‘I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.’
Can you remember when you first heard that? Did a parent or teacher say, “Quit goofing around and get serious!” Did someone admonish you and tell you to quit acting like such a child? Did adolescent self-consciousness prevent you from trying anything new and looking like a fool?
I’ve been thinking about kids and old people lately. Maybe because I’ve been in a few elementary schools for the first time in ages and probably because I’m visiting my father in the decidedly unhomey-home every week.
What I’ve noticed is that we love to get our kids to try new things. Take piano lessons, go to circus school, try painting, play the drums and ride the pony. Parents and other adults toss them a lump of clay, some Crayolas and blunt scissors and tell them, “You don’t know what you’ll like – so try everything!”
And then…much later, we send seniors on outings or they take continuing education courses, harmonica lessons and engaging trips and, if they’re in a seniors home, the activity director has them singing while playing goofy games.
But somewhere between that kid-zone and the senior-zone of life,can be the burdensome middle ground of serious living. So what happened? Or, as my good friend likes to say, “Quelle de hell?”
When did it stop? Why aren’t we still trying new things? How do we really know for sure what we like or don’t like if we haven’t given it a go?
A year ago I would have told you in no uncertain terms that I would never ride a bike in a velodrome or bungee-jump into a South African gorge. I would have thought you completely mad to suggest that jumping into the Irish Sea while coasteering might be fun. But a year ago, I would have been wrong. Turns out I loved each of those things and everything else that I found frightening and uncomfortable (as an aside, like Tracy Johnston in her book Shooting the Boh, my motivations are eerily similar. Johnston says, “I am by nature a passive person who likes excitement; a person with no magnificent obsessions who loves to participate in them.” Not to mention, that because she was writing about the Borneo rafting experience, her trip was (Menno-Alert!) free).
But back to the topic of mid-life management…
There are all sorts of very good reasons why we quit exploring. Let’s face it. We’re tired.
It’s easier to flop on the sofa at the end of the day and let the television bathe us in its mindless blue haze. Besides, why embarrass ourselves? We know what we like and what we don’t, because surely we’ve already done it all?
Last night was a prime example. It was slopping buckets of rain and I wanted to stay home in the worst way. Instead, I met three girlfriends for a drop-in BellyFit class. We were, let us say, the more mature ones in a crowded room of twenty-somethings. We punched and swung and stepped our way into a sweat and then – quite wisely – went out for beer, chicken wings and most importantly, laughter.
I don’t think my knees will have me going back to that class (which was a little too reminiscent of those heady Flashdance-inspired aerobics classes from the 80’s – Where are my leg warmers!?) Still, I’m glad I tried it and surprise, surprise…I was no longer tired.
I’ve signed up for a collage course that starts this Saturday at Emily Carr. I’m also looking for other courses in video-making and heaven help us, I’m joining a Knit-Along (if you’ve ever seen my attempts at knitting, you’d know I’m truly pushing my boundaries!). I have my new weekly find-a-new-trail plan and we’ve booked a new walking holiday in England.
No one says I need to split any atoms. But as the dowager Countess Crawley said to Edith, “You must keep busy. You’re a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do.”
All I’m talking about here is stretching the parameters of the known boundaries. Something as simple as signing up for a community class or finding a YouTube video that inspires. Juggling perhaps? A new cooking trick?
Let’s take back that long-ago admonition to grow up and redefine it as something elastic and stretchy, pushing ourselves in new and expansive directions. Shake it up. Shake it out. Whatever you do…shake something!
Whether you learn to bake bread or stand on your head, the important thing is to grow up.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson