and properly drive any vehicle can be a period of trial and error, and it can sometimes turn deadly. I’ll be forever grateful that I chose to learn while I still have full use of my limbs and faculties.

Sure, it was a little embarrassing, buying into the whole mobility scooter look, but it freed me up to do my errands when I wanted, how I wanted. And that independence means a great deal to me. Had I waited until a mobility scooter was my only choice for transportation, I might not have had the flexibility to roll with the learning curve punches.

I’m under no illusions about aging. I look at my face in the mirror every day, and it’s not the face (or hair, or body) that once looked back at me. Aging is inevitable, and non-negotiable. This is where the GIGO ends; garbage in equals garbage out, and if you chose to fuel yourself with ‘garbage’ throughout your life, garbage is what you’re left with to negotiate your last years.

With that being said, it’s not only fun to soothe our egos with mementos of our glorious youths – sometimes it can be a life saver. The conceit that our past precedes us can do real damage in situations where our pasts are unknown.

When two of my doctors retired, exhausted from the restraints of COVID regulations, I was suddenly faced with entrusting my continued healthcare to a new doctor who had never known me as anyone other than the senior person they saw sitting in front of them. They don’t know my past experiences, which means that they can’t see how those experiences resonate in my choices of today.   

That’s why I brought along a portfolio of photos from my youth with me to my first face-to-face encounter with my new family doctor. She’s a busy woman, and I can’t expect her to waste her time in trying to imagine where my thoughts and feelings come from. So I showed her photos of myself on stage, in community settings, with my kids and grandkids. I let her know that I’m not just a new patient that falls neatly into a geriatric box, but rather, a person who has had a full and rewarding life, that’s not ready to be sloughed aside in any form of triage, based on age.

Reflections of the Past by Tom Hussey

Maybe I’m fooling myself, and those photos made no impression on her. All I could do was try and visually show her that my present visage may appear to be old and vulnerable, but my youth prepared me for a good fight to the finish.  

Bette Davis was right – old age is not for sissies. Having a full, rewarding old age takes work. But consider the alternative … it ain’t pretty.

Aging and Changing


by Roxanne Tellier

Teenaged me wasn’t very smart.  “Hope I die before I get old.”Never trust anyone over 30.” I’d not yet heard of the 27 Club, but if I had, I might have aspired to joining it, thus avoiding becoming untrustworthy.   

I was an idiot, as we all are when we are young, dumb, and believe we are the first creatures to experience the banquet of life. I was certain that no one had ever understood fashion, been in love, or known the glories of sex, before my existence.

Yet, by 30 I was having the time of my life! When I think about how much I’ve learned, and how much I’ve accomplished since the days of my ignorant youth, I am so very glad that I survived long enough to find out how very wrong I was about just about everything I thought I knew when I was legit dumber than a box of rocks.  

The fifties and sixties were very different times from present day. Older people got older faster – my grandmother seemed much older than her years when she was in her mid 50s, and bowed down by grief and loss. Older women were expected to be very fragile, and older men were best left to their spooky lairs. (Come to think of it, why did I live amongst all these very odd people?)

But in reality, the seniors of the 50s and 60s were often true survivors. They had lived through the Spanish Flu, two world wars and a bunch of smaller skirmishes, and the Great Depression. They’d seen the world change from being largely agricultural to a more technological economy, might themselves have been child labourers, had seen the onset of unions and labour laws, and had had to change how they worked right along with it. They’d paid some heavy dues, and it showed, especially in their health.

Today’s seniors, on the other hand, are very different. We’ve had a lot of advantages, and few of us were involved in any wars except peripherally. In Canada, we’ve had access to pretty good health care across the board since 1984, when the Canada Health Act was passed. In the heady days when every halfway decent job came with ‘benefits,’ we could count on our teeth being cared for, and often even other small mercies were covered, like massages and rehab.   

Many of us segued from mullets to middleclass, and worked decent jobs with the possibility of retiring with a little financial cushion to enjoy in our ‘golden years.’ And many, many of us bought houses, which exploded in value over the decades, and provided us with either a roof over our heads, or a nice nest egg, post-sale.

Whether we invested wisely or not, we are still guaranteed a small pension on which we can live, if not like kings, then not like paupers either. Before 1965, that didn’t exist. The Canada Pension Plan was passed to replace the original old age pensions for those who lacked pension plans from their pre-retirement days. Older, single, women often suffered the most on those plans, since they generally were paid significantly less than men during their prime working years. While I believe there needs to be a rethinking of how the Plan is currently administered, I am aware of how many are blessed to have this financial security in their lives.

As a rule, boomers have much better educations than their parents had. My parents both left school around the 8th or 9th grade, to help support their families.

Beyond the benefits of having more education, money, and security than our grandparents could have dreamt of, boomers were also a generation that could let their minds fly free in dreams of a progressive future. In the late 50s, the sci fi magazines and even the kiddie cartoons promised us a future in the stars. Flying cars! Robot maids!

Radical ideas were being approved at government levels, and marvels like underground trains, the wonders of Expo 67 and it’s manmade islands, McLuhan’s Geodesic Dome, and Ontario Place rose around us, in a brave new world.

