aging

My Very Blonde Moment

“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know I’m not blonde.”  ~Dolly Parton

A very obedient bull snake prepares to use our doormat.

An obedient bull snake prepares to use our doormat. Reptiles can breathe and read.

I have been busily working to prepare for a garage sale this weekend. I despise garage sales. The only thing I loathe more than having a garage sale is having a house filled with stuff I am dying to get rid of. And this is how I’ve gotten myself into the predicament of needing to be involved in a garage sale in the first place. For about a month now I’ve been taking a good, long look at our closets, cupboards, cabinets, closets, and drawers. I’ve boxed up books, dishes, toys, and crafting supplies and hauled it out to our staging area on one side of the garage. This week it was finally time to involve the boys. Together we attacked their bedrooms and their playroom, spending hours finding lost game pieces, reuniting action figure collectibles, and tossing out random things none of us could explain.

As we were down in the basement playroom today, I pulled open the blind to let more light in. When I did, I noticed in the window well a small garter snake lifting its head up and checking me out. Spiders I can’t stand but snakes fascinate me, and this one was downright cute (if a snake can be cute). I quickly called Joe to come check him out. We stood at the window staring at the little guy until he spooked, probably because of all our gawking and pointing, and slithered his way down into the hole under the rocks where he resides. When he was out of sight, a thought popped into my head and before I could stop to evaluate it fully I opened my mouth and it spilled out.

“Do reptiles breathe air?” I asked my biology-enthusiast son.

The minute I heard my words I realized how truly asinine I sounded. But alas…it was too late. It was already out there and there were no take backs. My son was staring at me as if I had seven heads.

“Ummm…Mom? Every living creature on this planet breathes air,” he said just before erupting with laughter. Nice kid.

“Well…” I stammered, searching for an explanation as to what had caused my temporary lack of common sense and my absent third-grade science skills. “I’m TIRED” was all I could come up with.

“What? Do you think reptiles are aliens? All we’ve got is oxygen, Mom. It’s kind of necessary for life. That’s pretty basic science.”

“I know. I know,” I said, trying to recover. “I just wanted to see if you knew the answer. I was testing you,” I answered, hoping to cover my tracks.

“You think your son who was obsessed with dinosaurs for years doesn’t know that reptiles breathe air?” he asked. “I know a thing or two about reptiles, Mom.”

He then ran upstairs to tell his brother what I had said because there’s nothing better than pointing out to your sibling what a boob your mother is. The minute he left I looked back out the window. The snake had reappeared, its small head held high up in the air in indignation. I swear I saw him roll his black-slitted eyes at me.

As the two boys spent the afternoon having random laughs at my expense, I tried to be self-effacing and calm about the flub so as not to fuel the fire any further. Throughout the day I texted them random comments about air, and I joked along with them and laughed too. I mean, my question was pretty ridiculous. There was no denying it. And having a mini-meltdown about their hysterical laughter was not going to make the case against me any less damning. So I rolled with it. I had no other options. But, man oh man, admitting and accepting my own idiocy is a lot of work.

It’s humbling when my brain takes a quick vacation. And it is happening to me more frequently as I age. I walk into a room and stand there trying to determine why I am there in the first place. I start one task and then like a Labrador Retriever chasing a squirrel I’m off in another direction only to realize hours later that I never finished that first task. Today’s brainless statement was likely induced by a lack of sleep coupled with deficient nutrition after ingesting a greasy burger and fries for lunch. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself because, honestly, my mind is not usually that vacuous, and I refuse to think I’m losing it this young. I mean, I do know that there is no life without breath. Guess today I needed a reminder that sometimes life is a bit more worth living when you’re laughing so hard at yourself that you can’t breathe.

