I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dashing through my dash

The Church Mountain trail
I slept very well last night, partly because I had such poor sleep the night before. I can never tell if I am going to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep, or whether I'll wake feeling refreshed and having some good dreams to ponder. Sometimes I like to lay awake for those last few moments before I get out of bed and think about the dreams that are still rolling around in my mind. I am fortunate to have interesting ones that sometimes linger long enough to consider their meaning.

About the title of this post: a while back I wrote about living one's dash, the length of the time between the year of your birth and the year of your death. That's the time I'm talking about, the only time I have, as far as I know. We don't know the second date until we're either there or almost there. And sometimes we never know it at all; if one dies in an accident, the time on this beautiful planet is over and the victim never got a chance to think about that second number.

There are few ways to mark the passage of time that are as unsettling as watching an old movie and thinking about the actors. Yesterday I started to watch "The Wrath of Kahn," an old Star Trek movie that I saw in the theater when it first came out in 1982. That's 33 years ago now, and most of the actors are either dead or unrecognizable today, like William Shatner, who was fifty then and is now well into his 80s. I tired of all the commercials so I turned off the sound and let the images on the screen entertain me. I was only forty myself, and I remember thinking of myself as middle-aged. Little did I know what lay ahead of me, some good times and some bad ones. That's what happens to everybody, but I also remember making a decision to live my life as fully as I could so that I wouldn't end up on my deathbed wishing I had spent my life differently.

Of course, I'm naturally a bit of an adventurer. By the age of forty I had traveled by myself to Peru for six weeks, taking a leave of absence from my job, one that I would end up retiring from in 2008. In 1990, I made a tandem skydive and ended up jumping out of airplanes for the next 25 years. I've been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world, thanks to my old boss Mickey. He took me along not only for the company but also to work for him. It was so worth it, and it's one reason why I don't have much wanderlust left in me. Plus international travel these days is grueling in many respects.

This last February I made my last skydive and sometimes I miss the adrenaline rush I got from that experience. But I'm not only still able to dance and hike and exercise, I'm pretty good at it all. However, my balance has gotten worse lately, I realize, and I'm going to take some steps to improve it. I fell twice last week, once twisting my ankle and going down, and the other time slipping on a wet rock and crashing to the ground, hurting the same elbow twice in a row. I writhed in agony the second time, while hiking with the Trailblazers; it is three days later and the elbow is finally okay. At least I didn't break anything, but for a moment I thought I had. I tried balancing on one leg for awhile yesterday and realized I've really lost the ability to do so. When did that happen? I'm determined to work on it and am considering taking up tai chi, which is supposed to help seniors maintain a healthy balance. It's offered at my local Senior Center and I've heard good things about the class.

I also realize that I'm a social exerciser, that if I have a schedule and a class to attend, I'll keep it up. If left to my own devices, I slack off. Routine and deadlines work for me, but that's not true for everybody. Smart Guy is the exact opposite: if he's expected to attend a regular class, it weighs on him and he eventually stops going. He's much more self-motivated than I am. I wonder if our different temperaments make a difference with that; he's introverted and I'm extroverted. But it's curious how each of us finds a way to live our lives and enjoy each other's company so much. He's my rock. I must remember to thank him for his steady inspiration. (I know he'll read this so I'm cheating a little.)

A while ago I read the most wonderful book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. I think I mentioned the book before, but I've recently decided to go ahead and purchase it, since during my training to become an End-of-Life advance directive facilitator, it keeps coming up in my mind, and I realize it's the sort of book that you need to read more than once. Here's a salient quote from it: “Living is a kind of skill. The calm and wisdom of old age are achieved over time.” If you haven't already read this book, I highly recommend it. The purchase and re-reading of it will be my Christmas present to myself.

And this coming week and the next will be filled with holiday parties, the winter solstice, Christmas and the New Year. I hardly got accustomed to the year being 2015, and now it's over. One thing I've got to say is that time really does seem accelerated during my seventies. I've always wondered if it's because each year is a smaller and smaller percentage of my life, or whether it's caused by the days flying by because so much of my daily routine goes unnoticed by my conscious mind. Whatever the reason, it's a little disconcerting. Didn't the new millennium just happen? And it's already 2016?

Yes, I'm definitely dashing through my dash, on my way to what I hope is the calm and wisdom of old age. I'm certainly enjoying myself these days, even if I have bumps and bruises to go along with my bum knee and other aches and pains. I will go to a movie today with my friend Judy, I will dance for an hour after a nice latte at the coffee shop with my friends, and I'll come home and spend some time with my partner, who still sleeps next to me as I finish another Sunday post. I never know for sure what will come out, and it's never quite what I expect, but I am again feeling pretty darn good and ready for the day's adventures.

I hope that you will remember to take care of yourself during these hectic holiday times. Oh, that reminds me: a trip to my independent bookstore to buy Being Mortal will be on my agenda today. The closer I get to Christmas, the less I want to be in any store! Don't forget to find a few things to be grateful for today, and remind yourself that you are cherished and wished all good things by at least one person today. Until next Sunday, be well.


Far Side of Fifty said...

I am sorry to hear about your falls. I am glad you didn't break anything. Tai Chi will help with balance and core strength. We really enjoyed those classes, but we can do everything here at home....nothing special is required....we just have to do it!
You have had a very adventurous dash for sure!
I hope you have a wonderful week! :)

Anonymous said...