The world, including what we could watch on our new tv sets, themselves a huge jump from the world of radio, went from black and white to colour, almost overnight.

Our world got much smaller, even as we got bigger. Our trips overseas went from being week long journeys on steamers, to eight-hour plane rides, to a zippy 2 hours, 53 minute jaunt, New York to London, via the Concorde.

Our reach got longer, as we began to embrace the foods, customs, and musics of far away places.

So much progress, of unimaginable proportions, happened between 1940 and 1980. There’s a meme going around that says, “2020 is now as far from 1980 as 1980 was from 1940″ and I just can’t stop thinking about that. I mean, the 60s made the 40’s unthinkable. Just a few decades later, the North American world we lived in was virtually unrecognizable.

(What happened from the 80s to today, I cannot explain. We seem to have entered a  cultural void reeking of political correctness that prevents forward movement. I’m hoping we’ll eventually emerge from this costly stasis.)    

While there are stories of sadness, despair and deprivation from those who lived then, as there are in nearly every other time in history, I would still love to be able to spend a few days back then, when we all seemed to be younger, fitter, healthier and sexier. Those were good times for most of us, on many levels.

Nevertheless, life can only be lived forward; looking back might occasionally be pleasant, but living in the past would impoverish my present.

If you have the luxury of aging, there is an opportunity for mental and emotional growth. Personalities don’t really change with the years, but our traits tend to become more pronounced and entrenched. If you were a miserable middle-aged person, you may not ever be happy. But assuming no drastic and/or damaging mental or physical changes come along, you’ll really be pretty much the same person you always were, only more so.   

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks; studies have shown that older people tend to be more responsible overall, more empathic, and more caring of their work and the people around them. Those prone to social fears tend to become less willing to socialize, but more engaged in others when they choose to do so. Quality over quantity becomes the rule.

In some cases, getting older means getting better. Most research shows that as people get older, they are not more agreeable — they just don’t care as much what others think. We develop a higher sense of personal identity as we age, a better understanding of who we are, and what we stand for.

Our personalities are always changing, right along with the calendar, but the change is very subtle, and unlikely to be noticed in the short term. Our reactions to emotional situations tend to become calmer over the years, as we develop self-confidence, leadership abilities, and social sensitivity.

The internet and social media have had a lot of impact on those who are easily persuaded by those they admire. Especially politically, sadly. But there’s also a real positive aspect to social media, when it’s used to connect with friends and loved ones, allowing those that have less physical interaction with others to become engaged in constructive activities and self education. The Internet – it giveth and it taketh away.

Getting older is not for sissies. There’s a lot of entropy involved, for one thing, and most of us swear that we’d have taken better care of our teeth and backs, had we known we were going to have to use them for so long.

But aging is a luxury not all will enjoy. Aging gracefully means accepting your age, living your best life, and hopefully, having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. It means loving yourself enough to be kind to your body and mind, in hopes of having many enjoyable years to spend with family and friends.

Aging well means keeping your mind sharp, and your attitude positive. It’s time to do the things that bring you joy, and to spend time with people of like minds. Mindfulness, and living in the moment by focusing on the present has many proven health benefits that will lower stress and increase immune functions.

For myself, I hope to continue being creative, and to never stop learning. The world is full of wonders, if we are open to seeing them.

Because, as they say, getting older is inevitable. But aging poorly is optional.

The Wisdom of Our Elders


by Roxanne Tellier

What a difference a week makes! Since the inauguration, I haven’t had a single communication with another person that didn’t involve a distanced high five, and a recounting of how much better we’re all sleeping and eating since we saw the backend and ignominious departure of the previous resident of the White House.

Trump was that creepy uncle that you only saw once or twice a year, and learned at a young age to step lively around, lest he pinch you cruelly, and in a ‘private’ place.  His words were lies, his ‘truth’ nothing but narcissism and tales of his own greatness, believed only by the gullible.

Predictably the QCrazies are bereft, inconsolable, losing their minds, because, it seems the Kraken didn’t awake, the Storm didn’t break, and all the money they spent on champagne to toast a forever trump presidency is gonna have to paid for, so it’s back to the proverbial chain gang, trumpless.

There’ll be no pardons for those that opted to follow their leader’s words, and attempted to overthrow the government, just arrests, fines, and imprisonments to remind them that black out drunks and highs have consequences.

A new Biden administration toddles into place, just a few days old, and already under siege from a Republican party that believes their bluster will protect them from the wrath of not just the Democrats, now in a majority, but the millions of Americans who watched trump and his lackeys attempt a coup in broad daylight.

Gone, but not forgotten, America must now sift through the rubble left behind by a corrupt and criminally incompetent administration whose response to crises was to throw blame and shade on everyone around them, before taking off for some R & R on the golf course. There’s a lot of work – a mindboggling amount of work – to be done before America is back on track.

Yes, Creepy Uncle is gone. In his place, we have ‘No Malarkey’ Joe Biden, a man whose backstory would make an amazing made for TV movie. A dog lover, and a lover of trains, he’s a man who has spent the best part of his life in and around D.C., in public service.

