Dry way or the highway: version 2

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On a big scale, a dry hill path is a worry. Fire risk. Global warming. All that.

But it’s easier to walk down a dry path than a wet path. In the wet, you’re constantly grabbing branches to stop yourself slipping and falling. It’s a bit tricky.

In dry conditions, one hazard remains: you must not plant your foot unthinkingly on those small gravel patches. They can act like ball bearings and hurl you off your feet and on to your back. Hasn’t happened to me, but to a friend. Ambulance, specialty ambulance, stretcher, hoist, topped by six weeks before her torn tissues healed.

So I trod with care down Mt Victoria today.

I think … about metaphors… about ageing.

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Lessons in ageing, from mother to daughter

Hiroshima
The New Dance Group: early modern dance in New Zealand 

“I was lucky. My mother taught me about growing old,” said my friend.

“That’s interesting,” I said, thinking about my friend’s mother, now deceased: a brilliant, determined woman with a clear vision, years ahead of her time in the causes she fronted. She introduced modern dance to New Zealand. She fought for peace and workers’ rights. She was part of a small group that alerted New Zealand to the very existence of our nation’s founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi, not to mention its content and significance. In other words, an extraordinary woman with seemingly infinite energy and strength.

Ageing must have come hard to such a dynamo!

“What do you mean, she taught you?”

“She would sit me down and make me listen: ‘This is what it’s like to grow old.’ I was young, I was sure it would be different for me, but she would insist that I listen.”

“So what did she teach you?” I asked, curious. Here’s what my friend replied.

  • “You learn what you can and can’t do.
  • “You can push yourself as far as possible, but that’s not necessarily the best thing. If you keep on pushing yourself past your limit, you end up annoying everyone.
  • “You have to slowly learn to give way and give up. It’s a loss, but if you don’t, you’re pissing everyone off, and also doing yourself no good.
  • “I became far more aware of my body, and of what I did and didn’t want to do. I’m old enough not to have to oblige. I just make a quick decision — otherwise I just mull and mull, and that is bad for you.”

Different teachers, different truths. I think this advice is valuable for me right now.

It’s so puzzling to notice your previous interests, energy, activities, and focus have begun to change of their own accord.  This wise woman took charge of those changes simply by acknowledging their reality, and choosing how to respond. Thus she maintained her dignity, self-respect and grace. I’d like to do this too.


 

Great times for old feet

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All Rachel’s usable shoes plus one antique

What a glorious time for old feet, especially of the female variety! Remember the days when nothing but heels would do for a social or semi-formal occasion? If you were into heels, that was fun, for sure. Well into my fifties I was a fan of naughty schoolmarm laceups, otherwise known as witchy heels.

But came the day when good fat, defying gravity, migrated from the soles to the belly. When the bunions stuck out like elbows. When a shoe salesperson announced that your feet were one size bigger, literally. When despite those monstrous insoles, you noticed every pebble underfoot.

‘Bye, heels. Stilettos, kitten heels, even platform soles— take ’em away. Wipe away the tears and face the fact: your feet will from now on be an embarrassment, graceless, styleless, ugly. They will never look pretty again.

Put your best foot forward

Not so fast. That was not a fact. For years now, alongside impossibly frivolous modern shoes, manufacturers have been designing flat footwear that young people love. That make people of any age look good and feel good below the ankles. Trainers that keep you steady at the gym and on walks. Boots you can wear with your best dress to a wedding. It’s a revolution.

I’m enjoying this. Are you? And can you pick the shoe that I keep for purely nostalgic/aesthetic reasons?

 

Trump’s ageism: not an aberration

lunatic-asylum-pd

OK, so President D.T. was called an old lunatic by Kim Jong-un. He was deeply hurt, and who can blame him? Not by the label of lunatic: that’s not a new accusation, so it is easily overlooked. But by the awful implication that at 71 he falls into that untouchable class of—oh no! heaven forbid!—the old.

His response: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?”

Now don’t imagine this is a Trumpism. It’s not a sign of lunacy, either, whatever that may mean. This attitude is ageism pure and simple, and it’s the norm.

Old as applied to human beings no longer means having lived a certain number of years. In our English-speaking western world, it now means repulsivefeeble, pitiable, ludicroususeless, a condition to be dreaded above all others.

