Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down is the title of Ms. Keeling’s Autobiography. At the beautiful age of 103, Ms. Keeling; still vibrant and active, penned her life story of triumph, tragedy and overcoming. The daughter of immigrant parents, she comes during an era that I personally call ‘The era of American Grit’. During this era, people appeared simply not to possess the ability to lay down and quit. To me, there would have been plenty of resolve to do so but the example of resiliency ran strong across the country and superseded race, location, and gender. Not that those things were not a factor, but those factors seemed to propel them into a greater sense of purpose, determination and growth. From 1900-1950 there were huge shifts in the American culture -from agriculture to skyscrapers; from horses to subways; from peace to war; from small homes to huge apartment buildings and then on to suburbs and the ever evasive thief of racism. Life, even today, consists of one main thing: change.
Ms. Keeling’s book gives a view into her past that will help us to truly appreciate her life today. At the writing of this post, Ms. Keeling should be 105 years old as her book states that she was born in 1915. I was first introduced to her while doing a google search on ‘aging actively’. I then went to YouTube and sure enough -there she was in several videos (to which I am trying desperately not to spoil it for you). Not thinking her life then or now as extraordinary but rather one filled with obstacles and the resolve to press on because she simply knew no other way. Staring at life in a new country in the Burroughs of New York, racism, the depression era, fighting the poverty line, divorce, single-motherhood and the murder of her two sons are a few of the major obstacles in her life. Interestingly, her focus is more overly on the God who saw her through the circumstances. God would prove time and time again that she had what it took make it again and again.
Growing up in a Christian household and holding to those values when she married and had her own children, she fondly tells of her favorite biblical character and his story -Job. Job, a man upright before the Lord, lost everything he had within 24 hours. He struggled, but his faith remained in the Lord. Job would later gain many times over what he had lost. Ms. Keeling would remark on Job’s character and strength not realizing that one day she would be able to sympathize with Job on a new level at the loss of her sons just a few short years apart. This would lull her into a deep depression. Her daughters saw her despair and were troubled by her blood pressure that skyrocketed and would not come down. One day, one of her daughters would ask her to come run a 5k race with her. Ms. Keeling was very active and walked a lot and her daughter knew she could do it. So at the ripe, young and tender age of 67, she laced on a pair of shoes and began to run her way out of her depression. It is almost unfathomable that that first race was well over 30 years ago.
In her many interviews that I watched, a quote that resonated with me the most was: “God gave you your body and it is your responsibility to take care of it”. I also loved her resolve that even though she was slowing down and some days were hard, she was still doing more than the couch potatoes that were half her age and filled with complaining and excuses. (I realized that she was talking to me because i was almost exactly half her age, sitting at my desk, lamenting -needlessly!) She has a exercise routine that she follows and has always eaten well. She is well aware that life if fleeting and wants to do as much as she can just like the people she admired who trod along before her like Harriet Tubman and Toussaint Louverture.
After reading the final chapter, I put my book down, laced up my shoes and went for a three mile walk. My crisis? My health. This is my body that God gave to me and it is my responsibility to take care of it.
Well done Ms. Ida. Well Done!