I Was So Hungry I Ate My Words

A mile from the top of Vail Pass

Finishing the most difficult part of the climb

Colorado is filled with extreme sports enthusiasts — marathoners, triathletes, cyclocross racers, river kayakers, rock climbers, mogul skiers, and myriad other endorphin junkies. Intrepid Coloradans trek up our 14,000 feet peaks each and every summer weekend because, well, they’re there. And everyday, run-of-the-mill, “normal” people take on day-long rides like the Triple Bypass where they cycle over 3 mountain passes, 120 miles with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain just to say they did it. What’s crazier than that? How about that people choose to do that same ride in reverse the following day to complete the Double Triple Bypass? With these things in mind, please understand that what I am about to relay regarding my adventure yesterday is not extraordinary at all. Oodles of people can tell the same story, so I am not being modest when I say that this is not a big deal at all. Except that it is…to me.

Ten years ago, we were driving back from a trip to Aspen and along the highway heading east over Vail Pass we spied some road cyclists struggling their way up the pass adjacent to the speeding cars on the highway. I remember hauling up the pass in our Jetta and remarking that those riders were insane. There is no way I would ever do that, I told my husband. Then, just five years ago, the darling man bought me a road bike. I went into the bike store dragging my heels because I was certain I was not a cyclist. Still I went along with it because I was 40 and I needed a decent form of exercise, one that hopefully would not tear up my knees or hips like running might. That year when we passed cyclists huffing and puffing their way up and over Vail Pass I said I could never do that. Simply putting in 15-20 miles was difficult enough. I didn’t think I’d survive a trek up a mountain pass. It seemed an insurmountable task. I had no intention of ever being that certifiable about exercise. Period.

Yesterday the unthinkable became reality. With three friends from our MS150 bike team, Steve and I rode from our hotel room in west Vail up to and then over Vail Pass and down into Copper Mountain before turning around and riding back up over the pass and eventually back to our hotel room. It was a 47 mile trek where we climbed over 4,000 feet in elevation in less than 4.5 hours. At times during our ride, the grade of the path hit a wicked 18%. That’s steep enough that even in my easiest bike gear I needed to stand up like a Tour de France racer to power my bike up the hill. I’ve never had to do that before. It was both annoying and awesome. We started our ride at 8,000 feet in elevation and climbed to over 10,600 feet so the air we were sucking was thin too. It was my longest ride of the season so far and the most challenging ride I have ever done.

At the top and geared up for the cold ride down to Copper

At the top and geared up for the cold ride down to Copper Mountain

As we flew down the last big descent of the day and my bike hit 34 miles an hour despite the headwind, I had a cheerful refrain echoing in my head. (It sounded exactly like this.) When we finally returned to our starting point at the Vail Cascade Resort I was Queen of the Freaking World. It is true. I had to chew up and swallow whole those things I’d uttered in the past about would never or could never. And while I normally don’t enjoy eating my words, yesterday I had no problem with it. Maybe it was simply because I was so hungry? I had burned over 2500 calories in 4 hours, right? Truth is, though, I have rarely felt as strong as I did when I clipped out of my pedals at the end of that ride. Not only had I done something I previously believed I physically and mentally could not do but I did it less than a week after turning 45. I never had to get off and walk my bike. The altitude never got to me. I fought the urge to give up when my quadriceps were screaming at me and I stuck it out. I rode my bicycle like a cheap, show pony. And while I may not be better, faster, stronger, or in any way more impressive than any other Coloradan who completes that identical ride, I do not care. I did it. I earned the right to eat my words and I still had enough room left over for a post-ride celebratory dinner at Terra Bistro. Suck it, 45!

In The Grand Scheme Of Things

You can learn a lot from the tiniest of things.

You can learn a lot from the tiniest of things.

I turned 45 years old at exactly 2:12 a.m. today. After a restless night, I was awake quite early this morning as the sun began to rise. I found myself thinking, while the rest of the creatures in my house slept, about how old I thought 45 was when my own mother was 45 and I was a whopping 19 years old. Back then, 45 seemed ancient. At 45 my mother was recently separated and embarking on a new life, one she probably never had expected when she was just 19. Now that I am 45 I can attest that I do not feel as old as the Sphinx. That 19 year old girl still lives inside me. She’s just been roughed up a bit on the outside and the extra 26 years have widened her eyes.

