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The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed a Mountain…

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Stairway to heaven

I’d love to live to 100… but, if I don’t… well… if the news about anti-depressants being detected in municipal water systems is true, at least I’ll knock on the Pearly Gates with an upbeat smile on my face.

I may even throw a tiny teehee at St. Peter about whether I’m in the right place…

……………….

(Tragically, three friends die in a car crash, and they find themselves at the gates of heaven. Before entering, they are each asked a question by St. Peter. 
“When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning upon you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”, asks St. Peter. 
The first guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” 
The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” 
The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say…… LOOK!!! HE’S MOVING!!!!!”)

……………….

That’s me!

I’m not really afraid of the actual dying part, but I am nervously anxious of missing out on all those things that are important around me.

There is a universe of incredible beauty that wraps itself around us in warmth and comfort… the melody lines of the songbirds, the peach-blushed fiery sunsets and star-speckled inky night skies… the cozy love and generosity of our treasured ones.

I don’t want to leave any of that grace, that splendour, in the rear view mirror. Must all of the soul-elevating harmonic music disappear?

Years back, I used to think that once my kids were born, I could at last die happily knowing there would be investment and insurance $$ to give them a good forward push down the toboggan hill of life. What more could I possibly need from this world?

toboggan

But here I am – still – today, brimming with I’m-so-lucky pride over my grown up kids, and I’m acclimatizing myself to the idea that I’d really like to see the cute faces of, and share time with my yet-to-be-born angelic grandkids.

And I’d still love to visit a ton of places like Cairo, Moscow, Budapest, San Antonio, Texas and The Alamo (here’s a moving modern-day hurting song about the Alamo that I studied in a songwriting course).

So… life at 100. Yea or Nay? Would you like a piece of that cake?

In 2011, the Canadian Census enumerated 5,825 people aged 100 years and older, or a rate of 17.4 centenarians per 100,000 persons. The 2016 census counted 8,230 centenarians, a 41.3 per cent jump over the 2011 figures. That’s pretty impressive.

Yup, our odds are on the increase.

But, I’m already nearing the dropping off point where my Ma died (aged 61).

And in another decade I’ll catch up to my Dad’s departure gate of life (age 73). “Those passengers in Age Rows 70-75 may now approach the gate.

I sense that I’m stepping ever closer to the raggedy sharp edge of a cliff with no railings and no safety net below.

The weighty question: Do our parents write the rough draft of our autobiographies?

I’m going for a “To 100 or Bust” re-write of my life story, but we’ll see what happens.

100 years old.jpg

Here’s the plan: I’m doing some positive stuff that my parents were culturally blind to in terms of health and longevity. They knew nothing about fibre content of various foods, Type 2 diabetes, or the true lung and heart choking seriousness of smoking and weight control.

It’s a crap shoot but I figure I can do a few things to nudge my odds up the steep wall… what’s to lose?… my grandkids deserve a TMI-sharing curmudgeon in their lives.

Will current scientific knowledge and my own resolve get me over the genetic hurdles I face, and welcome me into the Centenarian Club?:

  • I exercise just about every day… run, yoga, bike, boot camp, tennis, HIIT train, swim, spin class. It’s a part of my habit train that I can’t and don’t want to get off. Endorphins and muscles are just too much fun!
  • I sleep 7-8 hours most days… add in delicious naps and I can get to 9 if I’m lucky. Unlucky you to be around me when I miss those zzz’s… I don’t function well on poor or shortened sleep.
  • I try to help others… I often feel damned guilty about not picking up hitchhikers, but my altruism comes through in other areas like working at the soup kitchen and tutoring ESL and literacy students. I pretend it’s only to help others, but it makes ME feel good.
  • I eat a fair bit of fresh fruits and vegetables (my parents thought – OMG! – that canned green peas were health food). And under the TMI category… my bowel habits are exemplary! That’s the GOOD! Here’s the BAD!: I do eat more meat than I know is best and I have an insatiable sweet tooth for baked goods and chocolate.
  • I drink scads of water plus a cup or two of coffee (via latte) each day and one or two glasses of wine or light beer each week. Depending on the science article-of-the-week (Fake News?), this may be helpful. I know it’s enjoyable.
  • I drive my car between the lines on the road and generally stick pretty close to the posted speed limits… which is why I love driving in Utah or Montana with their 85 miles per hour legal highway speeds!
  • I exercise my mind with reading and blog writing and practicing guitar. The mere mental exercise of trying to remember the recipes for a ton of mixed drinks in my occasional bartending “retirement” job is a huge cerebral workout. Then add in figuring out what the new words mean that my kids throw at me is a bonus (e.g. “He was the BOMB!”… “What? he blew up?”)
  • I hang around as much as possible with people that are supportive, make me smile and sport upbeat positivity. I cross the street to avoid the unfortunate Debbie or Donald Downers who throw gloomy anchors in all directions.

