As I get older I am turning into myself. Job gone, children growing and living far away, parents dead. Can’t backpack, can’t do hip-hop. Who am I really? Now I get to find out. (1.)
Do these words resonate with your stage in life? I don’t know about you, but I can no longer hide behind my busyness and the demands of professional life. Here I am, comfortably situated in my waterfront apartment with only Sammy The Poodle wanting my attention. If I don’t feel particularly energetic, I don’t have to do anything, really. There’s no office expecting me and no one’s demands to be met. I’m left with … well… myself.
One advantage of this single state is that I’m free to follow up on things I’ve always wanted to try. For example, I frequently sign up for classes at the local seniors’ centre. Recently, I decided line-dancing would be good for my aging brain. After all, exercise that requires concentration improves the brain’s neuroplasticity. I knew line-dancing would be a challenge. I’ve never been a dancer. My feet have always rebelled at following someone else’s instructions. Line-dancing would certainly give my brain a workout.
If I’d read Susan Moore’s book, “This is Getting Old: Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humor and Dignity,” I might have spared myself the embarrassment of being the only person in the class totally unable to keep up with the fast paced grapevines, and sudden reverse turns. Here’s what Susan Moore says of her experience in facing the fact that she has to drop yet another activity.
It’s a constant process, letting go of what you can no longer do, and stretching yourself to do what you can. When I was sixty-three, I went to a series of hip-hop classes at the YMCA, for beginners. There were a couple of other graying students in the class … I could almost feel new neural pathways being laid down in my brain as we went from stomp to the spin-and-turn. … I could see there was something humorous in my efforts to get my feet to crisscross fast enough. (after scurrying like mad to keep up and ending by blocking the whole class with her slowness, she says:) “I gave myself credit for trying, but I didn’t go back to hip hop after that. Time to let that one go.”
And to think, I was 15 years older than Susan Moon when I attempted line-dancing. All of which begs the question: how do we know it’s time to give up on something? Right now, warm weather is finally returning to Kingston. That means I have to make a decision about my e-bike. Do I dare pump up my tires and pedal? The spirit may be willing, but that doesn’t mean the body will be able to balance when I hit a rough patch. Will I experience for another year, the delicious joy of the creating a gentle breeze as I travel around my new community? How will I know? Maybe I should just decide my cycling days are over – but then – I could be missing out on beautiful springtime rides in my new community.
(1) Susan Moon, This is Getting Old: Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humor and Dignity, Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, Mass, 2010.