I had a wonderful birthday. Started my day with a 20-mile bike ride that I never would have been able to do 10, or even 20, years ago. Followed that up with hours spent lounging by the pool with my family and good friends. Throughout the day, dozens of well wishes popped onto my Facebook page from friends new and old, each one a little present in itself. For dinner we grilled out and I got to open more gifts than I probably deserve at this advanced age. And, as the day wound down, I headed up to the boys’ room to read to them just as I do every night (for as long as they continue to ask me to).

It was then that I noticed one of our four African Dwarf frogs was not doing well. It was upside down at the top of the frog tank, one of its buddies hanging close to its side helping to keep it up at the top of the tank. I told the boys that he (they’re all named after dwarves from The Hobbit) would not likely survive the night. It was a tough moment that we all knew would come someday. We did not expect it to be today. We purchased these frogs three years ago. Truth be told, they’re more my pets than my sons’. I’ve been the froggy momma. I clean their aquariums, feed them, talk to them. They are my precious charges. Seeing one belly up hit me harder than it should. After all, it’s just a frog, right? Everything has to die. I know this. I’ve been expecting these small amphibians to perish ever since the day I brought them home.

But today, as I celebrate having enjoyed 45 amazing years on this planet, watching a little creature struggle in his final moments was poignant and poetic. I tell my boys all the time that life is death. There cannot be one without the other. It is the one black-and-white truth we are guaranteed. Everything that is alive will at some point die. Nothing and no one escapes. If all goes well, we are wise enough to cherish our moments and lucky enough to have a plethora of them to recall. But it all comes down to this. We come into this world and we leave it. The life of that darling little frog is no less important than mine. It’s as much a part of the grand scheme of things as I am. Its passing on my birthday, as heartbreaking as it is, is simply a reminder that my days are numbered too. I must remember not to squander them. The next 26 years, if I’m granted them, will pass in an instant. Then I will be 71 as my mother is this year and looking back on 45 and wondering where the time went because I still feel that 19 year old girl inside.

Destination Unknown

My lunch today...tropical smoothie with kale.

My lunch today…tropical smoothie with kale.

Fitness is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition. You can’t outrun your fork.”                         ~Anonymous

A friend asked me the other day how my book writing is coming along. And I was forced to tell her the sad truth. It’s not. I really haven’t done anything substantive toward completing a book since I stopped the daily writing on my blog back in January. It was hard for me to admit that to my friend, but what’s harder still is resisting the urge to make elaborate excuses for my written inactivity. So rather than lying to you about some monumental personal obstacles I’ve encountered that have restricted me from writing, I am simply going to tell you the embarrassing truth. Like a dog that stops everything when it notices a squirrel running across the top of the fence, I got distracted by something. That something is food.

In January, after months of knowing it was the right thing to do and yet ignoring my better judgment, I finally decided it was time to jettison the artificial sweeteners in my diet. No more skinny lattes containing sugar-free syrups and no more diet sodas laden with aspartame. I switched to water. Round about that same time, curious about the Paleo diet some of my friends swear by, I decided to do some more research into what I should be eating. Over the years I would occasionally try a diet to lose a few pounds I had packed on. This time I was looking for a lifestyle change diet, something I could live with and maintain. My Type A personality went into high gear and I began reading, watching documentaries and Ted presentations, and doing my research. Then I officially went off the deep end head first. I tossed out everything in my house that was hiding MSG (and all of its pseudonyms). I cleared the refrigerator of food dyes. I decided against Frankenfood and set about a mass reduction in the amount of GM foods we eat. I tossed out packages of foods whose ingredients read like a foreign language. I bought a freaking juicer. And I decided to get downright personal with our food.

Along the way, we had many family discussions before mutually agreeing we would work toward a whole food, plant-based diet. We cut way back on meat. I reduced the portion of dairy in my diet from approximately 30% to 5%. We cancelled our milk delivery. We started buying more organic produce. We decided that it matters to us what the cows and chickens we include in our diet consume. We stopped eating out as often. We greatly reduced our consumption of sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. We started making fresh juices and vitamin-laden smoothies to get more fruits and vegetables in our diet. We decided to stick to heart-healthy oils and plant-based fats. I began work on my gluten-free baking. Our unbelievably picky eater, Luke, willingly began experimenting with new foods. Our dinners are now comprised of ingredients that we can pronounce. And we feel better. We sleep better. Our skin and nails are healthier. Our immunity seems to have improved. We don’t count calories. We just eat food that makes sense, food that we understand. And we eat as much of it as we want.