You may have noticed that I like certain numbers. Investment returns of at least 15% annually… 10,000 practice hours… or 1,000 hours… 8 hours of sleep… sub 2-hours for a half marathon run.

Life is a cup of meaning in the joy of numbers.

Today I’m adding a new number to my list.

100. 

I like goal setting as an incentive to a milestone or mountain peak.

Why don’t we climb up this mountain and see if we can summit and high five at the 100 peak of life?

mountain peak.jpg

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I Love You Chrissy Metz…

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Chrissy Metz.jpg

If I were a REALLY fat person I wouldn’t be brave enough to put myself through the humiliation.

I met Chrissy Metz for the first time a week or two ago and I think I’ve fallen for her. Kind of like how I fell for Sarah Baker on Louis CK’s show a couple of years ago.

I’m embarrassed to admit it but I’m probably as superficial as they come.

Nope, not probably. I’m Trump superficial (but not quite as misogynistic or xenophobic). I treasure obvious eye-appeal.

Women, foods, scenery, book covers, you name it. I love the blatantly pretty and dishy.

First, a little segue.

I went for a short walk this week along the Penticton beachfront during a coffee break while volunteering at the soup kitchen. As I strolled the quietly winding pathway past couples sitting on benches looking out and enjoying the day I felt myself melding and absorbing into the wonder of a spectacular autumn day.

The sky was royal blue with a few white jet contrails crisscrossing like Twitter hashtags. Light lapping waves whispered along Okanagan Lake’s sandy shoreline.

penticton waterfront.jpg

The morning air was clean-smelling, mild and crisp, and the hillsides of the valley stood out like a 3D cutout against the bright azure background… and I heard my inner voice speaking, reflecting, “is there any place in the world as beautiful and desirable as this?”

Snapping to, I immediately self-corrected because I know that while I do truly live surrounded by scenic eye candy, my own experience has shown me that there are a million spectacular and wonderful places to live.

As a matter of fact, YOU live in an impressive and unforgettable place. I know you do.

You might even find yourself describing your home town/city/countryside to others as GOD’S COUNTRY.

And you’re right. It is.

We ALL live in God’s Country. Yup.

Don’t laugh or guffaw at me, because those of you who know me, also know that God and I are not really on speaking terms… he/she has adamantly refused to speak to me and in turn I’ve ignored him/her… or was it vice versa?

I know it’s childish but it’s the way I handle my relationship with omnipotent beings. I’ve never talked to Superman or Wonder Woman either.

Anyway, God’s Country is an expression we use to symbolize how much we appreciate our magnificent physical surroundings.

I’ve lived in a number of areas in Canada (the big cities, the prairies and the northern tundra are all incredible) and I’ve visited a number of spots in the world…. every one was amazing in a unique and pleasurable way.

gods-country

.

Sorry about that lengthy diversion. I’m back to Chrissy Metz now. Sort of.

When I returned to the soup kitchen after my waterfront stroll, I passed by the two industrial-size garbage bins out front, then wended through the growing throng of those lined up an hour or more ahead of time waiting for the front door of the Soupateria to open for lunch.

The group is outfitted mostly in polyester and synthetic Salvation Army-provided jackets and worn, torn sweaters, and bruised Value Village T-shirts. Stained, crooked and missing teeth are common. Some smoke, some check cellphones they can’t afford, quiet chatter amongst friends and acquaintances.

These are the folks on the other end of the 1% scale we hear about so much these days, except instead of sitting atop the 99% pile, they slide downwards and reside on the bottom 1% end.

There’s salt and pepper bearded John with the FM disk jockey voice who could pass for a salty sea Captain.

30-something Margaret with short blonde hair and the wrinkled face of a 70 year-old.

Rob with his angry-looking countenance and silver dumbbell nose piercing.

Talkative rotund Peter who loves chatting about serial killers.

Matt the young meth addict with a ravaged face, one blatantly bulging lower cheek as if he’s holding a hard-boiled egg inside his mouth.

Robin the distinguished-looking aboriginal man with his gentle tan-toned Spaniel companion by his side.

I look around but can’t spot my friendly favourites, Mary and Joseph – they’re not here today, I hope they’re OK – and many others I recognize as regulars but don’t know by name.