I always like coming here to your blog. This one was as uplifting and hopeful as all the others you have written. I wish I was as good a blogger as you. Take care and enjoy the movie.

Marty said...

Thank you, DJan. Good advice. And it sounds as though you are following it yourself.
You've also given me a nudge to look into the Tai Chi class at the Y. Like you, once I build a class into my routine I'm more likely to exercise.
Have a good week.

Marie Smith said...

Yoga is great for balance too. I too have had a few spills lately so yoga is on the agenda these days. Have a great week.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, You are so right about things going faster, or seeming to, as we get older. I sure notice it myself. And, like you, I have to wonder why. It seems like just yesterday we were talking about the first day of Fall with the Autumnal Equinox in September. And yet, in just a few days it will be the Winter Solstice. Three months gone and it seems like a couple of days. I guess we just have to focus on getting as much out of every day as we can. Thanks for writing these reflective posts!

Linda Reeder said...

Time passing to quickly - yes, me too.
Balance - yes, mine was very bad, so I worked on it through physical therapy. I have let up on my exercise routine, so I just checked myself, and yes, I can stand on one foot easily for over thirty seconds. I couldn't do ten seconds when I first started exercising several years ago.
My days are filling up with activities these days, but we try to get out and walk of work on the stationary bike at least five days a week. Finding time to take care of ourselves is important.

Elephant's Child said...

I am sorry to hear of your falls. I am much less stable than I was. I like your Tai Chi idea. I will have to look into that in the New Year.
Where did the year go....
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Monday morning here.

Gigi said...

For me, every year seems to fly by faster than the last. I'm sorry to hear about your spills, I'm sure the Tai Chi and yoga will help. Have a wonderful week, my friend.

Red said...

I think most of us area able to live life to the end as we have been used to living it. You are always going to be active. You, buying a rocking chair would be a complete waste of money. My balance has been getting to be a bigger problem since my mid fifties. I do think we can do things about balance.

The Broad said...

Your zest for life and for living is so inspirational. I am going to check out your book and see if I can get it in the UK. When the Christmas craziness is over I am planning to get involved in an exercise plan. Like you I am better involved with a group than on my own. I look forward to your Sunday posts ...

Rita said...

I'm 64 and have found the years seem to speed by faster and faster the older I get. Not sure why that is. I can't believe it's almost 2016. Seems like I just got used to writing 2015. I think you would like Tai Chi. Should be a good group of people, too. Love your Sunday posts!! :)

Glenda Beall said...

Falling at our age is scary. When I was thirty, I bounced back up and carried on. Now a fall is traumatic. Balance is the key and flexibility. I work on both, but the balance is not getting much better. I had a yoga teacher once who said I was more flexible than she was, but I can hardly get up off the floor now. I think Tai Chi is wonderful for balance. I took that once upon a time but the classes are too far for me to go there three times a week.
I wish I could find a good teacher who would come to my studio and find some women who would take a class with me.
You are always inspiring to me, DJan, and I wish I were more athletic like you. But I tend to be sedentary which is bad for me. I need to get up from this computer right now and walk around. I look forward to hearing from you next week. You mean a great deal to me and all your readers.

Barb said...

Hi DJan, I'm usually motivated to exercise on my own (I'm also an introvert) - I wonder if there's a connection? I stand on one foot to brush my teeth and switch both the hand holding the brush and the foot. Try it - your brain really wants to do it the "usual" way, and it helps with balance. I'm very conscious of keeping my head up and shoulders back when I walk. I don't want to start shuffling through my 70's. When we were in the city, Bob fell going up a curb at a busy intersection (rush hour) and hit his knee hard plus rolled. I thought for sure somebody would call an ambulance! However, he managed to get up and insisted on hobbling the rest of the way to the restaurant for dinner( knee bleeding into his black cords). For some reason though his knee was gouged, his pants didn't tear. It happened in an instant - no way to catch himself. We're lucky he didn't break the knee cap. Since we live in the land of snow and ice, we do try to be careful. However, we're on skis a lot in winter, and we're bound to fall. I keep Arnica on hand for rubbing!

Barb said...

PS I Have Gawande's book, Being Mortal listed on my book review page as a "must read" for everyone. Some important information and thoughts to ponder.

amanda said...

Ahh, I've missed you, DJan! What a refreshing excursion I just had, soaking up your written thoughts.
I can see you mastering tai chi. I can see you mastering anything you set your mind to. :)
November and December have indeed been hectic for me. I am somehow maintaining balance, but not finding the time to be at the computer to blog or read blogs. Both are beneficial and important to me, every day I feel the longing for that void at some late night moment or other. I'm looking forward to Christmas break with our family all home under one roof (and of course going in multiple directions, as kids do.) And then a new year.. (I agree.. I'm roughly half your age and feel the years keep going faster. 2015 has zipped by like a flash. Yes! It was just rounding Y2K, and now we're 16 years into the new millennium!?)
I'm missing my inspiring blog friends so much that I had actually sat down tonight to try to find addresses so I could send our Christmas postcard. I was not successful in finding your mailing address, but if you care to - shoot it my way!
All the best to you coming up over the holidays and always, DJan.
You inspire me.