It’s an interesting moment in time. The 74-year-old contender was beaten by a 78-year-old retiree. While the new vice-president, Kamala Harris, is just 56, Nancy Pelosi, who is third in the line of succession, will be 81 in March. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 70.   Mitch McConnell will be 79 in February. The incumbent Secretary of State, Daniel Bennett Smith, is 64. Many of the most prominent members of both parties are in their seventies and eighties, including Dianne Feinstein, 87, whose mental capabilities have been questioned in recent months, and Chuck Grassley, who is also 87, and who recently won yet another six years in office. Prior to last week, Wilbur Ross, 83, was the US Secretary of Commerce, when he wasn’t busy on his side hustle, as Jeff Dunham’s puppet, Walter. (Wilbur Ross Walter Puppet.jpg)

South Carolina’s Senator Strom Thurmond left office at the age of 100, after having served almost fifty years in power. West Virginia’s Robert Byrd died in office at the age of 93, as did Georgia’s John Lewis, at 80. Prior to the most recent elections, it was virtually unheard of that a Senator be under the age of 40.

The United States has, thus, for some time been effectively a gerontocracy.

“A gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population. In many political structures, power within the ruling class accumulates with age, making the oldest the holders of the most power. Those holding the most power may not be in formal leadership positions, but often dominate those who are. In a simplified definition, a gerontocracy is a society where leadership is reserved for elders. “ (wiki)

Under trump, that gerontocracy was in full bloom, as he placed into positions of power septuagenarians and octogenarians willy nilly. By contrast, the majority of Biden’s nominations look more like the average American than in any previous administration, with the exception of a few, like Janet Yellen, 74, who has been nominated to serve as Treasury Secretary.

And this, a younger, more diverse cabinet, is deeply needed, since the aging of the three branches of government has been repeatedly connected to the broader themes of American decline. 

How weird is it that, in a country where, clearly, we treasure the ‘wisdom’ of our elders, based on our electoral choices, where we only feel safe and in good hands with those as old as our grandparents and great-grandparents in the highest elected positions – that we also treat the poorer, less powerful, and frailest of our elderly with such dismissive contempt?

If we believe, as has been said, that the weight of years and experience is responsible for the wisdom, gravitas, and good-hearted balance brought about by decades of living, how is that so few of those opining on the ‘common sense’ approach of ‘herd immunity’ in dealing with COVID-19 feel absolutely no shame in expressing no regrets, publicly, that the first and most voluminous group of martyrs in such a program would be our elders? 

In Canada, COVID-19 has wreaked most of its wrath upon seniors, disproportionately affecting the elderly. In November, StatsCan reported that more than 52 per cent of those who had died from the virus were individuals aged 85, and older, while 36 per cent were aged 65-84. 88 per cents of our deaths have been in people over the age of 65. Only 12 per cent of the victims were younger than 65. 77 per cent of those deaths can be traced to long-term care, and senior homes.

95 per cent of deaths in the US were of people over the age of 50.

That we have failed so dramatically at protecting and prioritizing the health and care of our elders is a colossal moral failure. It appears that we only value people who are deemed economically productive. Once that time has passed, and regardless of how much we may have contributed to society throughout our younger years, people who are no longer economically productive are essentially perceived as worthless, and without further value.

In Ontario, twenty-five years ago, and under the Mike Harris government, hospitals were closed, and the jobs of thousands of nurses were eliminated, while the public role in long-term care was reduced, allowing corporate players such as Sienna Senior Living, Revera, Extendicare and Chartwell Homes to enter the game. Regulations were relaxed, and public oversight was reduced. Seniors would now have a range of options for assisted living and long-term-care housing, but at a significantly higher price.

In May of 2020, the Toronto Star reported that “three of the largest for-profit nursing home operators in Ontario, which have had disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, have together paid out more than $1.5 billion in dividends to shareholders over the last decade.”

The article added:

This massive sum does not include $138 million paid in executive compensation and $20 million in stock buybacks (a technique that can boost share prices), according to the financial reports of the province’s three biggest publicly traded long-term-care home companies, Extendicare, Sienna Senior Living and Chartwell Retirement Residences.”

A decent society resists the temptation to take the easy way out, no matter how profitable it may be. The elderly deserve more than warehousing, secured away from their loved ones, while they wait to see if they’re next to die. It shows a horrifying disrespect that we are not making more effort to protect them. 

Ontario may be the guiltiest province in Canada for hypocrisy. In April 2020, when the province wanted to appear ‘caring,’ they brought in the military to help with the abject neglect and chaos in long term care homes, brought about by those lax regulations, and poor staffing choices.

And yet, in June, and despite record-setting profits, the CBC reported that the majority of Ontario’s LTCs were still operating at 1972 structural safety standards.

Ontario changed its structural safety standards back in 1998 — mandating, among other things, that nursing home bedrooms should house no more than two residents.