I like most of these people. They’re real people who’ve lived real lives, mostly enormously difficult lives.

And like the scenic beauty that exists everywhere one chooses to live or visit, there’s a human beauty here that’s not always immediately visible to the surface scan of the eyes.

I’m consciously aware of the beauty even in this group, all of the people everywhere that don’t fit the perfection mould… and that makes me think of Chrissy Metz.

Yup, I’m finally back to Chrissy Metz.

There’s a new fall TV show I’ve watched twice now called THIS IS US.

It’s an earnest, heartwarming kind of show produced by the same people who made the series 30-Something in the 1980’s. The characters are quickly drawing me in with their worries and warmth, their flaws, their humanness, their humour.

But the one who stands out most for this guy is the character Kate played by Chrissy Metz. Ms. Metz has acted in other shows but this is my first encounter with her.

She plays the role of a 36 year-old fat girl. Not plump fat, but 300-400 pounds fat. Breaking chairs fat.

She speaks the unspeakable, informing us about the world as she experiences it.

I love her intelligence and practicality. I love the strength of character she exhibits. I love the pain and embarrassment she feels and still manages to bear. I love the humour she mines and hauls to the surface despite her anxieties.

And so, despite my shallowness and superficiality, I find another source of inspiration in the beauty of the not-so-obvious in our world.

There’s the poke-me-in-the-eye delights of mountains and lakes and skies, the sweet mimosa sunsets and spectacular structures built by humanity.

And there’s also the power and strength and beauty of those who live their lives in a challenging way every minute of every day, in soup kitchen lines and in serious acting roles.

I love you Chrissy Metz.

This is us Chrissy .jpg

 

 

 

 

These Are The Good Old Days…

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Carly Simon kinda summed it up way back in 1971 (before it became the Heinz Ketchup jingle) when she strummed and sang ANTICIPATION:

Stay right here…

…’cause these are the good old days”

 

Ah yes… the GOOD OLD DAYS

During my childhood, Dad frequently spoke warmly of the “Good Old Days“… halcyon times before electricity, before cars, before long-haired hippies.

… but Dad left out the parts about millions displaced and brutally killed during World War 1 and World War 2 and the Depression era… worries and tragedies.

dust-bowl-refugees.jpg

In my local Okanagan newspaper last week, celebrated Canadian author Jack Whyte wrote about the good old days of advertising when ads were so much more honest way back when…

… but Jack left out the parts about doctors advertising the health benefits of smoking and cartoon camels and singing DDT characters… sorry Jack, but this was honest advertising of a bygone era?

Bust enhancer  sugar-ads1.jpg DDT1.jpg smoking-ads11.jpg

And today we have Donald Trump mewling through angry pursed lips about making America great again. Seriously Donald?

… but Donald? Donald! Bad boy!

You left out the parts about… and I’m only scratching the surface here… about the good old days when we lived in a world of:

  • slavery and segregation
  • lack of women’s rights and the vote
  • no government pension, medical or welfare payments
  • the 1960 average North American lifespan was 68 (versus about 79-82 today)
  • North American infant mortality was 58 per 1000 in 1933 (6 per 1000 in 2010)
  • hand washing clothes
  • African women with a lifespan 16 years lower in 1960 than today
  • no fridges, freezers or microwave ovens in every home
  • women with no tampons or HRT
  • banks with long lines that closed tight by 4 pm Monday to Friday
  • no air conditioners
  • no seatbelts or airbags in cars
  • no open heart surgery, no diabetes treatment, no effective treatments for depressive and bi-polar disorders, no effective treatments for smallpox, tuberculosis, syphilis, whooping cough, and measles
  • nothing remotely resembling gay, religious, or aboriginal rights

You’re right Donald, I agree that those were the good old days.

But more importantly I say… BULLSHIT Donald!

bullshit

THESE are the good old days!

YOUR good old days were good because, like most of us, you selectively remember the untroubled sunny moments lying out on sandy beaches by the lake or ocean, the mouth-watering taste of Mom’s steaming apple pie, the fresh scent of Dad’s new gas-guzzling car.

These are all the faint, selectively sequestered memories of the wonderful, pleasant things that happened years ago. We all do this, remembering the positive times, the broad smiles, the cute giggles, the glories.

Selectively, most of us push aside memories of cruel bullying that occurred in schools, sexual molestations by creepy uncles, fears of barbaric dental visits, nasty horrible tastes of cod liver oil pushed down our throat by Mom, scary draft cards and eviction notices received in mailboxes.

