Tuesday, 31 January 2012

#194: Vanity

A friend recently sent us a photo of our much younger selves, and my husband examined his 27 year old body.

"Wow, I was so much slimmer!    *long pause*    But I am still wearing the same size pants today.”

That is true....sort of.

Now that we are retired and can wear jeans any day of the week, we can also purchase them in skinny sizes we were never able get into when we were in our skinny twenties.  It’s a late-life miracle.

And I thought women were the only ones flattered by this deception...

Monday, 30 January 2012

#193: Ring the Bells

Early last week, as I waited in a medical office, I watched an older lady heave herself off a chair, and with the aid of crutches, make her way slowly down the hall.  As she headed for her appointment, she spoke to her neighbour, a woman with a walker. “Life was a helluva lot easier and way more fun when I was young!” Ms Crutches declared.  Ms Walker sighed and nodded agreement.

My inner librarian was a tiny bit tempted to join the conversation and suggest reading Jane Fonda’s new, uplifting guide to positive aging.  But even I know that sometimes it is not worth sharing good news. Ms Crutches likely would have decked me with one blow, and then Ms Walker would have run me over.

In reality, had they been YouTube users,  they might have both benefited more from hearing Leonard Cohen’s thoughtful and hopeful Anthem about living-- really living-- with loss.  Coincidentally, the lyrics were revealed to me twice that day, once in a newspaper item and then in an email from a friend.

It turns out Leonard and Jane pretty much agree.  But he says it so much better:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

#192: What's in a Name: Name Shame

Back in 1944, I am sure my parents thought they were giving me a name for the ages. 

That was certainly our intention when we named our daughters, but somehow we blew it completely......twice. The unusual, imported name we gave our firstborn?  It seems to have been imported in bulk that year. Confident that we had made an original choice for our second child, we were dismayed to discover that hers topped the list of most popular girls’ names for 1978. In her grade one class, she was one of four who went by their first and last names, proof that we were not alone among families unwittingly seduced by popular culture.  

It’s not that there isn’t a ton of help for name-picking parents, either.  Baby name books abound, and I still encounter new moms in the library pouring over the thousands of choices.  Based my insight as a failed baby namer, I yearn to offer advice. “Yes, I know you are an environmentalist, but are you really sure about Ocean?  That is a trending “green” name, so there are bound to be a few other Oceans in your daughter's kindergarten class, not to mention a River or two.   Why not go with with a classic name, something that will suit a corporate nameplate", I want to say. "There are plenty of lovely names that have never gone out of style: Catherine, Charlotte, Sarah, Grace, Emma, Jane.....


Oh, that Jane Fonda.  She scores again.     

Saturday, 28 January 2012

#191: What's in a Name?

My husband and I recently read an obituary for an elderly local resident we didn’t know at all. What fascinated us were the names of his surviving relatives: siblings Lloyd and Dorothy, children Linda, Susan and Brian, grandchildren Ryan and Jennifer, and great grandchildren Morgan, Sierra and Brinsley.  

Reading that century’s worth of given names, it suddenly struck me, that while I might heed Jane Fonda’s advice, and work hard (and even successfully) at creating the illusion of youthfulness, the jig is up the moment I introduce myself.  “Hello, I’m Patricia/Janet/Marilyn/Barbara/Carol/Nancy” I say, and I am immediately identified as someone born in the 1940’s.  I am a pensioner, a retiree, an almost- old person.  I might as well have my birth date tattooed on my forehead.

It's not all bad, however.  Awareness of first name fashion has its advantages, especially as a social shortcut when meeting strangers.  When I am introduced to one of the Pat/Barb/Jan/Nan cohort, I already know that we have a lifetime in common, and we can get down to the important stuff, the business of what makes us unique. They probably feel the same when they meet me.

And it’s a bit late to start calling ourselves Britney or Denver or Cheyenne anyway.

Friday, 27 January 2012

#190: Happiness

I lied a tiny bit when I claimed to have learned nothing new so far from Jane Fonda’s book on successful aging, Prime Time.  Listening to chapter 9, I discovered that happy, positive older people live 7 1/2 years longer than grumpy ones. (No details are offered about how this study was conducted.  Perhaps the unhappy oldsters were ill.  No wonder they were bad tempered.  No wonder they didn't live as long.)

