Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 801 Health, Tai Chi and the Lost Wallet

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery

A few years ago at 11 in the morning, our usual hour, Brenda and I jumped on our bikes and took off for a ride along the SeaWall in Vancouver. We try to bike for an hour or two most days. We hesitated because of the cool weather and gathering clouds but following our past experiences decided to go anyway, “When in doubt – go,” that’s our basic rule. It proved to be both good and bad.

We came upon a solitary elderly Asian woman dressed in loose, black clothing, practicing Tai Chi. We stopped. She was so beautiful – framed against the blue water and large freighters waiting at anchor. Each movement was slow, measured, and flowing. She never stopped moving and yet she seemed always on the edge of becoming fixed. Her flexibility and fluidity were inspirational. Everyone passing by looked back over their shoulder at her. We stopped; stood by our bikes and were transfixed. She would repeat some moves and then go right into something we had never seen before. She was still moving when we rode away.

Tai Chi has been a practice of mine over twenty-five years. It started as an attempt to cure a bad back. The doctor said the problem was the sciatic nerve. I had twisted like I shouldn’t have. The pain was terrific. I remember not being able to put any weight on my left leg for a couple of days. Then with great effort I managed to hobble, all stooped over, into the doctor’s office. Drugs, physical therapy and rest seemed to have little effect. Surgery was the next step. Then I heard of this guy who treated the back through Tai Chi. Throwing skepticism out the window, I began my study. It became a life saver – and a way of life.

Just yesterday a large picture jumped out at me in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. It was a large, color picture in the center of the page of perhaps one hundred people dressed in loose white clothing doing Tai Chi. The article talked of a recent study that revealed very positive results for people that do Tai Chi over other forms of exercise concerning enhancing the immune system – specifically combating shingles which affects about one out of five seniors. I never had shingles, but I have heard nothing good about having them. I think most retired folks would like to avoid them if we can. Of course today we have some shingles vaccine that is suppose to stop shingles. I got one.

I’ve read that millions of people do Tai Chi every morning all over China. I can understand why. When I took my first lesson I swore that if it didn’t really help me that my first day would be my last day. Now it must be well over 5000 days since that first day. That’s a long time.

My first teacher took me through a few Tai Chi moves and exercises that have lasted me all these many days. Now Brenda and I are taking lessons again. We met our new instructor in a video rental store. Her husband owns the store. We didn’t know that she had been a Tai Chi instructor in a Buddhist Temple here in Vancouver. When Tai Chi was mentioned in passing one day, we got ourselves a volunteer teacher. We meet in a park; usually Sunday evenings.

The article in the paper reinforced my thoughts concerning the health values of Tai Chi. Seems like I regularly read of various other health benefits. Seeing the woman doing Tai Chi this morning, reminded me of the beauty of this ancient, meditative practice.

But as I stated in thetitle of this podcast, this was a bike ride that returned both good and bad. The bad part – I lost my wallet. Yes, and the day after I went to the bank. A few hundred dollars and of course, all of those cards: those cards that establish my identity as a person. Talk about a sinking feeling. And here I am in an age of identity theft and then I go and lose everything. Was it theft? Was it someone else’s fault? No such luck. No, it was my doing – plain and clear. I did not zip the pocket after putting my wallet into it. I remember getting in a hurry to leave at the last moment and shoving the wallet into my bike shorts and heading for the door. I even recall thinking that I should secure the pocket, but didn’t. Careless, reckless, stupid – they all fit.

I’m not sure seeing the exhibition of beautiful Tai Chi balanced out the experience of losing the wallet. But several years have passed and regrets of losing the wallet are gone. But the memory of that elderly woman in black moving every so slowly along the water's edge remains as if etched in stone.

This is Retirement Talk.

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