Of course, good old days are much much easier to re-create and glorify when you’re male, white-skinned, wealthy, straight, or privileged in any way.

But regardless of our plights, all of us are living in the good old days right now because the good old days are a combination of a reality AND a fiction we create in our minds.

Tiny Tim Crachit and Oliver Twist lived in the (fictional) good old days in their better moments.

Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin and Pol Pot and Josef Stalin lived in the good old days.

Helen Keller and Anne Frank and Mother Theresa lived in the good old days.

You and I are living in the good old days today… the same as we were when we were children.

WRONG!

There NEVER were and there NEVER will be good old days.

EVERY day has always been good. EVERY day has always been bad.

Somewhere. For Someone.

YOUR chance, your choice. Every moment in life is a wonder or a catastrophe. Again, your chance, your choice.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Good is a concept interpreted by every person individually.

Donald Trump has chosen to find despair and evil all around him despite the factual reality of humanity’s improvement in almost any realm.

Trump has chosen, and more heinously is using, the sad pessimist’s road that says yesterday will always be better than today.

LA-DI-DA Donald.

Never will this world be the Shangri-La, the perfection.

The epitome of heaven for every person on this planet will never exist.

EVERY day has always been good. EVERY day has always been bad.

Somewhere. For Someone.

But the bright optimists in our midst will always believe that sunshowers are a legal reason for skipping school and swaying, dancing in the rain.

I choose optimism.

I choose to believe, to know… that we’re living in the best of times, so I’m gonna dance bare-footed in the streets like no one’s watching…

Stay right here… 

…’cause these are the good old days”

 

dancing in the rain.jpg

This Too Shall Pass …

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Of all the advice I’ve been offered or read over my life … one short statement has stuck to me like soothing peanut buttah on the roof of my mouth  … the most true …

This too 3

 

Unless you’re Steve Jobs or Amy Winehouse. It passed alright, but not in the way they, or we, might like.

This Too Shall Pass works in both directions: the GOOD… and … the BAD.

Today I’ll zone in on the bad. But, with optimism floaters in my eyes.

Optimist: person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.” Mark Twain

Yes, the bad. We’re much more aware and tuned into the hardships that won’t seem to slough off … the BAD.

We all have shitty days, shitty weeks, shitty months and sadly sometimes, shitty years. SHIT Happens!

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

You may be in the middle of one of those shitty times…

Think of:

  • all the things that have scared you
  • all the times you’ve screwed up
  • the trauma of being dumped in a relationship
  • someone close to you dying
  • being fired or losing a job
  • struggling with health issues when your ears are buzzing because the doctor has just given you bad news …
  • being a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan

Maple Leafs X Box

SHIT SHAT SHOT!

When the first thoughts are, “I can’t handle this … I can’t go on…

It’s painful and we bleed and we cry. It happens to every single one of us, bar none.

So cry and bleed. Why deny what’s there.

Once the initial shock or trauma wears off …

… Then … we begin to climb out of the septic tank, no matter how deep it is, just like the little kid at the beginning of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Disgusting!

Holes happen – like shit happens – and then are climbed out of and filled in, a scab that fades and sloughs with time.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

  • When I struggled before discovering I was hypothyroid and not actually dying, I was in a hole.
  • When my first real girlfriend dumped me, I was in a hole.
  • When my son was gravely ill and I thought he might die, but didn’t, I was in a hole.
  • When I came to the realization that I hated my lab job on Vancouver Island (sometimes we’re not even sure of what we’re feeling at the time) and dreaded going to work, I was in a hole.

I thought these hurts, these pains, these worries were there forever. But I was wrong.

It just feels that way when we’re in the hole and are still looking down into the darkness of the pit … before we turn our head upwards towards the light streaming in from above.

Hemingway said it succinctly, “The Sun Also Rises”.

sun and shadow

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

The bad news: nothing is permanent.  The good news: nothing is permanent.”

Every dark period passes.

But it’s up to us to find the strength, the internal dialogue of optimism, that helps to push us in the right direction.

It’s up to us to turn off the bastard voices that crowd our heads telling us that the world is crashing and nothing will ever be right again.

It’s the time when we have to stare the darkness down and repeat over and over, “This Too Shall Pass”.

Because it will pass.

Maybe not today.

Maybe not tomorrow.

But with patience and time, clouds part and let the sun shine through, traffic dwindles to let you make the left turn onto the highway, forest fires get drenched by rains, my cooking of the garbage eventually produces something worth eating.