I didn’t truly intend to spend much time walking down this path. It began as a curiosity and morphed into something much larger. Each day I take another few steps away from what I thought was important toward what I now believe truly is. The more I’ve learned about the complexity of our food (gained through years of industrialization, scientific research and experimentation, and a lack of appropriate governmental oversight), the more I know that this is where I need to be focusing my energy right now. This is what I am being called to. Who knows? Maybe somewhere along this journey I will find my raison d’être? Maybe in the midst of all of this I will find my book? Maybe not.

I know there is the whole eat-right-and-exercise-and-die-anyway philosophy. I think about that sometimes and wonder if I’m diverting my energy into something that in the end won’t really matter. Then I read another article linking some health issue to our food supply and I remember that I’ve never been the type to sit back and wait to see what happens. My mother taught me that if you aren’t happy with something, you should fix it. So that’s where I’m headed…to improve my health and the health of the ones I love. Perhaps something will stop me in my tracks early and I won’t live to be the vibrant 90 year old I know I’m capable of becoming. I only know one thing. I want to live as many of my days here on this earth free of pain, feeling good in my skin, and knowing that I’m doing the best I can for my family, myself, and this blue planet. So, for now, I have to keep walking this road to see where it leads. I’m pretty sure that it leads somewhere good.

Find Your Bliss Any Way You Can

Guess which set belongs to the lone female in this family.

At least I will be easy to spot.

“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge.”      – Deepak Chopra

Yesterday, in the peaceful falling snow of an early evening in January, the UPS delivery truck stopped in front of our house. As it pulled away, it left behind a box filled with things not meant for the snow at all. The large box contained snorkel gear for our entire family. I laugh at the absurdity of our family purchasing snorkel gear when we live in the middle of an already landlocked state, 1o00 miles away from the nearest beach which is a nearly 17-hour drive away in Malibu, California. We selected the gear while we were in snowy Steamboat Springs a week and a half ago. In spite of the wintery landscape there, we were absorbed with the notion that in two months we will be in Hawaii. So, in between cross-country skiing and trekking through a castle made entirely of ice, in front of a glowing fireplace we perused travel books and made mental notes of beaches we wanted to stand on. And, we ordered snorkel gear.

This morning, after an icy drive to deliver the boys at school, I took the next step in preparing for our upcoming spring break trip. I stopped to try on swimsuits. Buoyed by weeks of relentless work in yoga class, I felt fairly confident about my chances swimsuit shopping. I have a little less than two months left to finish whipping myself into vacation shape, and a swimsuit is exactly the motivation I need to keep my eye on the prize. I know it will be a bit odd to have it secured into place on the door of our stainless steel refrigerator in the middle of winter, but you do what you have to. For me, it’s yoga, fruit, and the fear of the suit.

And, as I stood in the fitting room today staring at my half-naked figure in the mirror, for the first time I faced the truth. My body is what it is, and what it is is a vessel that carried two children. It is strong and healthy. With nearly 45 years behind it and with a steady exercise routine, it endures more and is more flexible and balanced than it has ever been. It does things now that it couldn’t do a decade or two ago, like push ups. My body is powerful and capable. What it is not, however, is 20 years old. No matter how hard I work or how well I eat, I will never look the way I used to. Evolving over time, enduring childbirth and abdominal surgeries, my body has morphed to become something entirely different. It’s not bad. It’s simply not the same.

On the way home, I battled the negative self-talk that was bullying me into believing that I’m too old for the bikini I had just purchased. I told myself that as old as I am, I will never be this young again. And, if I am going to Hawaii for the first time and want to swim and snorkel in a two-piece suit, well…the rest of the world can suck it. I want to find bliss, and I will never find it if I’m judging myself or worrying about what others judge in me. I have only so much control over how the aging process will affect my body. Despite my best efforts, things will pucker and wrinkle and head in a southern direction. It’s inevitable. But, if cleaning grains of sand out of my navel makes me feel alive and happy, then that is what I must do. With each passing year I’m closer to peace and self-acceptance than I have yet been in my life. Maybe it’s blissfully naive of me to assume it’s not positively gauche for a woman of my mature age to appear in public in a bikini. At this point, though, I’ll take my bliss any way I can get it.

