25 October 2014

45 – Age Like Wine

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been distracted in my spare time by activities that start with the letter W. What can I say? I like activities that start with the letter W. That, and I don’t believe in boredom.

Two things inspired this essay: wine, and my birthday. And though it begins with the letter W, wine wasn’t one of the distractions.

On my birthday, my co-workers gave me a final round of happy returns before we punched out. 

How old, brother? asked one of the guys. 

34, said I. 

Hmm. Right on. Lookin’ good man, he said. 

I’m like a fine wine baby. Only gettin’ better with age, said I.

A few of the guys laughed. So I dropped the mike and left.

Lots of people drink wine. There are lots of different kinds. And lots of people know lots about them. I’m not one of those people.

But that exchange with a co-worker got me thinking about wine. And that got me thinking about aging. Because instead of letting ourselves get old, we should be striving to age like wine instead. 

I’m starting to show some worldly wear. I’m showing a few grey hairs and whiskers. But that’s OK. I like them. As my epic friend, Small Paul, once said: it kinda makes you feel like you’re finally a grownup. 

I thought about turning 34 during the ride home on the bus. And I realized that Bob@34 ain’t too bad. I’m the fittest and healthiest I’ve ever been. I’m working a job I really enjoy with a good group of guys. I’m also doing more things that I enjoy in my spare time than ever before (that do all in fact start with the letter W). 

Brought to you by activities starting with the letter W.

I realized that I’m the best Bob I’ve ever been. Bob@34 would run Bob@20 off a basketball court. Bob@34 would kick the living shit out of PhD Bob@26. And PhD Bob@26 would deserve every last smack I gave myself. Bob@30 was pretty good. But even he’d get trimmed by Bob@34. In conclusion, Bob@34 is the best vintage to date.

But I’m not finished yet.

I am aging, and I am getting closer to dying. What odds! That train’s coming for all of us anyways.

More importantly, I’ve realized that in every important and tangible way I’m better than all previous versions of me. So I don’t think of myself as getting older. I’ve decided that I’m aging like wine instead.   

If you’re thinking I’m full of shit or myself (which are often one and the same thing, by the way), two things: a) I don’t give a fuck, and b) I’m going to tell you a story. And it ain’t bullshit.

I’m 6’3” tall, and have been since I was 14. Growing so fast through puberty led to regular, sharp, stabbing pains in my left knee by age 13. That pain was so bad that my parents took me to be examined by the family doctor. And then the family doctor sent me off to be examined by a specialist.

After performing and examining X-Rays on my left knee, the specialist confirmed that I wasn’t just experiencing ‘growing pains.’ My bone structure had grown so much faster than my leg tendons, ligaments, and muscles that it caused a stress fracture in the top of my left shin bone.

The specialist arranged a series of sessions with a physiotherapist. I asked the specialist if that would make my knee better. He told me it wouldn’t: the physio would just keep my knee from getting worse. He also told me that the severity of the stress fracture would lead to severe arthritis in my left knee by my mid-thirties.

Needless to say, I became a fan of optimism that day.

The specialist’s prognosis was spot on for the next 15 years. The pain never left. And sometimes the inflammation prevented me from bending my left leg. But the pain never got worse. So at least I had that going for me.

Everything changed six years ago. I did P90X several months after deciding to take my wellbeing a little more seriously. It’s a three month program, and I busted my arse six days a week. I became stronger, leaner and more energetic as a result. It was absolutely worth it.

But it was the weekly Yoga component that impressed me most. I’d never practiced Yoga before. But I eventually improved from being terrible to just bad at it. By the time I finished P90X I’d become flexible enough to reach parts of me I’d never reached before. And the sharp pains and swelling in my left knee had vanished.

I’ve exercised and practiced Yoga on a pretty regular basis since then. I’m 34 now and making the call: I’m in my mid-thirties. I don’t have severe arthritis in my left knee. I don’t get sharp, stabbing pains in my left knee anymore. I don’t experience severe inflammation or tightness in that knee anymore, either. I’m in my mid-thirties and my left knee is fine.

And when I think of that specialist and his optimistic prognosis the words of Lt.-Col. Frank Slade always come to mind.

If you still don’t believe me then pop by the warehouse sometime. You’ll see what I’m talking about on any given work day. It’s physical work: most of us walk at least 20 miles a day while lifting plenty of boxes and climbing plenty of ladders in between. Most of the guys working there are in their twenties or thirties. And a number of them are quite fit. But nobody can boogey around that warehouse floor faster than my buddy, Bob Neil.

Bob Neil’s got one speed: full ahead. He gets his work done fast and right. Bob Neil runs six days a week, and he logs at least 100 miles every month (over 160km). Bob Neil’s lean, bursting with energy, and has a great attitude toward everything.

Bob Neil is also one of the warehouse greybeards. He’s 50 years old, and he’s got the youngest legs in the fucking joint. He’s also 89% cooler than the rest of the guys simply because he listens to excellent music and loves sharing it with others.

Bob Neil ain’t getting old. He brings his boots and shoes, and he don’t ever hang back. He always fights his best on the front lines, and he sings a little bit of these workingman’s blues. Bob Neil chooses to age like wine.

Like other good things to do in life, there’s no one right way to age like wine. But three good rules of thumb do come to mind: 1) find your Peace in your time, 2) move physically, and 3) eat real, good food.

Beyond that, you’re on your own. I don’t know what’s best for you. You’re a big boy or girl. Figure it out for yourself.

Just don’t let yourself get old simply because that’s what The World says is supposed to happen to you. The World’s full of bullshit you shouldn’t listen to.

Fuck what The World says. Age like wine instead.

And don’t forget to be human.

But I’ll have words about that in House Newf #46.

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.