03 September 2006

On a different subject...

As a birthday gift to myself, I signed up for a six-week tai chi class. It starts in early October, once a week for six weeks. Since my birthday is near the end of the month, this was a very early gift, something to anticipate.

It’s something I’ve been musing on for a while now.

This particular birthday is a milestone for me. And there’ve been times over the last year when it has felt more like a millstone. You see, Wren-friends, I’ll be turning 50.

Of course, I don’t feel that old. I feel like me, like I’ve always felt. My mind is roughly 18. It’s the rest of me that ... well.

For you 30ish types out there, this is fair warning: It’s coming. That 50th birthday seems like it’s a long, long way off, but believe me, it’s tomorrow. My own experience was that after I turned 30, time actually collapsed.

After 30, the whole shebang sped up, and each year seemed to go faster and faster. I understand now why old-timers say “I remember it like it was yesterday...” when referring to a moment that took place 20 or 30 years before – it’s because, in their perception, it was yesterday.

Wasn’t it?

Now, I have friends who tell me, “Don’t worry about 50, dear. My 50s were the best years of my life.”

I believe them. And I’m slowly bringing myself around to seeing this half-century milestone not as a millstone but as a new beginning.

Yeah, it sounds trite. But I’m a great believer in the power of the mind. I believe that how we think really does shape our lives in a myriad of tiny ways. While it’s in remission now, mostly, for a period of about 10 years I battled rheumatoid arthritis nearly every day. There were times when it damn near crippled me. But I still had to go to work, still had to cart laundry up and down four flights of stairs each week, still had to take the dog out for walks every morning and every night, still had to cook meals and raise a child. During that time I learned the value of mind over matter. I learned the art of distraction. I told myself I’d get through this workday, this dog-walk, this next load of laundry.

And I did.

I’m not starting this new half of my life expecting to look like a starlet. I had my starlet-like time, and it went by so fast that I hardly noticed. Now I’m delighted just not to be gimping around each day, smelling of Tiger Balm. I’m glad to be healthy and glad to have an inquisitive mind and a wild imagination.

I’m a work in progress, for sure, but aging is something that I believe can be approached gracefully and with dignity, and I’m gonna do it.

Hence, the tai chi. If there are any readers out there about my age who have tried it, or are practicing it now, I’d love to hear from you. I’m studying up. I’m looking forward to these classes.

And maybe, for my 51st birthday, I’ll take up snowshoeing.


Mike Kretzler said...

I'm early into my sixth decade now and you're right, time speeds up. I started noticing when I had kids in my middle twenties.

Tai chi is wonderful. I still vividly remember the first classes I took, over twenty years ago. I was working in a green lumber planer mill, pulling on the green chain on the swing shift. I'm not sure why I took the class out at TESC, but it was a revelation. It was as rich a learning experience as I've ever had.

It was a perfect thing for me to do, as my job was wrestling heavy lumber off of a rolling chain and onto a stack at my side. To learn balance, to learn how to leverage my whole body to move another object, to learn posture and rooting and power -- these were perfect lessons for me at the time.

I took a couple of quarter's worth of sessions and then the main instructor ran into visa problems, so the class was handed over to another instructor. He was in no way incompetent, but in no way inspiring, either, so I dropped.

I have carried and extended the lessons I learned in those few months with me for years. My health and outlook are dramatically the better for it. My current practice is weekly yoga -- similar but different.

You've given yourself an excellent present. May you enjoy it.

Tom said...

Hi, Blue Wren!

Want to echo Mike's excellent comment! Tai Chi can be a VERY powerful (mystical?) experience. Also, choose your intructor(s) carefully. I think the style (Yang? Chen? Wu?) is not so important as that you would feel comfortable with your instructor. Can't emphasize this enough. Give it a little time and if you just don't feel right about it, go looking.

You will have some rubbery legs sometimes. Your breathing and your strength will change. You will learn a different sort of 'focus'. You are, however, making an important investment in yourself (and through yourself, in your loved ones).

Hope that's encouragement for you! I think you will be VERY glad you made this choice! Wave hands like clouds!

Kevin Wolf said...

After being hit by a car, I took karate to regain my strength and balance. I really enjoyed the year and a half I practiced.

But I moved and the karate became unavailable to me. I've looked into tai chi at my local Y, and while I liked the instructor and the practice itself, they only had two classes a week and it was too easy to miss them. (My karate dojo had two or three classes each day - very easy to get to a few every week.)

I think it's a great idea. I'm not into mysticism at all, so I prefer the practice itself: the hard work and the rewards of hard work. It's worth it.

Keep us abreast of how it goes.

Anonymous said...

I started tai chi when I was in my early twenties. I started with yang style master chen man ching in NYC. I have continued all my life. I am now 55. I also studied, practiced, and competed in Goju Ryu karate for about 12 years through my thirties. Give tai chi at least two years beforeyou really begin to understand. The Chinese say it is an "investment in loss." By loosing self you gain spirit. Good luck: Larry Boisvert

Anonymous said...


I m 36 years old and this blog inspired me. I think internet can be the new way for the senior to communicate their experience to the junior or less senior like me. :p
Indeed in the old times there were assembly where elderly people transmitted their knowledge to the young people we don't have that anymore in big cities.

So thanks again and don't give up.

Sid from AD