Enthusiasm in middle age is an inside job

I was reading one of the science websites I visit regularly and was fascinated to learn about the number of people turning to the latest miracle cure.

I was reading one of the science websites I visit regularly and was fascinated to learn about the number of people turning to the latest miracle cure. Apparently there is a bevy of beautiful celebrities endorsing the wonders of resveratrol and in this world that means near mass hysteria. The vaunted television show 60 Minutes ran a segment on it and it’s all been downhill since then.

Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes. The 60 Minutes footage discussed the French red wine drinking habit and how certain health benefits have been uncovered in that population. Now there are websites where you can order the pills and all sorts of information available regarding its use, dosage and side effects. Ever since Ponce de Leon sought the fabled Fountain of Youth, we humans have wanted an age-defying miracle.

Everyone wants to age well. Everyone wants to sail off into the proverbial sunset looking buff and unlined and classy. No one wants to be infirm, weak, dowdy or just plain old anymore. That’s why the miracle-cure market and the health-supplement business is such a huge one these days. But in the end, life is life and there are certain things that just happen.

Of all the things we have in common as a human species there’s one more than any other that’s irrefutable. Someday, when you least expect it, gravity is going to have its way with you. It happens to men as equally as it does with women and there’s no culture spared the physical truth of it. There are two forces in the universe that control everything: electromagnetism and gravity. Neither of them is fightable. They simply are and their force is unalterable.

Native people are not immune, as I have discovered. I’m 53 years old, cruising slowly along to 54 in a few months and one of the most pervasive forces in the cosmos has already struck. There’s a severe downward pull on my body. Things are sliding south on a regular basis and all the information available to me says that it gets all of us as we grow older.

Some of us can actually remember the day it happens. We step out of the shower all glowing and fresh, grab a towel, look in the mirror, smile, and we can feel our buttocks drop. Boom. Just like that. There’s a distinct downward drop and where there once was booty we’re suddenly saggy and we jiggle when we walk. Women have a far more conscious relationship with that moment than men do, can recall it more readily, but we all confront gravity sometime.

Oh sure, there’s exercise and diet options and all manner of things created to get us back to that firm, youthful presence – but once gravity asserts itself there’s no going back. Resveratrol or no resveratrol, life is the other pervasive force in the universe and it has designs of its own on how we mature. We become, in the blink of an eye, jiggly, wiggly and loose and in dire need of fashion options.

Ojibway people call it getting a bannock belly or putting on the hibernation weight but it happens to everyone in every culture to some degree. It’s just part of our makeup as a species. We age, we droop, we sag. Exercise dutifully, eat right, take supplements, whatever, but gravity coupled with life itself become the determinant forces in our lives.

So why fight it? I know that I bounce in places I never did before. I know that my once firm stride lacks a little decisiveness nowadays. I might not be able to track down the fly balls in centre field the way I once did but I can still love the game. I feel good. I feel able to go whatever distance life asks of me and in the end, that’s the important thing. So far they haven’t created a pill or a miracle cure that can give you a desire for more. That’s always been an inside job.

Because the thing is, no one ever got a flabby spirituality. No one ever had an obese mental outlook. No one I ever met developed a corpulent joy. No, the thing is, as much as gravity has its physical way with us, we can strike back with will. You don’t have to shell out a load of cash to get that reaction. You just have to embrace life as life and get on with the business of it.

We can will ourselves to stay vital. That’s my plan anyway. Sure, I pack a few extra pounds on my uphill walks, my jean size creeps closer to my age but I choose to be taut emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Those are energies gravity has no hold on. We can float, we can fly, we can become, no matter how old we get.

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway and the author of Keeper’n Me. He won the Canadian Author’s Award for Dream Wheels and his new novel, Ragged Company, arrives in August from Doubleday. He can be reached at richardwagamese@yahoo.com