“Once more into the breach my friends…”
Shakespeare lovers will recognize these immortal lines from Henry V, as the king exhorts his men to once again brave the French spears and troops which outnumber them.
The Battle of Agincourt, which gave the British control of Normandy and made Henry heir to the French crown was not only pivotal in war history, but Shakespeare’s telling of the tale gave us some of the best lines in all of great literature.
What on earth does this have to do with life after 60?
Stay with me here.
This morning, in response to an article I had written on how so many of us speak of our sacred selves as elderly, I got this comment from one woman that made my day:
… In just 11 days my husband and I, along with two dogs and a cat, make a permanent move to Central America. Our goal is to live this chapter of our lives in harmony with nature and the local islanders. We will have 400 sq ft of living space until we are ready to undertake repurposing an existing structure that will be not much larger. We intend to live pretty much off-grid and as simply as we can. This project will be the most physical one of our lives and we anticipate it with nearly every emotion on the spectrum.
Sixty and Me published an article a short while back about living as an ex-pat. These folks are poised to do just that, having made this enormous decision to live on their terms, “off the grid.” Suffice it to say they have done their research and know what they’re getting into as best they can.
The rest? That’s up to the gods, if you will.
The breach, in this context, is life itself.
The “breach,” the way I see it, is an invitation to take on what time we have and fill it with the kind of adventure which enlivens us, makes us youthful again because of the nature of the challenge.
The couple moving to Honduras is doing precisely what I have considered, and may yet still do, albeit my choice is elsewhere. I am still building out a new home in Eugene, and that was plenty enough adventure this past year.
The beauty of it is that the challenges involved with setting up and managing a big new home with plenty of deferred maintenance has kept me fully engaged and delighted, especially as my yard explodes with blooms and birds and breezes. Will I be here forever? Who knows? Another breach may open and invite me to leap in.
The couple moving to Honduras has signed up for hard physical labor at a time when their bodies will probably benefit the most. Not only is such hard work deeply gratifying, it’s also humbling for two reasons. First, that hard work will sculpt them into strong elders, confident of their balance and strength.
Will they injure? You betcha. At 68 I injure all the time because I am pushing myself all the time. AND I heal like a teenager and bounce back because I work hard and eat well, which this couple will most certainly be doing. That is a setup for success.
They have a plan, a purpose, and they are days away from leaping off the proverbial cliff. Oh, how delighted I am for them both.
The Battle of Agincourt for all of us is the Battle of Aging. It’s the one we will ultimately lose, for we must. However, the skirmishes we encounter along the way allow us to celebrate those small but terribly significant wins which result in quality of life.
Nature will take us, but she doesn’t have to rob us of joy, adventure, deep satisfaction and the gratitude that you and I can feel when we wake up to yet another day. Our battle is to fight aging stereotypes, be willing to leap into life on our own terms, and fly our own flags of a life well-lived.
You don’t have to move to Honduras and live off-grid for that. Not at all. But when you and I choose life, when we are willing to do the work to be healthy, eat well, move much and reach out to friends, we are far more likely to feel heroic every single day.
To that I will end with another great quote from Henry V, which is an even greater truism today:
“Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.” – Dauphin
Every single day offers us a chance to go “Once more into the breach.” Right now, my breach is at the gym, where I train to fight another day.
What do you do to add a touch of adventure to your day? Do you have great plans for your later years? How do you build the courage to take risks?