Squirrel!

This is a Rocky Mountain Sheep I saw while hiking with my friend Celeste today. Squirrel!

Sometimes I wonder how I get anything done. Ever. I take the most circuitous routes when I begin a task. I guess I’m too easily distractible. I’m kind of like Dug, the dog in Up. I start out doing one thing and then somehow…SQUIRREL! So, that is what happened to me again tonight and that is why it is late in the evening and I am once again staring at my self-imposed deadline, which is less than an hour from right now, and shaking my head. The Squirrel effect seems to worsen at night and when I’m hungry and when I’m procrastinating and when I’m sleep-deprived and occasionally when I’m over caffeinated. Now that I think about it, it’s truly miraculous that I ever complete a task successfully. But, I digress.

Tonight I began researching airfare for our now decided upon Spring Break trip. We bid on and won a vacation rental last Saturday at the boys’ school auction. Now I have to figure out how to get us to our destination with the least expensive airfare. It’s all very exciting. And, while I should be focused on filling out paperwork so we can schedule all the testing we need to have done to get IEPs and/or 504s set up for the boys for next school year, researching vacation travel is a far less odious task so that has taken priority.

I began on Expedia, but as I was looking at the ludicrous cost of airfare for this trip the wind kicked up outside. We get a lot of high winds here in November and December so I immediately began wondering if tonight would be really windy. So, I buzzed on over to the site for the NBC news affiliate here in Denver to check our weather conditions. I was pleased to note that although we’re in for a cool down tomorrow, no high winds are predicted tonight. Dodged that bullet. But, while I was on the NBC site, I started wondering what the heck has been going on in the world since I’ve been checked out this week. Off to Fox News I went to figure out what is being reported on currently. I perused the headlines as I had planned but then, at the bottom of the front page in the Latest News section, a story caught my eye about some folks in the Florida panhandle who poached their neighbor’s pet turkey for their own Thanksgiving dinner. From that story, I noticed a link to the best and worst swimsuit photos from Hollywood. That seemed like an adequate distraction, so I went off to check those out. After deciding that most people over the age of 50 look sad and droopy at the beach (yes…I mean you David Hasselhoff and Ivana Trump), I was feeling discouraged about being just 5.5 years from that dreaded physical cliff (I can’t bring myself to care about the fiscal cliff because there’s nothing I can do about that cluster). In a desperate attempt to elevate my spirits, I texted with my friend Heather for a while. At which point, Heather reminded me that it won’t matter what I look like in a swimsuit at the beach in March because I’ll be at the beach in a swimsuit in MARCH. Well played, Heather. And, so I put my phone down and decided to get back to Expedia because I still have not booked any travel yet.

At some point in the next few weeks I will break down and actually commit to a flight itinerary…probably not without a massive mental meltdown as my shaking fingers attempt to input the credit card number I have memorized. But, I will do it because I have paperwork to fill out and I can’t get to that task until I have something really incredible to look forward to as a reward for all my hard work. And now, as I sit in bed and finish this blog, I’m wondering how I will be able to get the house cleaned, the table set, and the meal cooked for dinner at 4 p.m. because I am sure there will be myriad distractions tomorrow. Distractions are the thing that….wait…do we actually own enough napkin rings for 12 place settings?

Is “Old Old” The Same As “Older Than Dirt”?

I *might* have a Smiths issue.

“Coyness is nice, and coyness can stop you from saying all the things in life you’d like to.” ~The Smiths

Around 2:30 p.m. today, you likely heard an unfathomably loud cracking sound. Perhaps you wondered briefly from whence it came before you went on with the rest of your busy day. I am here to let you know that the sound you heard was nothing other than the sound of my heart breaking. Yep. It was obliterated in the middle of a shoe store mid-afternoon today just before I was about to leave to pick up my boys from school.

