The year of living agerously

There's nothing magic about the number 60. We attribute significance to numbers that end in a zero only because we use a base-10 numbering system. I can flash all the fingers on my hand six times to show it. I do like the fact that 60 is five dozen. I imagine the ancient Babylonians would have dug that.

Not that very many of them would have made it to five dozen years. I'm lucky to live in 21st century North America.

It's not like I turned 60 and suddenly was old. But somehow, 60 has a psychological weight that none of the previous zero years has had. I can't remember 10. At 20 I was in a haze, somewhere between work and university. At 30, I wondered how I was going to tell my mother that I was going to keep playing in a rock band. At 40, I moved from Boston to the other coast and another country. By 50, I was just starting to get a good handle on Vancouver, and it would take a few years more before I really hit my stride here (Vancouver is a tough nut to crack, at least when you're a somewhat older "new kid"). But overall, my 50s have been the best decade ever.

Now what can I make of my 60s?

So far, my body seems not to know that 60 isn't some magical turning point. I have been very fortunately healthy for most of my life, but ever since the beginning of this year, I have felt pain in various and sundry parts of me. It's uncanny how it started only days after my birthday. My job has me sitting down way too much, and we know now that sitting is really bad for you. I do get up as much as possible, and I walk a lot, but my right leg especially has been giving me trouble. There are times when I'm driving that the pain shoots from my hip right into my foot. I'm learning pain-management techniques because I have to.

Both knees have their good and bad times. I often feel pain in my shoulders and arms. I've finally started to realize that I can't haul quite as much as I once could, or if I can, I will pay for it later. I've started to add glucosamine sulfate to my daily regime. It never helped my elbow a while back, because that was a strained ligament, but it seems to be helping now. That's good news, but also bad news, because it means that at least some of that pain is from inflammation. And you know what joint inflammation is called.

Yep, me and Wayne Gretzky. I think maybe he's earned his osteoarthritis a bit more than I have.

There are other occasional system failures, but for the most part nothing has stopped me from being active. I suck at exercise, but I'm good at staying in motion in other ways. I can still tend my garden, although not for as long at a time. I've lugged plenty of equipment around, although more carefully than I once would have.

In some ways, I'm more active than I ever have been. I have two bands. I sing in a choir. I just finished my fourth volunteer gig of the year, and I want to get more involved in this last one. I'm less of a dilettante than I once was and passionate about and more focused on things I'm really interested in—music, cooking and food, fashion, politics. And despite being far past both my sexual prime and my sexual attractiveness, if anything I think about sex more than ever.

Nudge nudge.

In many ways, I feel stronger than I ever have. The young often feel invulnerable because life seems to go on forever. But life for young people can also be confusing and painful and even full of fear. When you're my age, much less can touch you. I know that I won't live forever. I am not afraid.

Time for some of that bucket list stuff that I've been putting off? Sweetie and I went to Italy this past spring, and I think we're going to try to travel a bit more if we can afford to. A passage to India, finally? First skydive, maybe? A bungie jump? Isolation tank? I am seriously looking forward to retirement, not to settle into a rocking chair but rather to do more things of my own choosing.

Age has its privileges. I got my first senior benefit just last night. Sweetie and I went with her sister and her sister's wife to the Richmond Night Market. It was our first time at this crazy thing modelled on the crowded, lively night markets of places like Hong Kong. For them, "senior" is 60 or older. We got to jump the long queue and get in for free! Jealous?


When the rain comes

I have so many partially written blog posts. That's all I have been able to achieve lately. I blame those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. If you are not in or near Vancouver, you might not know that we are having one of the most beautiful summers ever, or at least since I moved here just over 20 years ago. We've been through three heat waves and we might not be done yet. I'm not talking "hot for these parts," which isn't like prairie hot or Toronto hot. I'm talking seriously hot, as in 36° C on my way home yesterday. And we're near the coast. If you don't do metric, I'll just say that 37° C is about body temperature.

This is my second of two days off. My boss was away last week, and when the cat's away, it's not playtime. I become the unofficial cat in many ways. I worked hard last week, and the boss was kind enough to approve this tiny bit of stay-cation as he returned from his time off. Yesterday, on maybe the hottest day of the year so far, I was at the beach with one of my dearest friends, soaking up sun and chatting. She is such wonderful company, and her friendship is invaluable to me. Despite the fact that whoever was cooking at a certain favourite West Side all-day-breakfast place doesn't know how to make home fries ("for this reason, you have been chopped"), I had a wonderful day.

Today is a quiet day. The heat broke, and much as I love hot weather, I am enjoying the feel of cool air through the open window and the sight of a gentle rain falling on the thirsty earth. Something about the rain breaking the heat reminds me of Sweetie's and my beloved Hanalei on Kauai. We have stayed there only a total of three weeks over seven years, but I ache for it. We wonder whether we might actually retire there or at least be able to spend more time. I am enjoying the feel of caffeine circulating through my body. Yes, it's a drug. Is there anyone who doesn't self-medicate in some way? We all want to feel good. We all want to feel at peace.

I wrote once before that I am not often strongly affected by the loss of a celebrity. That time, it was Davy Jones of the Monkees, and that loss felt personal because he was so much a part of my growing up. The loss of Robin Williams feels different but no less sad. I actually did meet him once, on the set of Jumanji, because he loved to meet people. He made every extra feel like a person whose contribution he valued, even if we were just background. Not typical star behaviour! I was never a Mork and Mindy fan, but I loved Williams's improvisational comedy. He was a huge fan of Jonathan Winters, another troubled but brilliant improvisational comic. I didn't realize until I saw Dead Poets Society, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Awakenings what a fine dramatic actor Williams was. Awakenings is high on my list of favourite films. He was even successful playing very much against type as a creepy obsessive film developer in One Hour Photo. The man had talent to burn.

All of my psychological conditions are subclinical, but on occasion they have been severe enough that I have sought help. Fortunately, I got help. Still, I have thought many a time that it might be for the best to lose consciousness and never wake up. Curiously, I have even felt this when I am feeling particularly good, because I know it can't last. It's the impulse to go out on a high, to keep happiness forever, and not to hear the other shoe drop. I don't know if that's weird or not. As well, sometimes, life feels overwhelming.

Don't worry about me though. I have never gone to ideation. I actually love life and, at least for now, want to keep living it.

But I understand what might lead a person to end their life. If someone can never find peace in life, and they need at least some moments of peace, then certainly the sleep of death achieves the goal. Or perhaps there is just too much pain or confusion or turmoil. Some thrive, some cope, some get by with help, and some feel they can't go on. We all die. Some just decide to hasten the process, and we feel the loss all that much more acutely.

I will stay quiet today. I will take care of some chores. Even working, I will enjoy the day off. And later, I will go rehearse with my choir section to prepare for our opening slot on Friday. Singing is some of the best self-medication I know.