“It’s not our experiences but how we reflect on them that make us whole”.
These words were quoted by Jane Fonda at a TEDx conference in December 2011. You can hear all of her speech on blog.ted.com/2012/01/04/lifes-third-act-jane-fonda-on-ted-com. Her topic is on the subject of aging. We are living on an average of 30 years longer than our grandparents so how we deal with this is crucial to our happiness. She calls this new life phase “Life’s Third Act”.
There is certainly much ‘food for thought’ in this quotation. Since most of my friends and I are now in the third act of our lives, most of us agree we don’t want to end our lives as our parents and grandparents did. To prevent this, we are experimenting with all types of different experiences, but are we taking the time to reflect upon them? This is the crux of it all, isn’t it? How can we take our experiences and use them to become a whole person? On hearing this, from Jane, I immediately zeroed in on my travel experiences over the last seven years realizing just how much they have contributed to my own personal growth. This then led to my reflecting on how my life here in Victoria Beach has also contributed to my well-being. In fact, I can take this whole business of experiences and the ability to reflect upon them one step further and include every experience in my life, be they good or bad, as my own personal growth enhancers. I understand more clearly than ever how we can grow so much more from those experiences that are the most challenging rather than those that are the most fun. What makes it all somehow easier is that as we age, we have more wisdom to deal with those challenging ones, the greatest being the ability to deal with aging itself.
Last spring when my husband and I returned from our travels to Victoria Beach, we began to question whether we wanted to stay and keep on living the rural life in an old house in a remote area so far away from our children and grandchildren. We decided to put our house up for sale. Luckily we had only a few nibbles because now after more soul-searching and a closer look at our finances, we have decided to stay here for the time being and enjoy what we have built up over the past eight years. To move back to Ontario would mean having to start all over again which somehow seemed to be taking a step backwards. We realized that by remaining here, we can have the best of two worlds: temperate summers and lovely autumns here and five months of sun in a warm country. So long as we have our health and enough money for airfare to get us to an undeveloped country where the cost of living is less, we can not only escape winter but also experience different cultures.
So what are some of the growth enhancing experiences that I have discovered while living in Victoria Beach? Here are three of them:
1. The fact that I have unspoiled nature all around me. I can see the great Bay of Fundy from my living room window. I can go for walks along our beautiful road (the oldest in Canada as it boasts of the Habitation in Port Royal founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1604) which takes me through woods and fields where all that reaches my ears are the sounds mother nature and an occasional passing car. I can hear the fog horn in the distance when it’s overcast. I can wake up to the sound of the birds in the morning. I can see the stars and phases of the moon clearly at night. I get a thrill from seeing and hearing the Princess of Acadia, the ferry which goes right past us on its way from Digby to St.John every day. And, yes, I can even learn to like, just a little bit, the sound of the wind whipping around our old house in the late fall and the winter if ever I have to stay here.
2. The most incredible sunsets which are present at all times of the year. I have seen many sunsets in my travels but none to rival what we get here. Every one of them is unique and always a challenge for my amateur photography skills.
3. Finding a sense of community has to be number three. Victoria Beach has about 50 houses inhabited by locals going back several generations and an increasing number of ‘come from aways’ as the locals like to call us. People from the US, other parts of Canada, Germany, Scotland, and England have come here and fallen in love with what this area has to offer. It took us awhile to feel this ‘sense of community’ but after eight years we have it. We have made friends from all sides both in and around Victoria Beach. When we leave our home for the winter, we have neighbours to keep an eye on things, take in our mail, and water our plants. We know our old house is in good hands. Maybe everyone knows our business, but I have come to realize this is a good thing.
Yes, I owe Victoria Beach a great deal. It enriches my soul with its unspoiled nature, its sunsets, its sense of community which goes back more than a hundred years, and its friendly inhabitants. I am glad we have made the decision to stay a little bit longer. It just wasn’t the time to go.