Ageism trumps even racism as a widespread prejudice. Here’s one teensy bit of research to support this statement:

In 2008, an ongoing study by UCLA and Stanford University researchers of 20,000 registered voters has found that far more of them would vote against Sen. John McCain because of his age than would vote against Sen. Barack Obama because of his race.

Why is the dread of old age so powerful?

Why do we dread and fear the old so deeply, despite the fact that we will all grow old—that’s if we’re lucky?

Ageism is hatred of the self that we will become.

But perhaps that’s not a paradox. Perhaps this is the very reason for our hatred and contempt: deep down, we know we too are ageing, and ageing implies that one day we will die, and we cannot bear to face this. Perhaps the human condition offends us particularly in today’s market-driven era of competitive self-improvement.

Understanding is just a start. Let us forgive our bodies for their inevitable decline, admit that we too will be old one day, and regard old age as an achievement, not a failure.

(And by the way, mental illness is an illness, not a failure.)

Introducing On Research — a blog for Age Concern New Zealand

Let me introduce a blog written by my friend Professor Judith Davey, On Research. She writes this for Age Concern in New Zealand, who have “a passion to see older people experience well-being, respect, dignity, and be included and valued.”

Here’s a link to her latest article:

University Study in Retirement — Choices and Balance

If your own interests overlap with Judith’s area of expertise, please explore her blog and hey, how about leaving a comment?

6 reasons for reading this particular blog about ageing

  1. On Research is read by distinguished people worldwide: they quote from it!
  2. You can trust the information to be strictly true and correct. Now that’s a little bit unusual.
  3. You’ll read case histories and stories, but they won’t be random. They’ll be in context and they’ll illustrate broad truths.
  4. You can comment, share your own experience and give her feedback. You’re good at that! The blog has readers but Judith never knows what they’re thinking, and it’s lonely.
  5. The writing is easy to read and easy to understand. That’s a gift, especially when it comes to research.
  6. We need this information. In the wider world we’re choking on truckloads of instant research results, true and false. Judith is the calm compassionate voice of reason.

Her entire article is reposted below and I cannot remove it. I reckon you’ll be better off just going straight to her blog:

Age Concern blog: On Research

On Research

Judith A. Davey

6/10/2017

Why university study? Many of the 60-plus interviewees in our Victoria University study[1], who had not previously been at university expressed a long-held desire for study at this level, and for those who had been before it was an obvious choice for learning. Several people had tried distance learning but found it isolating and others were not satisfied by community-based classes. There were several comments on U3A courses, which were seen as low level and non-participatory.

Why study at all and why these subjects?

These questions are difficult to separate. For some interviewees the answer was a desire to pursue an interest of very long standing – either work-related, a hobby, or an aspect of personal experience. Work-related interests were not to the fore, although Don was taking BCA to update his accountancy skills and Katherine and Carl chose courses relating back to their…

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Wedding song

I think you’ll like this love poem. Do reblog if you have friends about to marry, or just in love.

Poems in the wild

wedding.jpg

So you are the hunter
and I am the gatherer
and you are the gardener
and I am the traveller
and I am the dancer,
and you are the dance.

And I am the dreamer
and you are the harbour
and you are the future
and I am the farmer
and you are the juggler,
and I am the clown.

I see you—I know you,
I love you—I see—

that you are the builder
and I am the weaver
and you are the mover
and I am the mender
and you are the mountain,
and I am the cloud.

And you are the lover
and I am the lover
and we are a twosome,
and you are the one.


poem by rachel mcalpine cc by 2.0, photo by Ashley Rehnblom cc by 2.0

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A radically adventurous bucket list

Jenny Cossey, mountain biker, outside one of the 50 NZ mountain huts on her bucket list
Jenny Cossey knocks another mountain hut off her bucket list

We know what a bucket list ought to be, right? It’s a list of wonderful things a person decides to do before they kick the bucket, i.e. before they die. They WRITE THEIR BUCKET LIST, thereby making it real, making it part of the life they will live.

  • Most people write their own bucket lists.
  • Most people decide what goes on their own bucket list.
  • Most items are things that the writer really would like to do.
  • The expiry date of most bucket lists is the expiry date of the person.

