"Your experience and career track record suggests that you are actually older than you look," said a consultant, who was repeating a comment I get quite often these days. I am not sure what an "average 45-year old" is supposed to look like, but I am told I do not look my age.
Then, the same gentleman said, "people your age start looking for something to stick to for the rest of their careers, but you sound like someone who continues to look for something exciting, like a much younger person."
So I had to tell him that at 45, I am NOT looking for my "last gig" because I plan to live to be 120 years old, and as such, 45 is not half my life gone, but rather, only a third of the way there.
If I retired at age 60, what will I do for the next 60 years?
Yesterday, I purchased the latest issue of PRESIDENT, one of my favourite publications, whose monthly theme is "How People Who Make 10 Million Dollars Study."
Yes, we are a very diligent people who love to "study" all our lives. It is a virtue we value and praise, and drill into our children.
What is interesting about the cover story is that one of the first things it says that the top 3 MUST HAVES to become rich beyond one's dreams are:
1. physical and mental health
2. love for one's work
3. honest character
And the WORST THREE ATTRIBUTES to have are:
1. graduated from a top university
2. is clever
3. high IQ and sharp mind
How ironic is that?
But what is key is that the No.1 MUST HAVE is something that money cannot necessarily buy - good health.
I read somewhere that we are genetically programmed to be able to live to 120 years old. But due to our poor diet, lack of exercise, pampered modern lifestyles, we tend to fall anywhere from 40 years to 60 years short of that.
Today, 40% of our 128 million people in Japan are over the age of 65. Our average life expectancy is 86.1 years for women and 79.0 years for men.
I also read that regardless of country, in most cases, the average life expectancy after a person is diagnosed with an illness is 7 years. So, having the world's longest living people just means our people get sick a bit later than those in other countries.
In 1992, I was diagnosed with cervical dysplasia at age 32, which was within a year of my then husband being diagnosed with two brain tumours and given less than 2% chance to live past 2 years. But we both beat the odds and he is well and alive today while I have not had any recurrence and I have since given birth to healthy twins at age 39.
My file at the obstetrician's had 3 bold comments written on the top next to my name:
ADVANCED AGE PREGNANCY (in Japan, women who get pregnant for the first time over the age of 35 are labeled in this way)
TWINS (can't argue about that)
PARTIAL HYSTERECTOMY (it is also a fact)
Anyone, regardless of age, who is pregnant with twins or more is told to stay put. We are denied access to things like maternity yoga and swimming classes for fear of early deliveries.
I continued to train in Taekwon-do, though I only did the patterns and no sparring.
I was told to control my weight gain to about 10kgs, but by the time I was in week 36, I was 18.5kg heavier and my belly measured 118cm.
But I managed to give natural birth to the twins at 37 weeks and 0 days and they were just short of being premature at 2,478g each in weight.
I firmly believe that "reset" my system so that I could mother twins and not go straight into menopause.
Ever since my brush with the pre-cancerous condition, I have been a pesco-veggie (my blood type is A and as a Japanese national, I do not seem to need meat) and I continue to train.
In the last year, I have lost 4kg and now 6% points in body fat thanks to a "Clean and Lean" diet programme that ensures that I have all the nutrients I need to build a healthy body and function well. It has literally changed my body chemistry to free me of my pollen allergy as well!
I am not sure if losing the 4kg or the 6% points in body fat made the difference, but I am now 2 sizes smaller in jeans and almost 3 sizes smaller in tops, especially if they are close fitting. This is forcing me to purge my wardrobe of all my "fat clothes," which actually means most of my clothes up to last year, so my closet is becoming clean and lean as well. (^^)
Who would have thought a 44-45-year old mother of twins would be in this situation a year ago? It certainly was not me.
And today, I find myself thinking A LOT about the next 75 years.
What I really want to do, who I really want to spend that time with, and my dreams and hopes for both my children and my parents.
As a parent, I want my children to have the best possible education (maybe not at top schools if the article is giving me good tips), life-enriching experiences both small and large, and access to safe food and water.
As a child, I want my parents to have healthy, stress-free lives, and to be able to share as many experiences with them as possible because their 120 years are going to be up before mine.
My 69-year old mother is often mistaken for my sister.
She has radiant skin, great posture, and is almost always smiling.
When she steps on the scale, it measures her body fat (now around 26%) and weight and tells her she has the body of a 51-year old.
If she really was 51 years old, I guess it is not surprise that people think that she and 45-year old me are sisters.
She was operated on for coronary artery blockage this February. Since then, she has been taking aloevera juice and DHA/EPA supplements to help manage her blood cholesterol levels as well as to strengthen her arteries. She is taking hyaluronic acid as well.
The same scale tells me that I have the body of a 32-year old.
A doctor wrote that biological aging and "growing old" are not the same thing. He says the former is a biological phenomenon that is measured by the amount of time one has been in existence since birth. The latter is an indication of the degree of reduction in bodily functions that occur as the body ages to slow it down or function less effectively due to "wear and tear."
Popular marketing buzz words in the health industry in Japan today include "anti-rusting" of the body and having "smooth flowing blood."
There is always talk of how we should go back to our traditional diet and pass up on the western bread, pasta, and fried foods because that is what our current active octogenarians and older have been eating to be where they are today.
I am reminding once again, every day, as I feel water and food pass through my system that we are indeed what we eat. So each and every one of us who intend to live our full 120 years need to be thinking every day at every meal about how our choices are contributing to or taking away from that goal.