Last night I watched the documentary Marinoni about 75 year old Italian Canadian cycling icon Giuseppe Marinoni and his attempts to set a world record for distance cycled in one hour for his age group. The documentary, the oft-told story of an immigrant who arrives in Canada with nothing, only to lead an incredible and inspiring life is an important narrative that makes up the very fabric of Canadian identity. On the surface it seems like mandatory viewing for anyone who loves cycling; an homage to the sport of cycling and the art of making bicycles, but more importantly this film is especially important for anyone who believes in the power of sport and fitness to give life.
For me, this movie reinforced how much I loathe being around people who complain about being “old”; people who have essentially given up on what their bodies and mind are capable of. I’m 41 years old; I’ve done the sports, the mountain climbs, the triathlon, the marathon, the road races, the obstacle race, etc., and I feel like I’m just getting started. I don’t feel old; in fact I feel the fittest ever and I’m saddened by people who talk themselves into being “old”. Giuseppe was 75 when he challenged himself, and during this training (and my favourite part of this movie) his wife quoted an old Italian proverb which says “you can’t complain about the pain you seek” and I can’t think of anything that has resonated so deeply in my soul.
So today, instead of remembering it as the day my father died, I will remember Giuseppe and his resolve to live as he ever was.
The weeks approaching my 40th birthday (which was last weekend), I did what I usually do about my journeys, I wrote about it. In trying to assemble a list of 40 things I’ve learned about life, it became apparent that a few themes seemed to dominate the paper landscape. So I did what any good teacher did, I organized. So here, friends are some personal conclusions I’ve reached after four decades of life.
1. The state of women in the world has not changed since my early feminist-teen years. I always thought that by the time I got to this age, being a woman would be awesome. That around the world women’s health, economic situations, political power, day-to-day living and general freedoms would no longer be controlled by religion, government or culture. I thought that violence against women would be seen as archaic and the “way things used to be”; that women would all support and encourage each other’s individual choices in life even when they conflicted with their own; that gender specific rhetoric would never cross the mouths of young girls; and that men would have taken up some of the feminist reins and helped create a truly equal world. Alas, the proliferation of media has shown me that this is not the case, and on some level we may even be worse off in part because of the same said media. I hope that in the next four decades (but hopefully much sooner), these things I hoped for long ago will somehow materialize.
2. Sincerity is a very difficult thing to master and even harder to identify in others. I’m not talking about the inevitable jealousy that sometimes rears its ugly head, I’m talking about reaching a place where you actually mean it; a place where the motivation behind your thoughts and actions is pure and unadulterated desire to do so. The disappointing life lesson has been the realization of others’ insincerity, manifested in family members who allow money to dictate relationships, friends who toss you aside when they no longer need you, and coworkers who pretend with a selfish end-game in mind. But the journey here ends when you reach a point when sincerity is the main motive behind what you say and do. I am here now.
3. The human body will respond to the way it is treated. If you treat it like a garbage disposal for unnatural food, toxic substances, and mental anguish it will respond accordingly with unhealthy manifestations of rage. I think I’ve successfully conquered all of these things, except for the latter; something which I have yet to learn to manage properly. I continue to internalize way too much, and the stress reeks havoc on my well-being as it does with so many other people. I am still working on not “sweating the small stuff”, especially at work, and focusing instead on what really matters because, almost always, it’s not that which I get stressed out about.
4. Experience wins over stuff – every time. I’ve realized over the years that humanity’s obsession with stuff is merely a distraction, a temporary detour on the path to finding real satisfaction. The most detrimental thing we do to ourselves is waiting (wait for next week, next year, when I get a better job, when I lose 10lbs, etc.). Life will not wait, and happiness is worth actively seeking. Time and experience will always unfold the same answer: things will never bring you real joy, and one of the most fulfilling experience is love. Real love and partnership is so worth it. It takes time to find, longer to hone, and a lifetime to cherish, but it is the one thing the drives life.
There you have it, me at 40: happier and healthier than I have ever been and that I ever dreamt I would be. Here’s to another 40…