Original photo taken by Monte Stevens | © Copyright 2015
I've mentioned Bettie to you before. She will be 80 this year and is anything but “old!” Her mind is sharp, her wit smart, quick and contagious, and her body lean yet strong. In fact, she is a lot fitter than I. She even laughs with that certain twinkle in her eye when telling us that we wouldn't be able to keep up with her in her core work outs at the senior centre each week! Too funny. I don't mind at all. She has every right to feel good about how well she's taken care of herself, not just physically but mentally too.
Not only does she walk an average of 5-6 miles a day, if you were to ever stop by her simple, sparse yet airy 400 sq. ft. flat, you might find her studying another World Atlas, or perhaps listening to one of the university lecture series CD's she recently found at her local library. Another past time? Dancing away by herself to music cranked up on her little boom box. How thrilling to be so alive, active and curious at her age and really, quite different to the older folk around her in her building too. (Actually, many of them would no doubt dismiss her as rather mad!) Then again, she has always been progressive, far earlier than when that word ever became fashionable as it is with some today. She was vegetarian, exercising, doing yoga, and TV-less while adopting a life of decluttering and simplicity long, long before society ever found any of those things trendy.
And now, while still able to be fully engaged, she finds this phase of her life the happiest by far. She may not have much materially (very little in fact), but has found how to make life productive and good around her and in the process, as she likes to say, show her children how to age. That is something I had never considered before but, oh how I like that! I love her maverick ways.
That is not to say, Alex and I agree with her on everything but we don't feel the need to either. I find a freedom of fascination in our differences, much like my father and I, actually. Her world view is a fair bit more liberal, politically, and Eastern, philosophically (atheist Buddhist* to be precise). Nevertheless, we often see much of the joys of simple life the same, and with it, the things to avoid too that can so easily beckon us to follow along with the masses, culturally speaking.
Assuming we have our wits about us, while we can all choose to age gracefully, that doesn't necessarily mean as our culture might dictate. Setting that example of how to grow older begins today. While none of us know just how long we might have, we can still find things in the spectrum of life around us that can engage us, keeping us learning and wanting to do... more. It goes beyond mindlessly flipping on the tellie just because it's there, beyond automatically supporting our local sports team because it is just that, beyond defaulting to a night out at another obligatory bar, beyond base, coarse language that has become rote, and even beyond the ingrained need to be "cool" simply for that transitory sake.
Ageing and maturing well beckons us out of just sitting there, whether that has been remaining apathetic at home or attending to some religious or social expectation perhaps only out of a misplaced sense of duty. These are all just ideas to stimulate your own imagination. I certainly have my bias but how your distinction looks to you is something only you can answer. As we're all different, one would hope our own blend is varied too for each of us, considering how our life might otherwise be if we kept it in automatic. And that is rather the point, isn't it? It comes down to be being truly alive, being fully conscious in our routine decisions, not just adopting whatever is the norm of the day. As such, it often necessitates having to choose to live different.**
At any regard, it's easy to embrace the cultural norms of our peer groups, whatever the age, yet the Betties of this world are out there, showing us that you don't have to give in to predictable normalcy. You can start living more today! I don't know about you, but I find that very invigorating indeed. :)
* Yes, one can actually be both — embracing the concepts of detachment, Karmic consequence, etc., while yet not ascribing to that endless cycle of reincarnation, for example.
** It likely goes without saying that no one here is somehow advocating giving in to a kind of reckless abandon where your life is thrown into peril or where those under your care are put unnecessarily at negligent risk. Of course not. That would be fruitless for all. It's more about finding that balance that leads to a healthier life, let alone how to age in style!