Still. 7 1/2 extra years is nothing to sniff at, especially today when I can report on two events that pleased me greatly.
  1.  I came from my Qi Gong class feeling almost coordinated --less like a balletic stork than usual.  It   seems that I can teach my old body new moves!
  2. While reorganizing the retirement home library, I met a very keen and appreciative resident who would like to help with the labelling. And she was once a library volunteer!
I’ll just tuck these happy incidents into my longevity bank for later withdrawal.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

#189: Just Do It

I shouldn’t be so surprised to admit that I agree with pretty well everything I have read so far in Jane Fonda’s Prime Time, her book on successful aging.

Perhaps that is because what she has to say about attitude, exercise, nutrition, sexuality and a bunch of other stuff is all very familiar.  I’ve read it all before in newspapers and magazines and books.  I could probably write my own book on the subject.  

So why am I consuming another uplifting, positive guide to growing older?

Is it just because Fonda, fit and foxy at 73, might have something new to add to the topic?  Do I just need confirmation that I am on the right track to superior seniorhood?

Yes, and yes.

But I suspect my real purpose in reading this (and every other similar article or book) is that I occasionally need my retired butt booted back on the wagon called Healthy, Mindful Aging. Because knowing what to do and how to do it is not the same as actually doing it consistently.  I need to be constantly reminded about the benefits of living well, if as an older person I want to be older still.

So when Jane Fonda urges me to stay in the game and kick it up a notch, I’ll pay attention. 

For a few weeks, anyway.          

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

#188: Overheard...

At the retirement home library today, I continued to tackle the labeling of the refreshed collection when I heard an older woman's voice in the hall outside.

"The little librarian is here again today...mumble... mumble... mumble....a lot of new books, too."

I wanted to rush out and get her to repeat herself with clearer enunciation.  Surely she said something like  'The Romance stories are much easier to identify!"

I'll take what I can get.  I might quibble with little, but she is right -- there are a lot of new books.  And all the genres will be easy to identify when I have finished the job!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

#187: A Note to Jane

Dear Jane,

You certainly are cheerful on the subject of aging!  I’m still reading your book, Prime Time, but so far, it would seem that even when things go horribly wrong (a diagnosis of ALS, for example), you are always able to find a bright side.  When everything else is falling apart, intellectual and spiritual growth is a sort of consolation prize for getting older. 

Although all that “positivity” almost makes me gag, I actually agree with much of your advice.  I am counting on my “third act” holding possibilities, too, so we may just be on the same wave length.

Sort of.

 I confess I am bit disappointed in your need to keep up appearances -- it seems to be at odds with your message about aging gracefully .  But if it is hard for the rest of us to let go of youth, it must weigh more heavily on you who have an image to maintain.  So I think I understand your need to have a bit of “work” done even if your explanation is that you want your outward appearance to reflect your inner vitality...or something to that effect.  Just so you know, Jane, my friends and I feel like that too; we are all geriatric girls.

You don’t need my advice, but I should tell you that lacking your resources, the rest of us minimize the disparity between our minds and our mirrors in other ways.  Face lifts? We smile a lot but try not to walk around like a bunch of demented Cheshire cats.  Air brushing?  The dimmer switch has a similar effect.  In a pinch, it helps to hang out with friends who also have deteriorating eyesight--we look good to them and they look good to us.

And then there is “inner beauty” to which we can all aspire.  But you know already that is the real work of the third act. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

#186: Rot Moves In

Flexibility vs Scheduled activity – which is best for retirees?  I ponder this a lot.

I love the flexibility, but my "schedule" is often a bit too flexible.  So where does that leave me?

Becoming irresponsible is what. For example, I’ve just put off another chore.

I’ve a project to complete .... soon.  It’s a Christmas gift, so it’s already late.  What’s one more day?

So add procrastination to my list of newly acquired bad habits:  sleeping in; staying up late; wearing yoga pants until noon. (And I don’t even do yoga).

I wasn’t like this before, I swear.  I blame it all on retirement.