I have jetlag. We all do, I suspect. By this I mean I often think of myself as who I used to be rather than who I am now. Who I used to be was somebody who had a lot more Big Fun. Now I’m someone who has a lot more Coziness—which is also nice, but it’s no substitute for ecstasy.
For example, I think of myself as a rower and a gospel singer and a dancer. All three represent ecstatic experience—goosebumps for no thermal reason– which has always been as important to me as daily vitamins. It recently hit me, though, that I haven’t started the day by rowing toward the Golden Gate to check out seal and dolphin action since shoulder issues got in the way eight years ago. (My shoulders are okay now, but I make up for that as my arthritic hips make getting in and out of the boat problematic.) I sang with the MCC Gospel Choir in Minneapolis and the Glide Ensemble in San Francisco for a total of 18 years, but somehow came to make Sunday morning lattes, the New York Times, and saving my voice for work more important than channeling the spirit (and rocking out with the horn section). I still dance, but I tell myself I take several dance classes a week when I just noticed my 20-class card expire after six months with four remaining classes–do the math. And this very afternoon, I got fitted for a hearing aid.
Waaaa, waaaaa, waaaa..call the waaaambulance…. Don’t you hate it when oldsters whine about their limitations? But actually, this is more of a Duh Fest than a Pity Party. I have many blessings—dear family and friends, purpose-driven work that I love, pretty good health, and excellent shoes. I’ve allowed some of the most important sources of gusto and exhilaration in my life to slip away, but they’re retrievable in one form or another. I can still sing every day—what are cars and karaoke machines for? There are sliding seat rowboats that are easier on the mount and dismount—and my old rowing club has one. And I can dance around my hotel room whenever I’m out of town. (The new hearing aids stream music from the Iphone, so I can literally dance to the music inside my head.) Moreover, there must be many other pursuits that could deliver similar job jolts, and I could go find some.
There are a couple of points here:
First, it’s all too easy to let things we love slip away when you’re busy. And sometimes there are good reasons not to return to them. And/or we forget. But with a little awareness of our values, we can always find a variation on the original or another pursuit that delivers similar fulfillment.
Second, the older we get, the more our bodies matter. Dancing, singing, and rowing are hugely physical. I am stiffer and grumpier without them—and so much more joyful and energized with them (just ask my husband). My Alzheimer’s riddled mama was still playing the piano, tap-dancing, and recalling all the words to singalongs in the last months of her life. That’s my plan, too (though it would be good to skip the Alzheimer’s part). Historically I’ve been too quick to sacrifice breaking a sweat for work demands, but the price has gotten too high. It feels like the time has come to say “body first” and really mean it. Depending on your level of creaky and grumpy, that’s likely true for you, too.
Third, joy matters. What has made your heart sing since you were a three-year-old? What has you eager to swing your legs over the side of the bed to start your day? As we Baby Boomers move into a chapter of life where we have more latitude in how we design what fills our days, what floats our boats needs to be front and center.
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