The Second Half: What exhilarates you?

July 23, 2009

Taking drugs, drinking booze and even compulsive computer use: according to Deepak Chopra, these mind-altering behaviors are a poor substitute for true exhilaration. They give you a temporary thrill, but, from a molecular standpoint, they are no substitute for real life.

Deepak Chopra, M.D., is famous for his mind/body approach to medicine, called “Quantum Healing.” His anti-aging research tells us the effects of aging are largely preventable. How? Here’s what Chopra said in a recent interview by author Veronica Hay: “…if you are having the experience of anxiety, your body is making adrenaline and cortisone. If you are having the experience of tranquility, your body starts making valium. If you are having the experience of exhilaration and joy, your body makes interleukins and interferons, which are powerful anti-cancer drugs. So, your body is constantly converting your experiences into molecules.” (Read the entire interview at http://www.peopleandpossibilities.com/chopra.html)

Huh?! I think he says: to live well, get out and do something, anything that exhilarates you, thrills you, fills you with “joie de vivre.”

My 50-something friend, Phyllis, had a medical scare recently, from which she is still recovering. I guess that’s what made her decide to take the Rider’s Edge Motorcycle Driving Course at Kutter Harley-Davidson in Janesville, Wis.

“It is just something I wanted to do,” she said. “I’m not waiting until I retire to have fun. What if tomorrow never comes? I’m doing this for ME!”

She describes her class as full of folks in their Second Half, “You should see our class photo…all the silver hair!”

My 70-something friend, Pat, is always looking for new experiences to exhilarate her. Lately, she is driving an antique car and decorating her tree house. In her spare time, she studies to be a hospice volunteer and takes classes at the Center for Learning in Retirement at RVC.

Fifty-something John jumps out of airplanes for his kicks, taking photos during freefall to add to the thrill. “That way, I can re-live the moment later… even though I’m home safe, I still get a rush when I look at the pictures!” he exclaimed.

Another friend named John tells a different story: “My son recently sent me an aerial photo taken from a hot air balloon. All I could think was how he was risking his life!” This guy wouldn’t set foot in a hot air balloon—dislikes heights. But he and his wife get charged up creating fantastic gardens around their home, masterpieces of nature. “The work isn’t so thrilling, getting dirty and sore,” he says. “But when we finish, I have such a sense of accomplishment!” Creative expression is another way to experience exhilaration, and this husband and wife are real artists.

Dr. J, my favorite chiropractor (Dr. Jarrod Kerkhoff of Loves Park Chiropractic) gets his thrills bicycle racing, covering rough and challenging terrain.

“It’s not for everybody, but I enjoy it,” he tells me, even after a nasty spill last racing season. “People don’t have to race to find exhilaration through biking—a wonderful ride through some picturesque countryside can achieve the same results.”

Dr. J helps a lot of biking athletes achieve better results, but he even works with “pleasure riders” such as myself.

Biking on trails exhilarates me, riding with friend Pat (yes, she bikes, too!), Hubby, and Granddaughter Kait. I am, however, a bit of a sissy when it comes to riding in extreme heat, on steep hills or in places with lots of bugs! And the exercise bike does not hold the same appeal, so my riding days are somewhat limited.

I do get a thrill from the back of the Harley, whether riding around the area or on some bigger adventure. Last weekend, Kutter Harley-Davidson held a “Thank You” event for customers, escorting 120 riders through rolling stateline countryside to Dubuque’s Mystique Casino and Race Track. They treated us to a terrific luncheon and some free gambling money, too. I am not much of a gambler, but I had a great time. At the race track, I picked a greyhound named Highway because we just traveled on one; he also wore Harley colors, so I placed my only bet on that dog. Highway won, of course, and I was thrilled to pick up my $9 winnings.

The big buzz came when more than 100 motorcycles sprung to life, hitting the highway together: the roar in the air, the rumble underfoot, and the long line of riders snaking over the curved roadway. I thought about what it must have been like for early settlers, watching from horseback as buffalo herds stampede through the area. I think the ground rumbling and the roar in the air must have been almost the same.

I know I’m no pioneer, but everybody mounting up to ride together brought up images of earlier, more rugged times. I won’t apologize for my feelings, either—riding horses or motorcycles bring equal amounts of risk to the rider. I’ve done both; each holds a special thrill for me. The effect is amplified when shared by a whole bunch of folks—“group affiliation” they call it, being part of something bigger than yourself. Whatever…it was just plain FUN!

What do you do for exhilaration in your Second Half of life? Accept no substitutes, folks. Find something that truly exhilarates you, and make a long life worth living.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

from the July 22-28, 2009, issue

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