Here I was, rounding the final stretch of the race and crossing the finish line. What is the race? Why, life, of course! I recently turned 79, which you might not think is a significant birthday. However, my dad was 79 when he died in 1991. So, it is quite significant for me. In fact, celebrating my 79th birthday felt ominous rather than an accomplishment.
The path of my life—and health—has been very different from that of my father. He did hard manual labor for most of his life and, when he retired, he mostly sat in front of a TV all day. On the other hand, I had an academic career and have traveled extensively after retirement. He was not healthy and I am. Nevertheless, I have seen age 79 as the goal line because it was the end of his life—and somehow of mine as well. Irrational, you say? Yes, but when I reached this hypothetical goal line I experienced a loss of energy and a lot of free-floating anxiety. That is how powerful an idea can be in affecting my physical state. I now realize that I have been experiencing rising anxiety over the weeks leading up to this birthday, and I marvel at the power of my subconscious mind to affect me, physically and emotionally.
Now, that I am on the other side of this self-imposed finish line, I can take stock and see how I want to run this victory lap, the lap after the race is won. I realize that it's not the end but a new beginning. In the first place, I am choosing to remain here in Girona, Catalonia, for the foreseeable future. I like the ambiance here. There is the climate, which is temperate for most of the year. There is the food, which is the best I have ever eaten. We can live here without needing a car. Walking everywhere is good for my health, and the life on the streets is fascinating and always changing. We have friends here when we want to have social contact.
The history of Girona goes back before Roman times and is all around us. Sitting on my balcony in our apartment, which was created out of the remains of a medieval monastery, I can see the city walls, which are Roman at the base and build up layer by layer to the present day at the top. When we go out each day, we marvel that we live here. I have most everything I need within walking distance of the apartment. Directly below us at street level is a restaurant that serves coffee all day and a good inexpensive “menu del día” at midday. The local market with fresh meat, fish, and veggies is only a few blocks away. We even have an Apple Store where I can buy the latest technology and keep it running perfectly. What’s not to like?
Now that the hot summer sun threatens our comfort, we are escaping to Cornwall for a month and a half. We will fly from our local airport (only 15 minutes by taxi) on Ryanair to Bristol, England, and go from there by train to Cornwall. First, we plan to walk a pilgrimage trail called the Saints Way across the peninsula. We have contracted with Encounter Walking, an organization that plans individual walks in Cornwall. They have made all the arrangements for us and all we have to do is show up and walk. After our five-day walk we will settle into a self-catering apartment in Penzance for the duration of our time in the UK. What we will do after that depends on the weather here in Catalonia. If it is still too hot for us, we will make other travel plans.
This blog is another of my Victory Lap projects. I am enjoying putting up these blog posts and plan to continue to do so no matter what size my audience may be. I have no other goal for this project than recording my impressions of life here in Spain and how we are getting on. If you like what you see here, I would appreciate a comment from time to time, and you can sign up to receive notices whenever there is a new post by subscribing to the blog. Just click on the top of the page banner and enter your email, and you will hear from me when there is something new to read.
I am typing this blog post on my new birthday present, an iPad Pro with its special pencil and attachable keyboard. I have just set it up in preparation for our trip to Cornwall. I am really enjoying this little device, which enables me to do everything I intend to do while on the road. I can check email, type a blog post with its newly designed keyboard, and even listen to background music at the same time. I have apps that provide meditations to keep me relaxed and present, there is even a solitaire game for me to waste an hour with. It's a perfect tech-toy for an addict like me.
So, what comes after the Victory Lap? Retiring from the race? Not a chance! Keeping fit for the next lap? You got it! Since 79 has such negative significance for me, my dear partner, Elyn, has given me a special dispensation to refer to my age this year as “in my 80th year.” Now I can even avoid having to repeat that number over and over.