Homes that didn’t meet the new standard were allowed to keep running as-is, with an expectation they would upgrade eventually. The vast majority of homes that haven’t yet upgraded are run by for-profit companies.

While non-profit and for-profit homes have been equally likely to experience outbreaks, those outbreaks have proven deadlier in for-profit homes. (CBC Canada, June 2020)

In January 2021, Mike Harris, who spent the last 25 years raking in profits from the long-term care system he helped create, and who is the chair of Chartwell Home’s board of directors, was nominated for the Order of Ontario, despite protests from numerous minority groups, most vocal of which have been the Indigenous communities of Ontario.

(“Between 1995 and 2002, Harris was premier during some of the province’s most notorious scandals in recent history, including the shooting death of Indigenous protester Dudley George in 1995 and the Walkerton water crisis five years after.”) from CTV News, January 2021

We believe that we live in lush capitalism, but that’s not true of all of society. In fact, we are in end-stage capitalism, where even the lions turn upon each other. There are homeless living in our parks, but millions in dollars in pandemic aid is going to corporations making healthy profits, who are paying out dividends with one hand, while receiving federal wage subsidies in the other.

In Canada, 53 public companies disclosed receiving more than $10 million under the Canada emergency wage subsidy program (CEWS). CEWS will have cost ALL Canadians more than $100 billion by the time it wraps up in 2021. But only a small segment – the wealthiest – will have received the most benefits from that and similar protection programs.  

While far right Republican and Conservative pundits clamour that the Democrats will ruin their economy with socialism, their parties actually preach and platform something more akin to dog eat dog, where people are only valued for what they produce. These groups advocate the removal of any sort of social safety net, in the form of Social Security or Medicare. What these politicians never acknowledge is that the removal of those nets will doom the elderly, the frail, the ill and the disadvantaged to spending their days in situations akin to that of the worst horrors of the 19th centuries poorhouses and workhouses, where society placed stigma and shame on those unable to support themselves.

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the truth in the social safety net, that it was never adequate protection in times of major risks like pandemic illnesses, because of the massive inequality of resources in capitalistic societies. If not addressed and amended, the worse is still to come.

I’ve long contended that the gerontocracy of the United States government is a negative factor, in terms of governance, primarily because those making the rules and regulations for the future have no stake in that future; they won’t be around to reap the rewards or punishments of their decisions. That’s on top of the fact that the majority of those in power are long term seat holders, who have amassed significant wealth and fulsome pensions and benefits, and so are unaffected by the ebb and flow of the average citizen’s lifetime.

They don’t look, act, behave, or earn like the hundreds of millions of Americans they represent. Yet they define the parameters for everything those hundreds of millions must do, from birth to death, and everywhere in between.  

Some have called me ‘ageist’ for this position, which is almost laughable, in that there is no ‘ist’ or ‘ism’ that takes away one iota of wealth or power from that most blessed group of elected fortunates.

But what do we call those who look at the opposite end of the age spectrum, at the people who are poor, sick, frail, and without any of those benefits, and deem them of no value to society?  Nothing that can be repeated in polite society, that’s for sure.

These last few years have been hard on all of us, in Canada, and in the United States, as we’ve struggled under circumstances made all the harder in the last year with a global pandemic. I want desperately to believe that there are better days ahead. I sincerely hope that Biden has begun as he means to go on, and that his successes inspire Canada and other countries to look in the same direction of progress, healing, and more equal opportunities for all, not just the privileged.

BONUS .. everybody sing along! 😉

Observations on a Birthday


agingSpeaking from experience, I can tell you that it’s not necessarily true that you’ll get a whole lot wiser as you age. I’m just grateful to have had the chance to have a good number of years to get experience in dealing with the range of circumstances and individuals that have crossed my path.

If you are very lucky, you might live long enough to begin to get a sense of how others see the world. Having empathy for the different types of people you’ll encounter thru the years will smooth the jagged edges of most circumstances.

You will experience times in your life that will be confusing. Some moments might even be terrifying. Still others will be so delightful that you won’t want to ever move on from that pleasure .. and that, ironically, can impede our ebb and flow through the years we get to experience. A life is the sum total of a kaleidoscope of emotions, both good and bad.

kaleidescope

Nobody gets a smooth ride from start to finish – well, nobody that you’ll ever know. Some begin their lives from behind the starting line, while other’s get a huge head start, and a leg up over the first obstacles.

Some even get carried to within mere feet of the finish line. But one thing I’ve learned the hard way is that there’s nothing to be gained from pointing out how badly or how well others are running this race. The only contestant that matters is YOU.

I’ve also had to take my lumps learning to enjoy where I am ‘right now,’ as opposed to where I’ll be at another time. As a young girl, I’d often pin my hopes on a day when I’d be old enough to make my own decisions. Of course, it never occurred to me that being a kid without responsibilities also had it’s up side.

take responsibilityIt was probably right around that time that I also began to understand that responsibility works both ways, and that to blame others for my happiness or unhappiness was a mug’s game. I’m the only one who governs my beliefs and behaviours, as much as I’d like to point a finger at someone – anyone! – else.

