This year, I’ve made only one New Year’s Resolution. It has nothing to do with exercising more or eating less. Although both are important, I’ve given up on those promises. Making them means breaking them. Last year I resolved to read more books and I succeeded to a point. Netflix, HBO and podcasts continue to drive my attention in other directions, but I’m determined to keep fighting the urge to click rather than open a book.
For my 2019 resolution, I’m shooting low, or what initially appears simple to achieve. My resolution seems as easy as falling off a log: have more fun. Make time for it, revel in and remember that fun is an important ingredient of a life well lived. The trouble is: as you age, having fun can become more complicated than it appears.
As Margaret Atwood writes in her novel The Robber Bride, “How old do you have to get before wisdom descends like a plastic bag over your head and you learn to keep your big mouth shut? Maybe never. Maybe you get frivolous with age.”
Now that I’m over 65, I do feel the need to be serious, or at least to act wisely. But the truth is, lately I’ve been feeling positively funny. Increasingly I see the humour in my life and take pleasure in life’s little joys: a walk along the lake when the waves are roiling in the winter sun; a delicious cup of tea with the perfect cookie…..okay, cookies. My husband calling me a few times a day just to say he loves me; my daughter asking my advice on a career decision.
Often there’s humour and laughter during these conversations with my husband or with my daughter. We find something funny in the day’s events, be it the crazy side of the news, the antics of our pets or just how hard it is to get through a day without incident. Fighting traffic, road rage, bad weather, robo calls, long line-ups, rude service, or just plain uneventful and routine activities that drag you down. Rather than getting bogged down in the boring stuff, I’ve hit upon one particular method of enjoying myself. It’s my secret vice of checking into the Drake Hotel on Queen Street West in Toronto for one night each month. It might sound crazy or self-indulgent, but for me, it’s unadulterated fun.
If you live in the suburbs, as I do, decamping to a downtown hotel is a way to immerse yourself in the city vibe without the hassle of moving to a condo around the corner from the action. I favour where I live, but a regular taste of the big smoke makes it all the better.
A few months ago, I discovered this delight and I’ve promised myself not to abandon it. Since I’m surely the oldest guest in this “hipster” hotel, the staff is unbelievably kind to me. I get the same, gorgeous room for each sleep over. It’s a mix of modern and traditional Canadian, a style the Drake has perfected. Someone carries my overnight bag up to my room. There’s a parking spot reserved for my little Prius. That evening I have dinner with a friend. Just the two of us, so there’s plenty of time to share stories, to laugh, to drink and eat from the delicious menu.
Before bed, the front desk brings tea up to my room. On my last visit, there was a gratis bottle of champagne. In the hall, the following morning, there’s coffee ready for guests and downstairs a too-hip-to-be-cool diner for breakfast. When I just order a muffin for breakfast, the staff doesn’t even charge me. It’s on the house. Before I return home, I meet a friend or colleague for lunch or coffee. Afterwards, I try to catch a movie that won’t make it out to the theatres in the burbs. Sometimes I shop. For the holidays, I purchased an Alessi kettle, which miraculously updated the entire look of my home kitchen.
I love my overnight sojourns. They keep me free of spirit. I remember the years, more than 30 years ago, when I lived in a loft on Queen Street West, hung out at the Cameron House, bought vintage clothes and worked at a magazine. In the 1980s there was the Vienna Bakery for brunch and there was Greg Couillard, Toronto’s first celebrity chef. For all the sprawling condos that have since been built in that same area, Queen Street West hasn’t lost its edge. When I’m there, I’m having fun in a way that’s entirely personal. It may sound selfish, but I’m old enough to say: that’s okay for 48 hours each month.
My getaway takes me to the zone where writing fiction happens. Being alone in a hotel room allows me to feel the continuity in my life, to ignite the imaginative side of my character and to understand that ageing has a sweet side. By 65, you know who you are and what you want. The trick is to find a way to be satisfied with who you are and to arrange your calendar in a way that you get some of the things dearest to your heart.
Everyone is different. For some it could be travelling, or working, or volunteering. For me, it’s affirming change as you age, and to know that’s fine as long as you keep engaged, interested and connected with the people and places that surround you. It’s the opposite of this grim line by British writer Julian Barnes, “Perhaps this was one of the tragedies life plots for us: it is our destiny to become in old age what in youth we would have most despised.”
My one resolution for 2019 is not to become what in youth I would have most despised. That’s the best I can do, and in some way, the only thing that matters.