“Don’t ever feel like your best days are behind you. Reinvention is the purest form of hope. Make today your best yet.”
One of the most fascinating aspects of living on Earth is the endless diversity. There are over 7 billion of us milling around the same planet and each of us is living a completely different reality. We arrived from someplace and were planted in a country with a set of beliefs and cultural mores, varying languages and landscapes, yet we frequently forget about our free will.
A Filipino girl I know recently returned from a spectacular European vacation. She revealed to me that on the trip, she got married—to a woman. They said their vows and had a small ceremony in a country that is known for fast and hassle-free marriages. Her new Filipino wife lives far away (not in her homeland) and will be coming to Canada as soon as the paperwork is approved.
Both have kept a low profile on their preferences because of their conservative families. They made a choice that goes against cultural norms, got married in another part of the world, and had a gorgeous honeymoon travelling to the most picturesque places in Europe. They are doing something that is authentic and best for their true natures and overall happiness, in spite of strict familial traditions.
So often we live in a paradigm that becomes rigid and inflexible. We live by rules that may be our own; conventions we set long ago and have never revisited for validity. Worse, we may be living by someone else’s guidelines and regulations. And further to that, we might think we do not have a choice in the matter.
But we do. The weird thing about human beings, however, is our difficulty in making new choices that would better serve our health, happiness, and our soul’s purpose.
Mid-life is an interesting passage; we’ve done the crazy—the corporate climb, or the child rearing, or the amassing of the material. Looking back, we are in a position to reimagine the next segment of our lives with, hopefully, a little wisdom under our belts. The decisions we have made and are making now can have far-reaching ramifications.
I have a friend who’s been talking about starting his own business for the past 15 years. He is the leading expert in his niche field and there’s almost no way he can fail. But misplaced loyalty to an employer who has never had his best interests at heart (and, in fact, has been caught in unethical pay practices) has prevented him from taking action. He went so far as to secure a large line of credit for the start-up last year, but didn’t make the move. Due to a strange twist of events, he now feels trapped and unable to cut free from the company.
This is an extreme case of better-the-devil-you-know. I understand this psychology all too well; I was forced into the suburbs after I was flushed out of my home in the epic flood of 2013 and even though I detest the drive and distance from “civilization,” I haven’t made the move back to urban life. I have a lot of creature comforts I didn’t have in my last home, plus it’s quiet. Moving back to the core, I may end up in a hubbub of noise and a good night’s sleep has become a premium bonus that can make or break a day. Better the devil I know.
As I mature I find myself further interested in people who shatter our preconceived notions of aging. I love stories of people who are not buying the “life’s a bitch and then you die” theory.
I’ve watched videos of Greta Pontarelli, a now 67-year-old, who decided to blow off cultural ideas and take up pole dancing at 59 and is now a world champion. Her body defies what we expect of a person her age and she is grace and beauty on the pole, outperforming much younger contestants at the difficult sport.
47-year old veteran Arthur Boorman was disabled after too many parachute jumps in the Gulf War and was told by doctors he’d never walk without crutches again. The “curse” was spoken and he became depressed and obese. It took numerous tries to find a yoga instructor who was willing to help. He discovered DDP Yoga and began the slow and arduous process, believing he’d walk again. The most moving part of the video of Arthur’s journey is watching him run in a park. His transformation is remarkable.
Small choices can have big consequences—or rewards. We can opt to carry on with poor eating habits, be enslaved by our addictions, or make excuses for not exercising and spend subsequent decades feeling vaguely like a bag of dung and looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy in a wig. The implications will eventually play out in illness and ossification of our bodies, something that could have been redirected.
We can decide we’ve already learned what we need to know, or we can keep growing and studying. We can stay alive and interested and subvert our brains from atrophy and dementia. When we keep learning, we not only have the opportunity to meet new and different people, we have more reason to live.
We can stay in a stifling relationship that long ago stopped serving the greater good or we can grab our courage, cut our losses, and move into the next phase of life with a newfound freedom.
So often there are parts of ourselves we’ve lost, given away, or had taken. We lose innocence through our education. We give away creativity to earn a good living in a corporate or institutional setting. Parents, schools, religion, or relationships may have taken our freedom, or joie de vivre, or gypsy nature away.
No matter who they are, other people do not have the right to kibosh our dreams or desires—or even if we sleep in on weekends. Nobody else should dictate the path we live. When we people please and abandon who we (really) are, we set ourselves up for a fall.
But we can reimagine our reality by creating a whole new story. We can reinvent our lives with belief and persistence. We can set new boundaries—hard as that may be.
Who would you like to be? What or whom would you like to let go of? What would you like to pursue? It’s spring (or at least trying to be spring), the cycle of new life, so why not excavate one thing you’d like to do that’s authentically you?
Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan said the individual must choose a path with heart rather than a trail of stoicism. He counseled people to choose the road that fills you with excitement and exuberance and with passion and summons you to what’s greatest within you—to not opt for a path of suffering.
The biggest challenge? As ever, overcoming the self. We are either our own worst prison guard or brilliant liberator. As spring works once again to push her way through an interminable winter, I endeavor to go forth as though reality is magical and I am the conqueror of a richer, reimagined life.
This fusion guidebook-memoir helps navigate prevention as much as it is for the those diagnosed with disease; it is a resource for living life to the fullest. St. Hilaire presents simple-to-digest material and wisdom woven with insightful anecdotes. She provides an invaluable amalgamation of research in a context not always accessible at your cancer centre.
“What a remarkable mixture of facts, data, research, warmth, humour, compassion, inspiration, vulnerability and courage!”
-Dianne Quinton, Coach