This spring we have been feeling “the winds of winter”. All over the world the huge group of fans of “Game of Thrones” (in which I am included) has been exchanging some particular words, in addition to shocked impressions on the day that follows each episode: ”Winter is coming”, the motto of House Stark, the “heroes” of the saga.
At first sight the word “winter” in this series means a long winter that lasts for years after a similarly long summer, but in fact it means very much the same as for us common mortals not living in Westeros the word is used not only to describe the coldest (and most unpleasant) season of the year but also the last years of our lives – seen as cold, dark, dreary years. In the series when they say “Winter is coming” it sounds quite ominous – they refer to cold, yes, to the dark, as well, but also to the coming of death – in the figures of the White Walkers – that will conquer all until only nothingness remains.
Now, when we talk about “the winter of our lives”, we may not imagine the living dead coming towards us or even the Reaper brandishing his scythe, but we see years of dakness and decay ahead, a time of living with many limitations, of loneliness and fear. And this winter comes for all, rich and poor men alike, as we can well see in the brilliant movie by “The lion in winter”, directed by Anthony Harvey in 1968, Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. The story portrays the last years of a great warrior and king, Henry II, who in the last stage of his life, sick and disillusioned, was abandoned and betrayed by all, even his favourite son John Lackland who would later become King John, probably the most hated king of England.
Of course when we are young we think ourselves immortal; in our thirties we are too busy building our careers and raising our children but in our forties we suddenly get that feeling of not being so immortal anymore; that’s why so many people (is it mostly men, or am I being unfair?) in their forties make a complete turnaround in their lives, breaking up marriages of many years and leaving home and family for the sake of a new love – for being in love definitely makes us feel younger, more energetic and full of life – and by doing so they believe they can cheat the coming winter out of their lives. Only, they do not – they merely postpone the moment of brutal awareness, because winter will definitely come.
But then if it is so inevitable, why not prepare for it, stacking up provisions and trying to make the most of those later years? More and more we can prevent sickness and invest in being healthier in our later years; we can keep moving, exercising so that we keep elasticity and strength in our bodies; we can exercise our minds through reading, having intellectual interests, learning about new subjects and even developing new hobbies, such as writing or painting; time, that precious gift that used to be so scarce, is now on our hands; let’s make the most of it. We can find new dreams – it’s never too late to dream -, we can spend more time with our friends, we can enjoy our grandchildren; we can find new interests, help others; and, why not, we can still find that great love, the soulmate we have been dreaming about all our lives…most of all, if we don’t give in to regret and self pity, if we keep a positive attitude, if we keep enjoying life and accepting each new day as a gift, if we keep smiling at life, it will certainly smile back at us.
You may say this is wishful thinking, but it is not. For the people I know who are living through a terrible and sad winter in their lives, there are a few who have never surrendered, nor ever will. They are so energetic they sometimes make us feel bad, because we are younger and do not have the same stamina! They travel and go to parties; they play games and swim in the sea even when it is cold; they keep a youthful mind…they have lived their lives to the full, because for them all seasons are part of life and should be thoroughly enjoyed – no matter what challenges they may bring. I have been privileged to meet some of these wonderful people in my life and to call them friends. They are truly inspiring and a great example.
Yes, winter is coming for us all. But how we face the winter of our lives – that’s entirely up to each one of us.