I have a later life sense of optimism that has been well earned and learned through difficult times.

I’ve learned it so well because I’ve had so many wonderful, positive experiences following the dark times. I’m betting you have too.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

… Unless… except… if … IF… if … you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan.

That’s a cesspool hole you’re never escaping.

im-sorry

 

 

 

 

 

Repelling the Age Demons for One More Year …

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only-young-once

I was young once. Of course I’m still immature.

There are halcyon visions of my little toddler kids doing upside-down twirls while hanging from the swing set in the backyard on bright summer mornings.

Gasping, I watched helplessly when my 3 year-old son Will fell from a head-down position and landed hard on his crown on the sparse grassy ground underneath; when the momentary shock subsided, he burst into wails of tears from the stun and pain.

I laughed when they twittered (NO… not THAT Twitter) their excitement over red wiggly worms or chirping hens.

I fumed when they bickered and argued with each other about Fisher Price toys.

Those days were exhausting, but I miss them.

In those earlier days I would wake up at 5 am and throw on my running shoes and run 8 or 10 hard, fast (for me) miles before breakfast. Weather be damned… rain, shine, frigid temps or blistering hot. It didn’t matter. I was young and nothing would stop me.

A few years have passed and now my birth certificate claims I’m not so young.

I still canter around the block in my high tech New Balance runners, absorbing the sights, sounds and scents of cherry and Ambrosia apple trees. But it’s just at a canter pace, no galloping any more.

And weather? Well, it had better be mild and at least moderately sunny or I’m gonna stay indoors and find my stride on a comfy, dry treadmill.

Running Van Half Marathon 2015

This is what “experienced” runners look like at the end of a Half Marathon…

 

………………..

Life is a beautiful, precarious, frustrating, exhilarating, gut-wrenching, soul-satisfying wonder.

We’re all given one and some of us – the optimists – appreciate it and thrive and glory in everything, even the bad parts.

And others of us – the pessimists – find pig shit in the sunniest of days.

It’s all a matter of approach and viewpoint and self-talk .

I called myself an optimistic-pessimist for many years. The thinking in my head was that if I had low expectations, then anything that somehow rose above those depressed levels would make me a happy, contented soul.

Dawson

C’mon Dawson … Always Look on the Bright Side of Life …

 

But I’ve changed.

I try to look at all things in life now from an optimist’s perspective. I expect the best and if it doesn’t pan out, oh well, this too shall pass, and tomorrow or the tomorrow after that will bring a sunnier day that I can enjoy thoroughly.

Today, as in life, I’m approaching my runs from an optimist’s POV.

I used to enter running races and triathlons feeling enormous internal pressure to meet my goals for time. I needed the affirmation that I had trained hard enough and had sufficient strength to push myself just a bit more, a bit more.

I needed my internal Mommy to tell me I was a good boy. I wouldn’t kick myself if I didn’t reach my goals, but I felt let down. There was an intense pressure to succeed.

When I enter a race now, I have a goal time in mind. but I don’t invest myself so thoroughly in achieving it the way I used to. My laissez-faire stance just says to me, “I’ll do my best and if I make it, fantastic… if not, fantastic still” .

Just two weekends ago I ran alongside about 14,999 others in the Vancouver Marathon/Half Marathon (I ran the half marathon section). It was a gorgeous sunny Vancouver day that would make anyone wonder why the heck they didn’t move to Vancouver long ago (aside from $1 million dollar average home prices). Mountains, oceans and sunshine are human seductive candy.

Running inside bucolic Stanley Park on a bright day while looking over Burrard Inlet, cruise ships in the harbour, is the definition of modern-day heaven.

Sun-Run

My mind was in “runner’s peace” for the first time as I glided, almost effortlessly along the forested roads through the park. I crossed the finish line over two minutes sooner than last year, but it didn’t really matter.

I’ve silenced my inner Mommy.

Why?

Because I’m still doing it. Just doing it. Like Nike.

I’ve been a pallbearer enough times … I’ve been to ample funerals and Celebrations of Life to love and appreciate the rise and fall of my chest, the beat of my heart.

And how many of my friends and acquaintances stopped running years ago because of knee issues and hip issues and age issues and and and.

The body we’re assigned either holds up or it resigns.  I’m fortunate in knowing that my runner’s resignation is still somewhere, someday, further along in the future, and for that I’m content and happy.

I’m still doing it and feeling like I’m a little kid myself hanging upside down on the playset.

The aging demons in my head have gone silent and I’m just a running fool for one more year.

forrest-gump