Now, blaming drink or drugs for behaving badly… that I’ve done. But, no matter how much I’d like to slough off that truth, the plain fact is that I’m the one who decided to indulge in the drinks or drugs, so .. yep, still my fault.

In the same context, my better angels know that I should rise above judging others for what they do, since I not only have no idea what drove their decisions, I have no idea when I might need to beg their understanding for some shortcoming of my own!

There’s an old saying in show biz, that goes, “be nice to those you meet on the way up, because those are the same people you’ll meet on the way down.”  And though most of us would prefer to believe we’ll never be on the way down – life has a way of opening our eyes to reality.

It’s probably best to just be nice to everybody. After all, being easy to get along with never hurt anyone in the long run.

Though, I’ll admit .. I can’t swear that I am advising that way of life from any real or personal knowledge; I’ve had my share of diva moments.

silencio

Sometimes I speak from experience, other times, from a sad point of observation.

Time is a tricky thing, and refuses to do what you think it should; when we’re young, we want to be old, and when we’re old, we wish we could be young again, but with the knowledge we developed through all of those long years.

Human nature makes us want what we do not have. Sometimes it drives us to personal betterment; sometimes it just drives us crazy.

When we’re working at a crummy day job, we can make the mistake of asking only to be able to hang in until it’s time to clock out, or until it’s the weekend, or our next holiday. Dreams are great .. but never dream your life away.

baba ram dassI have known people that kept on deferring any enjoyment of their life, always believing that better days were coming. Sadly .. they were wrong. And even if they HAD won that lottery, or married that model, what they’d have found was that anticipation and hope are always much more fun than getting everything we thought we always wanted. Those millions often come with strings attached, and supermodels aren’t necessarily all they appear to be. You just never know.

We live our lives day by day, not in giant gulps.  It’s best to be like the Buddhists, and ‘be here now,‘ letting each moment have it’s due and it’s time … tomorrow comes much sooner than we expected.

Which reminds me – gravity sucks. I know this because it has effectively made some bits of me larger that I preferred smaller, while other bits are now much closer to the ground than previously. I’m even shorter than I was when I wasn’t all that tall to begin with. But things could be worse; none of my career aspirations, then or now, have ever had height requirements.

rox pow wow bday lunch dec 3 2018While there’s not a lot I can do about the sagging and bagging, I know that a big, warm, and heartfelt smile makes anyone more pleasing to the eye. I’m not gonna make any magazine covers, but I’m happy with who I am these days.  And you’re not so bad yourself!

This aging stuff has responsibilities. There are many that will look to their elders, and assume that they are the keepers of wisdom. That’s not always true, of course – aging doesn’t guarantee wisdom. But if our years of experience have given us some knowledge and experience, it is incumbent that we share our best strategies, if we are asked.

I like to go a step further and share my ‘wisdom’ whether you like it or not. You’re welcome.

All I can say is, I’ve been a ‘senior citizen’ now for nearly a week, and it’s not anything as scary as I thought it was going to be. If that helps anyone who’s nearing the big day and feels a little nervous .. consider the alternative, and remember that there are many who never get the chance to grow older.

We ain’t done yet …. and with any luck, we never will be …

never too late

 

 

 

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.

 

life-changes-oprah-quote

But What If You Live?


 

baby-boomer-stats-chart-jpgFor boomers, aging is a bit like puberty; we don’t know what’s next, and we’re both eagerly anticipative and terrified of what’s to come. Often simultaneously.

Thing is … part of us always knew we were gonna age, if we were lucky. But that old ‘hope I die before I get old ‘kicks in every time we try to picture what ‘old’ looks like.

If we’ve failed to plan – financially, emotionally, spiritually – for how we’ll live out our Golden Years, we’ve done ourselves an enormous disservice. But hang on … if we got the lucky genetic ticket, we may have decades to live those years!

happy retirement book.jpgSo when the idea of retiring comes along, whether because we’re closing in on 60 or because other factors, like failing health, or a kick out the door from long time employment, play a part, it can be a bit of a shock. It doesn’t matter whether your retirement is because you want to, or have to .. it’s gonna be a ride.

What does 65 look like? What about retirement?  How do these new facets of life feel? Do I have one foot on a banana peel and the other on a bar of soap?

20-retirement-decisionsWill I be happy and relaxed, comfortable, with plenty of time to pursue my hobbies, living the good life, traveling for pleasure, or to visit family and friends? Or will I be scrambling to make ends meet, worried I’ll outlive my money? Some will never feel secure, no matter how much money they have, while others struggle with very little in their pocketbooks, but are rich in friendship and emotional support.

