Today is my birthday. At my age, this a cause for celebrations, enjoying the now, and appreciating what I have. It is also a time for some looking back & thinking about what has gone. For me, the past is very important. It informs my present, and my future, but it does not define, restrict, or contain these things. My past is now very long, much longer than my future. Yet every moment in it was just that, a moment. Much of the time I lived in that moment, although I am a ‘planner’, even sometimes called an ‘over thinker’ by some members of my family. I am blessed with a very visual & sensory memory. I can recall scenes in detail & colour, I can recall smells, tastes, conversations, music, embraces.
Some of this I put down to just that, it’s a blessing I was born with. I can remember vividly some scenes, not many, from before I was 5 years old, when I lived with my family in post war England. Three memories in particular, and a couple more on the ship that brought us to Australia. One on the bus from Adelaide to Whyalla. But some of it I think comes from a philosophical stance or attitude, & some partly from mind training through years of yoga & mindfulness practice.
One thing I have learned over time, and that is how to let things go. Much of life is spent hanging on to things. These can be relationships, hurts, precious treasures, even hopes or ambitions. It can mean the control of others, or the control of material possessions. Hey, we all know of individuals who cannot find satisfaction in life no matter how big their house, their fortune, or the number of marriages they’ve had. They fill popular culture with their pointless ‘gathering’ & hoarding of life’s riches & experiences. Growing older teaches you that life is finite, that it’s about the experiences & relationships we find on our journey, not about accumulating. My parents believed wholeheartedly in this. At retirement after Dad’s retrenchment, they had no income other than the OAP. They spent the last 20 years of their marriage travelling Australia in a little caravan, on the old age pension. They were barefoot in the sea at Caldwell, rugged up & sleeping in the back of a station wagon in the mountains of Tasmania. They ate fish they caught themselves, dressed up & attended ‘Shows’ in the casinos on the Gold Coast, and spent time back ‘home’ in Adelaide in caravan parks helping with grandchildren over the school holidays.
Today my sister & her husband are flying off on their ‘retirement trip’. They are heading for a snowy, freezing England, our birthplace. They plan a 6 month caravan adventure, in Britain & Europe. Although when I saw my sister at Brunch for her birthday last month they were planning to also caravan in Spain, she did say that maybe they’ll just settle in Cornwall for the whole of spring & summer.
Travelling isn’t everyone’s dream, particularly not travelling on a tight budget. I enjoy it, but at this point in my life, I don’t want to spend more than a couple of weeks away from family, young grandchildren, aging mothers, working daughters. I do enjoy many other, smaller things. Every day I find something to take delight in, a feather, a walk in the hills, a day’s babysitting my only grand daughter who is a 3 year old doll. I manage my physical health to the best of my ability, following up with doctors, allied health, tests etc. But I don’t worry about it. I have decided it is what it is. My father taught me that physical pain is just that, & is not something to be allowed to dominate one’s thoughts, nor to be held onto, nor hidden behind. Life itself is a journey. We know our destination, it is what we are born for. Knowing our mortality and accepting it becomes remarkably freeing.
Our journey and happiness are ours to choose.
Helen is a Senior Counsellor with Diabetes Counselling Online, Teacher, parent of a person with Type 1 diabetes since 1979, and lives with Type 2 diabetes herself.