But Jenny is different. She decided to ask her friends what she should aim to do before her 50th birthday. Some nominated things that Jenny might normally do, like cycle all the NZ national cycleways — mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, trail running and dancing are as natural to her as breathing. But at least half the suggestions were right outside her comfort zone: friends challenged her to do things that would never have occurred to her otherwise, like “go blonde” or do a 10-day silent meditation course.

50, OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER. CARD AND KEN DOLL
Jenny was given a toy boy for her 50th birthday: a Ken doll.

After culling duplicates from the ensuing list, she did her darndest to achieve all 50. Pretty awe inspiring, especially as she achieved almost the entire list in a single year.

  1. Kite surfing YES
  2. Kayak Cook Strait CHEAT (kayaks on the ferry)
  3. Visit 50 Huts YES
  4. Cycle all NZ national cycleways YES
  5. Groovy dance event (Pole Dancing) YES
  6. Vipassana 10-day silent medication course YES
  7. Wrist flower arrangement YES
  8. Catch a cray in the Cook Strait (went diving and Raymond caught one) GOOD TRY
  9. Breaker Bay Beach in Breaker Bay style YES
  10. Read a book in a week YES
  11. Water ski (next year in Lake Wanaka) ORGANISED
  12. Hillary Trail YES
  13. Dating young for fun PASS WITH A PUSH (online, no dates)
  14. Scooter the Bays YES
  15. Buy a corset and wear it YES
  16. Tie a fly YES
  17. Go commando for a week YES
  18. Stay in bed all day and read a book YES
  19. Qualify for the mile high club (NO LUCK)
  20. Drink a bottle of absinthe with friends YES
  21. Go blonde YES
  22. Hot stone massage YES
  23. Learn to surf (trial session at Lyall Bay beach) PASS WITH A PUSH
  24. Snorkel Island Bay Reserve YES
  25. Toy boy (given a plastic male Barbie called Ken) CHEAT
  26. Hot air ballooning YES
  27. Listen to a live messiah YES
  28. Listen to a male kiwi boom (a kiwi whistling in the dark) YES
  29. Go out for high tea by bike in frocks YES
  30. Learn a new craft YES
  31. Clay shooting (NO LUCK)
  32. Artistic roller skating YES
  33. Roller Derby YES
  34. Make a margarita YES
  35. Read Tristram Shandy (began it, but boring) SERIOUS SHAMEFUL FAIL!!
  36. Wear a daffodil in your hair all day YES
  37. Wear a wedding dress (a red one) YES
  38. Wear a veil 30 minutes in Courtenay Place YES
  39. Re-learn how to touch type FAIL
  40. Visit D’Urville Island YES
  41. Do the Karapoti classic MTB ride YES
  42. Learn Spanish (30 hours on Mango, WCC Library) YES
  43. Tour on a tandem (no luck — friend too small) GOOD TRY
  44. Try a Chalkie event YES
  45. Make a pavlova YES
  46. Ride a snow bike (fat bike) YES
  47. Make real pasta YES
  48. Learn to parapont (attempted on the Remarkables) PASS WITH A PUSH
  49. Organise my sons so they all visit me on the same weekend YES
  50. Go to Antarctica (job interview at Union Glacier) FAIR ENOUGH
Jenny tries pole dancing
Pole dancing was on this middle-age bucket list

Other things Jenny tried

  1. Setting off a PLB (personal locator beam) in the Landsborough (5-day hike and raft adventure)
  2. Hitching with my bike in a bike box
  3. Try a dry suit (it leaked)
  4. Walking on bonker curved stilts
  5. Tango in the moonlight
  6. Won best dressed at the Kapiti MTB (?) race and 3rd woman in my age group
  7. Flicked my (?) into back wheel and broke spokes. Had to single gear last 10km out of Heaphy Track.
  8. First tooth implant
  9. Be in American TV commercial running at midnight with sparklers to 2am
  10. Leave a child behind on a school trip to swimming pool
  11. First mole map of my body and first eye exam
  12. Have reflexology on my feet

Bring another bucket!

Phew! I feel tired just looking at that list. And excited. And inspired. Are you?

What will she do when she turns 60? or 70? Can’t wait to find out. She has already written her best self into life.