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to cultivate friendships with a diverse group of like-minded people. No matter how many friends you had at the age of 50, I can guarantee that number will have dropped considerably by the time you’re 70. But it’s not the quantity of friends you’ve got, it’s the quality. We always have to keep in mind that the excellence of our own lives is improved or damaged by the people we are surrounded by . Toxic people will suck your energy dry, and leave you unsettled and defeated. People who see possibilities, and have hopes and dreams of their own, carry you along on their energy.

older-friendshipsAs my friend Barbette Kensington says, “Aging is about how bright your light glows…. keep up the energy level; the more you do the more you can do. Watch your friends and environment; don’t let anybody or anything break your stride…“

But how do you fill the hours that used to be spent, not only at work, but getting ready for work, and winding down from work? Although we spend the majority of our working lives believing that we’re an important cog in the machine, the truth is, the hole we leave behind is quickly filled.  When you step off the moving sidewalk of life, even for a few moments, it’s still moving on, just without you. And it can be mystifying to try and get back on, and scary when you don’t know what you missed while you were off the treadmill.

When I popped my head out of the gopher hole of several years of clinical depression, I was stunned at how subtly but irrevocably the world had changed while I was oblivious.  It was frightening, and all I wanted to do was to crawl back into that black hole.  Expect to feel that way at times. it’s a fast paced world we live in, and some days are harder to cope with than others.

insults of aging. jpg.jpgPlanning for a decent retirement from full time work goes way beyond financial, by the way. Even those retirees I know, that have salted away a good nest egg, have much more to deal with than just money. There may be downsizing involved, which in itself is horrifically conscious altering. There may be health issues, relationship issues, or, just to complicate matters, the health issues of those you’re in a relationship with.

Whether it’s your own physical problems, or those of a loved one, our ability to enjoy life may be hampered, and make even the most mundane things difficult.

For many, having a secondary income  may be necessary to supplement pensions. The base income of most Canadians without a company pension is around $1400.00 a month. If you live in a big city, that’s just not gonna cover much more than your rent. Finding paid consulting work in your field, with the accompanying benefit of staying on top of what’s new in that playing field, may be just the ticket. But even if that’s off the table, finding a part time job of any kind, and no matter how humble, can help bridge the gap. Just having a schedule … somewhere you have to be, and where people rely on your being there, can help maintain mental and emotional health.

babyboomerVolunteering may never have been something you’d thought of as ‘work,’ but it is, and it can be a lot of fun, as well as a benefit to your community. Sharing your knowledge of what you’ve learned in your field can be another way to not only keep your mind ticking over, but of giving those just starting in your turf a leg up.

My desire to be an ‘eternal student’ may be in my future, thanks to special grants and waivers given to seniors, and Ontario’s recent change to the Ontario Student Grant, which will provide free tuition for Ontario students with a family income of less than $50K a year, and increase access to interest-free and low-cost loans   (read all about it at https://www.ontario.ca/page/new-ontario-student-grant)

The bottom line is – so many of us worry about getting old – but so few of us think about what we’ll do if we live. Our choice then becomes the quality of that life.

I’ve seen some who have weathered much in their lives, and are stronger for having fought and won their battles. Those are the live wires that may flirt with retiring, but somehow can’t get the hang of it. Those are the people wringing out every bit of life for as long as they can. They are the people you see on the street, and want to know, because they glow with purpose. If they are forced into retiring, it’s not long before they’ll announce that they are ‘unretiring.’  Running out the clock just doesn’t work for them .. they’re not leaving this good earth and all it has to give until they’re damn well ready to do so.

flirting-with-deathWhile I see others, who have ‘retired’  by retreating from life, and  waiting for death, sinking deeper and deeper into the anaesthesia of pills and booze, ‘self-medicating’ the pain of their losses, kept housebound, fearful of their surroundings, and interested only in their own aches and pains, and needs and emotions. Addicted to quasi-medical shows that sensationalize the dangers of everyday life, and media that fattens its ratings by appealing to their fears of a world that feels increasingly more dangerous, they wrap themselves in cotton wool, unable to trust anyone, spiralling down into a paralyzing world hell bent on picking their corpses clean before they’ve even been buried.

It’s a lifestyle choice.

There’s always more to learn, and you owe it to yourself to do so. Dr. Christiane Northrup is spreading the message that as you get older, you do not have to conform to the cultural baggage of what that means.

“Age is just a number, and agelessness means not buying into the idea that a number determines everything from your state of health to your attractiveness to your value,” she writes in the introduction to her new book, “Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being.”

Dr. Mario Martinez, a neuropsychologist, wrote in his book “The Mind Body Code” that getting older is inevitable. It just means moving through space. Aging, on the other hand, is optional. What we’ve come to associate with the word “aging” in our culture is an inevitable decline and deterioration. time travel trams.jpgWhat I’m talking about is reframing the experience of moving through time, so that as we do grow older we can step out of these age-based associations that can keep us in a cage. “

Me and Doctor Who, moving through time … I like that …     

When we fear the future, we are running FROM life – when we anticipate what might be, we are running TOWARDS it, with our eyes and minds and hearts and arms wide open, ready to accept all that a lifetime has to offer.

open_arms_wide

The Last Taboo


The latest round of celebrity deaths has shaken Baby Boomers to the core. Even if they hadn’t thought of the artist, or listened to their music in decades, the sudden realisation that another part of our youth is irretrievably gone, resonates. deaths 2016

It’s not the physical body of the artist themselves we’re mourning, though. It’s how the music made us feel, what it was like to be young and dumb and possessed of hopes and dreams and aspirations, along with a strong and energetic body that could propel us to our heart’s desires. The music spoke to us and for us; it knew what we were going through, and how that made us feel. That’s what dies when a beloved artist passes … the feeling of being known and understood, and the belief that anything is possible.

old age not for sissiesIf those we grew up admiring are dying, can we be far behind? Does this mean we’re … old? No man, we’re not old, we’re vintage. Classic. Retro. Seasoned.

