Age, Wisdom, and The Tradeoff

Good Health
Climbing inside the roof of the St. Louis City Museum, 2014

Even in high school, I thought people were insane when they said, “These are the best days of your life.” If this is as good as it gets, I thought, I might as well just give up right now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Three of four years of high school I enjoyed very much. But college was much better, the immersion in music and in a community of people who were as music-geeky as I was. And then I met Christian and discovered my calling in liturgical music, and found another community of people, even more in tune with my outlook on the world. (I get to go hang out with all of them in a few weeks.) Even grad school, for all the emotional turmoil I experienced those two years, was a deeply enriching experience as I got to discover a new and exquisitely beautiful locale and meet people who remain near and dear to my heart to this day.

Factor in marriage, and children, and, well, life is way, way better at forty than it was at sixteen. I always say you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to high school. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin, with more self-confidence than I ever thought I’d develop.

But man, the body.

I know I have readers older than me, so to say things like what I want to say today is inviting trouble. But the fact is, I can really feel the effects of age.

I had a sweet spot that lasted about eighteen months, where I was regularly active and on my way to/holding on to a healthy weight for the first time in my life. (See, in high school I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping to walk in the middle.) I’ve discovered that I really love being active. It feels good. And equally important, I love to eat, so I need to be active. Very active.

But in October my feet started to hurt. The doctor called it plantar fasciitis. My massage therapist, who is fast becoming my go-to person for all physical problems, said it’s a mimic condition but not the same thing. He dug into my calves at incredible discomfort…and after about six weeks, the pain receded. Soon to be replaced by pain in my knees, caused by tension in my quads. I was just beginning to recover from that when the sun screen fell off the camera while I was running to capture a photo, and landed just right under my right ankle, causing me to sprain it.

And now, before the sprain is even fully recovered, the knees are back in play.

My one real regret is the fact that I squandered so much of my body’s prime active years insisting I was not cut out for exercise, that I was incapable of losing weight, and generally not recognizing my own laziness and how much I was giving up in order to hang onto it. I’m gradually coming to terms–not a sense of peace, yet, but ground level acceptance–with the realization that for the rest of my life I will have to pay close attention to knees, ankles, shoulders, feet, to stretch and massage and rub Tiger Balm into myself, not to feel better, but simply to be able to keep moving at all. And knowing that at forty, I’m still close to the top of that hill, that there’s really only one direction to go from here, and it’s not the direction I want to go.

I guess the reality is that you need all the wisdom of increasing age to deal with the physicality of increasing age. Can I get an amen?