Monday, June 18, 2018

The second half of my life

I’ll be turning 40 in a few months and as I look back on my life I’ve done many worthwhile things. I’ve done many things that have made me happy and have produced good and happy memories. I’ve experienced the usual rites of passage for my generation and culture such as graduating from high school, first kiss, first job, having that favorite teacher, going to college, serving a mission for my church, falling in love, getting married, having kids, graduating from college, traveling to cool places, blah blah blah. Now that I’m almost 40, which ever since my childhood has always been old, I’m am scrutinizing what I’ve done with my time. Am I happy with it? Can I say I’ve done enough? Do I have any regrets? Are there things I’ve wanted to do or learn that I have never approached either because I didn’t have the money, time, talent or age for it? Turning 40 doesn’t mean you’re dead, no. By all means, no. But, there are some things you just can’t do when your body isn’t young. Having kids for example. I wouldn’t want to wait until I’m 40 to have kids. Becoming a ballet dancer is another. I’m 20 pounds overweight and I’ve got bad knees. Now is not a time to begin a dancing career.
The thing is I’m not beginning a career. I’m living life. I’m experiencing life through this body and mind I’ve been given. So, that’s why I’m taking up dancing again. I love music. I love dancing. My mother put me in ballet classes when I was a little girl and I went to those classes for many years. Until I was 12 or 13. Basically, I didn’t have a ballet dancer’s body and when you’re 13 and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror next to the other girls in the class, and you realize you’re just bigger than everyone else and you actually have boobs, you just want to quit. It was your mom’s idea anyway, right? So I quit and never looked back until I reached my mid 30s. Then I recognized there was peace in ballet movements. The mobility I could have maintained had I retained my ballet habits would have been beneficial to my health through the decades. The fitness trends of the day are jarring and fleeting and are unable to engage my mind as much as dance can. Plus, watching someone dance is entertaining. It’s a gift to spectators and a work of art. Running on a treadmill is purely self-serving. So, next week I’ll be the fattest, oldest lady signed up for the community belly dancing class at the local university. My fat will jiggle but I’ll try not to care.  She rocks!

As inspiration I will always remember the women I’ve met in my life that despite their age, have tackled new activities. I met a woman in her mid-fifties in Los Angeles who decided that she was going to learn Latin dancing. Alyona was her name. She had come to the USA from Russia to take care of her grandchildren and as they grew she began going to college again to improve her English, to get certified to be a math teacher in the States and to top it off, she learned how to Latin dance. She would even go dancing by herself at the Latin clubs in LA and dance with men half her age even though she was married. She had no intentions of slowing down. I have no idea if she knows what an anomoly she is.  
Another woman I admire is Gayle Davis. She was a librarian at the San Jose Library for many years. If you believe that the things in your house reflect something about you as a person, then she is definitely the most interesting person in the world. She didn’t have a huge house but she had a full size loom in her front room, a piano, and all the usual furniture most people had. She had a collection of masks and hats on her wall, a collection of magnets on her fridge, a collection of mini flags that bordered her dining room, and lots of scientific gadgets and knick-knacks sitting around. Microscopes and a bird-bobbing thing on her kitchen window sill. She was obsessed with the Day of the Dead and would make dioramas and jewelry. There was a timeline drawn on her wall that continued down her hallway simply because history literally goes that far back. Another interesting thing about her is that she is an enormous person. Most people would look at her and say she is just another fat lady. But I believe she has a health condition that causes her obesity. She has to buy two airplane seats when and if she flies. When I was a young child she moved around fine. But now she has to use a walker to move around her house and to her car. It has inhibited her movements for a few years now, but it has never kept her from accessing the things she’s wanted to access. After she retired from her librarian position, she took a bead making class and became very interested in making jewelry out of different materials. I even brought her back a collection of bottle caps from Turkey. She’s a kind, empathetic person and has been my neighbor and emergency contact for as long as I can remember. I admire her greatly and always try to visit her when I visit my parents. 
I also know many older women that don’t inspire me. They let themselves be limited by their culture, by their fears, by their age, by their size, by what they don’t know. It is depressing to watch how their lives are unchanging as they drift off into the oblivion.
If you know me, you know I love Dostoevsky with a passion.
I think my husband is even a little jealous sometimes when I snuggle with The Idiot or Brothers Karamazov at night instead of him. Fyodor said this:
It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing, but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.
I intend to prove my precious Fyodor wrong.   


Gayle said...

Thank you, Christine! As much as I love my home and all my “items”, I admire your bold decisions to raise your children all over the world, and to give them the benefit of living all sorts of cultures. The experiences will stay with them forever. They’re citizens of the world.

Unknown said...

Love you, Christine! I admire you so much and how you've accomplished all of these things you set out to do.

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