“Old.” There’s your last taboo, the last epithet used to put you in the corner with the other discarded toys. After a lifetime of experience, the shaming of the circumstance of age is meant to strip you of dignity.

We did it ourselves, back in the day. “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” “Hope I die before I get old!” “Better to burn out than to fade away!” oh yeah. That kid stuff felt good to roar. The oldies had the money and power, but we had what really mattered – sex, drugs, frenetic energy and amps that went to eleven.

is there life after youthOur disdain for those we saw as stodgy was justified. Politicians were rigid and pedantic. Businesses were run by old, white, men in suits. Boomers’ parents had lived through a depression that depleted them physically, and often emotionally. Many had been in service in WWII or Korea – they’d lost a lot of youth’s gloss by the time they procreated. And for so many of our parental units, the prevailing mores of the time, the sharp division between what males and females were allowed to do, prohibited them from just plain having fun, once they had kids. Grownups weren’t supposed to be silly, after all.

Sadly, many of those parents also didn’t make it to their golden years. A lot of really good dads (and moms) got that gold watch at 65 from the job they’d had since they were kids, and didn’t make it to 66. Their worlds, long circumscribed by the 9 to 5 workday, and how decent people supposedly lived, left them worn out and unable to handle retirement.

Still others, now in their 80’s, 90’s and older, are hanging in, but with failing physical and mental health. Many of us belong to the ‘sandwich generation,’ with kids still trying to find themselves, while we try to help our elderly parents. That’s a tough gig.

mature woman judi denchI had a few rollicking debates this week with people just as committed to their opinions as I am to mine, and – predictably – those who couldn’t actually back up their opinions with facts were quick to anger. The insults flew fast and thick … I was a libtard, a fascist, ignorant, naïve. And then, that insult that they thought would be the killing blow … I was just too old to understand.

The trouble with having that ‘weapon’ in your arsenal is that I don’t consider my age to be an impediment. In fact, it’s an enormous asset in understanding the world. When I was in grade school, we actually had to learn, memorize, and study to get to the next grade. There was no pushing along of those who failed to achieve – I knew one guy who stayed in grade 9 for the entire length of my stay in high school! For four long years, he ruled grade 9. He just couldn’t graduate from it.

And spitting “old” at me as though it were a curse doesn’t work for the same reason that I’m not frightened of being told that I’m going to hell when I die. I don’t believe in hell or religion, and haven’t since I was 21. I see age rather like I see religion: some bow down to it and obey its rules. Me, I ignore and abhor the concept of living my life by rules put into place by those who are interpreting the stories that they heard from a friend of a friend who knew this guy… You can keep it. I live by one rule; Do unto others as you would have them do to you. That about covers it.

when I was your ageThe idea of aging, as we know it now, is so far out of whack with reality that I find it laughable. I know 80 year olds that could run intellectual rings around much younger, eminent scholars. I also know 35 year olds so enmeshed in living by society’s strictures, that they look and act like crones, bent down with the weight of the world. Baby – life’s what you make it.

I wish to hell that the white and grey peppering my black hair looked as distinguished as those men in the media who’ve aged so very gracefully that they’ve blossomed into sex symbols in their 60’s, but apparently that is not to be. I refuse to let nature take over, so I’ll keep colouring it and wearing it long as long as I can get away with it. I will never, ever, EVER succumb to the current septuagenarian style of severely short back and sides for both men and women, not for fear of looking ‘old,’ but for fear of appearing like just another clone in an asexual crowd.

aging sophia lorenSo, spit your invectives, call me “old,” as though that will shut me up or close me down. You’ll find you’re wasting your time. Aging is now, more than ever, perspective. It’s a gift, denied to many. It’s only a curse to those who feel they’ve put in their time and would like to go, now, please. For those who’ve cultivated a good attitude, solid friendships, a sense of wonder, and a trust in today’s youth, it’s a world where we finally have time to slow down and see without blinders, a world full of endless possibilities, a world we can watch unfold without being expected to take responsibility for what happens next.

Albert_Einstein_age-quoteOlder people know that how you look doesn’t matter as much as how much you make others laugh. We see through shallow people, and gravitate to those who enrich our lives through kindred spirits. We dress for comfort, not fashion. We know there’ll always be another Saturday night, so missing a party is no big deal. We don’t have to be up on every musical or artistic flash in the pan … if they’re that good, and we’re both still around, we’ll hear about them eventually. We can say “no,” without worrying if it bothers others, and without explanation.

Aging a curse? Au contraire, mon frère … without all of society’s rules bogging me down and harshing my mellow, getting older looks far more like a blessing. Something tells me I’m gonna love my second childhood even more than my first.

