Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Growing older, discerning new sources of "meaning"...and giving wide berth to massive sea lions!

Entrance Island straight ahead - Joan gives the resident sea lions a wide berth!.
Yesterday, launching from Descanso Regional Park on Gabriola, we paddled out to the Entrance Island lighthouse. The modest "circumnavigation" is an easy three and a half hour paddle when it's not "bumpy" - as it can often be! There's a pretty impressive fetch that gives the wind time to gather up some good waves. This time, however, the Salish Sea was calm, with the only wave action coming from the passing ferry boats and some other commercial traffic. The sky ahead was overcast and the still air had an almost eerie feel to it as if a storm was imminent. A sliver of sunshine back-lit my paddling partner and the red and white buildings that have marked this tiny, scenic island for many, many years.

We paddled together, but alone with our thoughts. For me, I contemplated the process of aging that seems to be leaving some subtle "markers" on my own life these days. Having just read an excellent post by Silbs, fellow blogger and kayaking enthusiast, I reflected on the focus of my postgraduate Studies in Gerontology (processes related to aging), several years ago. I still have a great fascination with the whole subject of meaning and how sources of meaning in life, must out of necessity, change and evolve as we advance in years.

There is, perhaps, nothing in the world more important than meaning - after air, water, food, and shelter. Without meaning, our lives are empty, "thin", fragile, and without direction. There is no "light house" to guide us on our way. With meaning, however our lives are rich and full and satisfying - often regardless of health, employment status, or bank accounts. If we have sources of meaning in our lives, not much can get us down. Meaning, of course, comes from our "meaning-filled" connections with our families and with one another. Sources of meaning also include our dreams and aspirations, our vocations, avocations, passions, interests, and pastimes.

But, we need to be open to the sources of meaning in our lives changing as we grow older.

A source of meaning can be as simple as a daily activity that brings great enjoyment to our lives. Losing that source of meaning can be very difficult, even devastating. After tearing my meniscus ten years ago, (and subsequently undergoing knee surgery), I exclaimed to Joan (in a melodramatic moment of self-pity, induced by a prescribed pain killer), "If the day comes that I can't go for a morning run, well, that's it!" That's "IT"?!! What was I thinking?! The injury eventually completely healed and in that process of recovery, I discovered the joys of reading while exercising on a stationary bicycle. I looked forward each day to this newfound combo of catching up on some reading...while exercising. The proverbial "silver lining" comes when we are open to new sources of meaning.

This past couple of months, my morning runs have been threatened once again, this time hampered by a frustrating and painful achilles injury. I'm hoping the achilles will heal with some time off, but what if they don't? Running has been an immense source of pleasure (and meaning!) for over thirty years. Well, who knows what is to come but feeling sorry for oneself is not an option - besides, it's really hard on everyone else! (So I'm told by someone who has loved me for a very long time and can say frankly what needs to be said!). Over these past several months, trail running on our beloved Mt. Tzouhalem has been out of the question, but we have re-discovered our mountain bikes. They provide lots of exercise, particularly on the ample hills around here, and take us to some new places that beg to be explored. This two-wheeled, self-propelled activity has become a new source of that daily "fix" of endorphins - and meaning.

Whether we're turning 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 or 90 or 100, our bodies, minds, and spirits are undergoing change. That's life. It's normal. Advice to "self": suck it up, and move forward without regret. So long as we are open to new sources of meaning as we age, the process of getting older will be grace-filled, rewarding, and the changes we experience will be marked by growth and increasing richness. The alternative is to become grumpy, unpleasant, and irritable to others - and folks won't be wanting to seek out our company!

Just some thoughts that came to mind while paddling the Salish Sea and giving the Entrance Island sea lions a wide berth.

Makes me kind of forget about those annoying achilles. :)



  1. Well Duncan...that was an insightful few words. Suck it up princess always comes to mind when I am feeling the sting of sore muscles, or a bad game of squash or tennis. I have had issues with both my achilles and have found a wonderful stretch that all but eliminates my morning inability to walk with out a limp. We should discuss this further. BTW are you venturing out this way at all in the near future?!
    Great photos, i wish we had 2 kayaks to do what you guys are doing. i am thinking of a small sailboat for the boys and I. i hope all is well with you on the other coast. Rick

  2. Wonderful and powerful. I am going to let my FB friends know about this posting.

  3. Hi Rick, I will be in touch by email about our shared experience with the troublesome achilles. We would love to venture out your way someday! Thanks, as always, for stopping by. D.

    Hi Silbs, thank you for that. Getting older is inevitable - and the better "alternative". We might as well try to get it right. :) Thanks again for your initial and thought-provoking post. D.

  4. Great post! Change is a happening. Great advice for all of us to "suck it up, and move forward without regret." And, as you point out the alternative is not pleasant for any of us.

  5. Thanks for that, John. And as a friend reminded us recently "if it wasn't for change, there wouldn't be butterflies". Good point! D.

  6. awesome post. Change is great! Imagine the poor mind of a man 300 years ago going the speed downhill on your bike! He would talk about it till his end days!

    Change is good! If for nothing else to make us remember how good we were; and how much we got left.

  7. Change sure can be good, Lee. And heck, we might just all get better! I like the words in the country song that go...

    "I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get
    But I’m better than I used to be."

    Thanks for coming by. D.