When I was ten years old, I dreamed of being an Olympic figure skater. I didn’t get to go ice skating very often because we either had to wait for the pond to freeze or we had to drive an hour and a half to the nearest rink. We went once or twice a year, and of course, I realized pretty quickly that my dream wasn’t going to happen. Still, that didn’t mean I couldn’t keep trying to teach myself new skills. I never just skated in circles, I was always trying to figure things out: how to skate without holding onto the boards, how not to push off the toe picks, how to skate backward, how to stay balanced on one foot only, how to switch directions.
I like climbing rocks, too. And I didn’t start running at all until I was twenty-five, and I only got real about it until after I’d been doing Jazzercise for a while. Even at Jazzercise, I’m constantly setting goals, because I wear a Polar watch and I know what kind of heart rate targets I need to hit in order to burn 300 calories in an hour.
In other words, I’ve always looked at physical activity as something I can get better and better at the longer I do it.
But this weekend, when we went ice skating to celebrate Julianna’s birthday, I felt less safe doing things like turning around while in motion. I thought at first it was because I hadn’t been skating in almost a year, but I didn’t feel that way last year, and it had been just as long then, too.
It was the first time I’ve confronted the reality that sooner or later, my body is no longer going to be able to get better at physical things. That at some point, I’m going to have to pull back and do less rather than strive for more. And that point may (may? It’s a guarantee!) arrive before my soul is ready to let go.
There’s nothing earth-shattering in this news. I’ve watched many in my family confront the reality of getting older…the ease of injury and the difficulty of recovery expanding in opposite directions, the growing awareness of what your body can and can’t be expected to do. It’s just that I wasn’t prepared to see it in myself—even on the distant horizon (because certainly, I’m not there yet. Thank God!).
And, let’s be honest: I depend on the ability to be active, because I love food. It’s driving me crazy to be reaching a point in my life where I finally feel like I have the financial stability to enjoy certain culinary treats more regularly, only to confront the scales, which point out with unforgiving clarity that there’s a whole different reason why I still can’t, and in fact I can’t have as much as I used to.
I routinely praise my parents for the grace with which they’ve grown older; in part, I do so in order to call myself to the same standard. But I must say, it’s far easier to recognize that trait and praise it than it is to live it!