12 steps to self care

 

(first published Jan 31/16 – bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/roxanne-tellier-the-last-taboo/)

Greece Is The Word


The outcome of the election in Greece is sending shock waves across Europe. Syriza, the left-wing, anti-austerity party led by new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, won 36% (149 of the Parliament’s 300 seats,) and, by forming a coalition government with the center-right Independent Greeks’ win of 13 seats, will have least 162 seats, a viable majority.

Greece new govt plansThe new government plans to raise the minimum wage, and create 300,000 new jobs, reverse the bank bailouts and stop banks from foreclosing on home owner’s principle residences, close corporate loopholes and offshore havens, and bring in a voucher system to help seniors in need receive food and healthcare.

For more than five years, the Greek citizens have been crushed under austerity policies imposed by the Economic Union’s “troika” of creditors; the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Greek foreign debt currently stands at 175% of Gross Domestic Product.

Almost a third of Greece’s economy collapsed under the restrictions. Since June 5, 2011, when the “Indignant Citizens Movement” or the “Greek indignados“, held a demonstration of between 300,000 – 500,000 people protesting in front of the Greek Parliament, a change in government thinking has been pre-ordained. greek protests 2011

The Greek protest was non-violent for about a month, but on June 29, 2011, the police cracked down viciously on the protesters. Three people were killed, and accusations of police brutality, excessive use of tear gas, as well as the alleged use of other expired and carcinogenic chemical substances, led to an outcry by international media and Amnesty International.

austerity greeceWith half the population in poverty, and no end in sight to continued austerity and misery, it was inevitable that the people would rise up, and demand change.

“Both Syriza and Independent Greeks have detailed emergency economic programs that will commit their government to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe left by five years of the hated Troika policy. The damage has been unprecedented short of wartime, and has led to unemployment officially at 28%, but considered by experts to be actually as high as 45%; pensions and salaries have been slashed by 25-45%. The destruction of the health-care system has increased the child mortality rate, the suicide rate, and the death rate.” (http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2015/4205grk_elex_eup_new_deal.html)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech  at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, ScotlandEuropean leaders were swift to denounce Greece’s audacity. British PM David Cameron tweeted, “The Greek election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe.” (Britain’s membership in the European Union is a major issue in the campaign for the upcoming May election.)

russia-greeceGerman Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann told ARD network that he hoped “the new Greek government will not make promises it cannot keep and the country cannot afford.” But Germany’s opposition Left Party l called the Syriza victory a “sign of hope for a new start in Europe.” And today, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told CNBC that Russia would consider giving financial help to debt-ridden Greece.

The EU is shaken by the possibility that Italy, Portugal and Ireland, also horribly impacted by austerity measures, will follow Greece’s lead. Fiscal conservatives fear that Greece’s demand to write off up to half of their of €240bn debt will create a “Global Event,” on the scale of the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers Holdings, who went bankrupt with $600 billion in assets.

German Economics 1953But there is precedent in countries restructuring debt. In 1953, Germany was in a similar position to Greece today. With debt from pre-and post-war, they owed nearly 30 billion Deutschmarks to around 70 countries. With no access to capital, and creditors who didn’t believe the country could turn the economy around, Germany was desperate for cash to begin the country’s reconstruction and growth.

Despite budget cuts and laborious repayments, the economic burden was crushing their population. FinanDebt-Accord-290cial negotiations were begun by banker Hermann-Josef Abs, who led a German delegation in London in 1953. He hoped to turn the creditors of today into the financiers and investors of tomorrow. But the foreign creditors felt his first offers were insulting.

The London Debt Agreement, finally signed on February 27, 1953, saw half of Germany’s debts written off, with the rest restructured for the long-term. Germany was not to be economically overburdened. Today, our view of Germany’s economy is paired with the idea that the German people are just a very hard-working people. But none of what Germany accomplished would have been possible without the Agreement.

Greek beach NaxosThose who believe that Greece’s new vision is childish and selfish stereotype Greece’s economy as being irreparably rife with corruption and greed, and fed by an indolent, Mediterranean lifestyle. Those same people once thought that all Germans were Nazis.

greek protests 2014In fact, the average Greek retirement age is nearly 65, but the pension is quite small, requiring many retirees to continue working as long as they are physically able. According to Eurostat statistics, the Greeks work 40.6 hours a week, the highest of all 27 EU member states. The ordinary Greek citizen in not lounging on the beach drinking ouzo, they have been protesting in the streets, as tax increases and social security cuts destroy the peoples’ hope, and the public sectors are privatized to serve as collateral to service the European debt.

The Eurozone finance ministers have no intention of continuing debt relief negotiations unless the new Syriza government promises to honour all existing austerity agreements. Meanwhile, the Euro is trending downward, and the Podemos in Spain, a year-old political party that has surged to the top of the polls promising to reverse austerity in Spain and impose a levy on banks, are poised to join Greece in challenging the stranglehold of the Troika. As Tsipras pointed out during his victory speech, the old ways of doing things in Europe are doomed.   debts are not destiny