What epic occurrence caused my heart to rupture in the DSW warehouse store? Well…it went something like this. I was in there quietly hoping I would find some reasonably priced pumps to wear with a new dress when Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap comes over the store’s music speakers. Immediately, that song reminds me of one of my favorite movies, (500) Days of Summer. That particular song plays during a lovely montage scene in the movie. Anyway, I have loved it from the first time I heard it when I saw the film with my friend, Lisa, three summers ago. As the song is playing in the store and I am happily wallowing in my pleasant reverie, I overhear two store clerks near me strike up a conversation.

“Ooooh…I love this song,” says Store Clerk #1.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before,” says Store Clerk #2.

“Really? It’s in this great movie, (500) Days of Summer,” says Store Clerk #1 who has just won me over because she has good taste in movies.

“What’s it about?” asks Store Clerk #2.

“About a guy and a girl. It’s got Zooey Deschanel in it. Anyway, I liked the song so much I almost bought the soundtrack, but then I didn’t buy it because I didn’t really like the other songs on it,” confesses Store Clerk #1.

“Like what?” queries Store Clerk #2.

“Well…there were a few songs by that old, old rock band called The Smiths,” says no-longer-likable Store Clerk #1.

And that was the exact moment when my heart exploded, splintering into a million pieces, the shards of it falling onto the dull tan carpeting next to a silica gel packet separated from its shoe box container.

That old, old rock band called The Smiths. The words swirled around in my head. Dizzy and sick to my stomach, I headed for the door. Even if the store housed the world’s most darling pair of shoes and they were hand created by Jimmy Choo just for me and they were giving them to me along with a newly minted $1000 bill, I still would not have taken them from a store clerk who didn’t have the good sense to appreciate the brilliant, melancholic lyrics dredged from the depths of the tortured soul of Steven Patrick Morrissey. And, seriously, how could you overlook Johnny Marr’s artistry with a guitar (hearing How Soon Is Now in my head as I write this), which won him the 26th spot in Spin Magazine‘s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. That chick was plain, old, garden-variety, bat-shit crazy. I don’t accept gifts from crazy strangers.

When I got outside, I tried to regain my composure. Then I realized that, despite the fresh air and the change of scenery, I still felt nauseous. I suspected it might have something to do with the “old, old rock band” phrase uttered by that vapid store clerk. If I listened to The Smiths in high school and college and if they are considered “old old,” then by the transitive property of equality I am old old. Sigh. You know…it’s bad enough knowing you are middle age, but having a young person confirm it is soul crushing. I try to remind myself that, even if I am old enough to have spent endless hours locked in my childhood bedroom listening to That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore while creating imaginary voodoo dolls of the oh-so-cute boy who had recently stomped on my heart, I am not a completely lost cause. These days I spend the vast majority of my iTunes dollars on new alternative and indie rock tunes that I discover while listening to my XM stereo in the car. I like new things and try not to spend too much of my present living in the past. I think that may mean that although I am old, I am not old old…yet.

Zen And The Art Of Arm Flaps

The point when I stopped to ponder my arm flapping.

So, after six solid weeks of not doing any sort of regular physical exercise, the kids went back to school and my workout time miraculously returned. Woohoo, right? Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. Yesterday as I was climbing stairs at Red Rocks (very slowly while sucking a lot of thin air and talking way too animatedly with my friend Heather), I noticed a little something disturbing happening with my arms. The back sides of them, where my triceps used to be and presumably still reside, were flapping. Flapping. They were swaying in harmony with the motion of my arms. Ew. Ew. Ew. I knew this would happen someday. I mean, this sort of thing happens to all women of a certain age, right? I chose to ignore it and not mention it to my friend because she is younger than I am and she doesn’t need to be burdened with this type of miserable yet inevitable discovery. When she is my age and starts to notice this same troublesome phenomenon, I will nod my head knowingly. I kept climbing the stairs and pushed the odd sensation at the back of my arms into a quiet spot deep in the recesses of my busy brain. I forgot all about it. Until today.

For today’s workout, I decided to hop on my mountain bike and do the 6-mile singletrack loop on the open space behind our house. It all started out fine. As I climbed steadily toward the top of the ride, my attention was fixed on my legs, still sore from the stupid stairs at Red Rocks yesterday. I started my descent. That’s when I noticed It was back. Careening down the hill, bouncing over rocks, the back of my arms flapped wildly like the wings of a chicken that is trying to escape from a mouthy red fox. Holy crap. Luckily, I have small arms so the arm flapping was not large enough in scale to knock me unconscious. Still, the depressing fact remained. What I felt yesterday was not an anomaly. My body is betraying me. Dammit! I thought about rushing home and pulling out my free weights to torture my triceps into submission. But, that would require so much work.

So, rather than trying to ameliorate the situation, I did the next best thing. I looked for the silver lining in my cloud. There must be one, right? One that would allow me to skip hours of free weights and kettle bell exercises. I scanned my brain for signs of my zen. Then it came to me….a way to make peace with my fluttering arm flaps. You see, this isn’t a sign of a breakdown of strength. It’s an indication of a loosening of spirit. I’m becoming less uptight. Yeah. That’s it. That’s the ticket. It’s not that I’m becoming soft, per se. I’m simply a bit more relaxed. I’m not falling apart. I’m yielding. I can live with that. My slackening skin, while a bit disconcerting and unattractive, is merely an outward manifestation of inward move toward zen. I’m grateful that I’m healthy enough, sagging flesh be damned, to climb stairs and ride a mountain bike. Those are the things on which I should focus. After all, what’s a little flapping skin among friends? I’m at peace with my wiggling and jiggling but otherwise healthy body. End of story.

By the way, I may or may not also have a bridge to sell you…if you’re interested.

Hope I Die Before I Get Old

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can go months without thinking about something and then, suddenly, circumstances present that idea to you repeatedly within a short time span, bringing it back to the forefront of your mind? Well, that happened to me this weekend with the idea of growing old. After my 44th birthday at the end of May, I’d kind of drop kicked the getting old concept right out of my head. I didn’t want to think about it anymore. It was too depressing. This weekend, however, I had several conversations about how people are living to be reasonably old these days. Elderly people can live long enough that they, like my grandmother, wonder when they will ever die.

When I was a kid, way back in the 1970s, people talked about wanting to live to a “ripe, old age.” Now that many more people are living well into and beyond their late 80s and early 90s, though, that song and dance about aging has changed. Recently I more often hear people saying they hope they don’t live to be too old. It’s the whole retirement thing. People look forward to retirement, so they retire early. You could very easily retire at 65 today, though, live to be 95, and run out of your retirement savings. That’s a grim prospect.

My grandfathers retired at 65. Neither of them lived to be 75. They didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy their “golden years,” but they also didn’t outlive their pensions either. My grandmothers lived to be 93. They both ended up penniless in less than idyllic nursing homes (not that I think any nursing home situation is idyllic but you know what I mean). When I think about those two options, I have to believe that my grandfathers ended up with the better part of the deal. I’m not entirely sure I want to live to be 98 like the woman who shared a nursing home room with my grandmother during her last six weeks on earth. That poor woman had outlived everyone. She had one relative, and he lived in another state. She was alone and bedridden in a nursing home. No. Thank. You.

Although I seem to be getting older at a rate faster than I would prefer, living to a ripe old age doesn’t appeal to me. What is the benefit in living thirty years beyond your retirement party if you can never afford to party again? I’m not looking to die young (or, in my case, young-ish), but I’m not sure that living to 100 is the greatest bargain either. When I was in college working at the campus movie theater, I got to see Harold and Maude, which is a quirky cult film about a young man obsessed with death. He meets a robust 79 year old woman who believes in living every day to its fullest. It’s Maude’s assertion that 80 is the perfect age to die. When I was 20, I thought Maude had the right idea. Now as I dance ever closer to her magical number, I still find myself thinking she was onto something. But, you might want to ask me about it again when I’m 79 years and 11 months and see if I’ve changed my mind.