Thursday, May 3, 2012

Aging backwards, or what if I'm already so nutty that it's impossible to tell when senility begins to set in?

In my previous post, "Dare, Double Dare", I told you a story about about a girl who hated PE class enough to tell her PE coach that she refused to run the 600 yard "Presidential Fitness Test".  It was among my examples of my stubbornly daring nature.  But now I'm wondering if risking a scolding for not running is really all that daring.  Well, Coach Masiuk, wherever you are, I hope you will read this and have a really good laugh.  Not only do I LIKE running now, I'm actually training to run my first-ever half-marathon.  For those of you who are NOT  PE class superstars, that's 13.1 MILES, which is (getting out my calculator ) 23,056 yards.  Um. I wonder if that's cosmic penance for balking at the 600 yards at the age of 10, with some kind of cosmic interest added, given that I'm 47 now... oh, crap... too much math, another subject that used to inspire fear and loathing, and now inspires a kind of awe and fascination. 
To support my craziness, and to honor my life-changing, lifelong friend, Brett, make a donation to the American Brain Tumor Association Team Breakthrough at my ABTA fundraising website

Which brings me to my question:  as we age, is it normal to start knocking at the doors I slammed in youth and to keep finding that what's behind them is actually pretty cool?  What about this "older and wiser" stuff?  I think I'm going backwards, and I'm loving it.   I'm getting older and more of a sky-blue, wide-eyed optimist than I've ever been. It doesn't mean that I'm suddenly one of those super-achievers who gets it all "right".  Just ask any recipient of one of my "artistic" quilts (that means it has goofs in it) , or my  East-Coast friends and relatives who got some of my beginner-knitter neck-warmers with all kinds of "design elements" (that's code for goofs) for Christmas.   I am unlikely to be one of the first to cross the finish line in the San Francisco Half Marathon (2nd half), but I WILL finish.  ( Somebody might have to bring along a Hefty Lawn and Leaf bag and a gurney to haul my dilapidated carcass onto the BART and back home, but I WILL finish.  ) 

If you read "Dare, Double Dare", then you know that I challenged myself to enter a contest to sing the National Anthem at the baseball stadium where the San Francisco Giants play.  Um... I came in 5th.  OK, so that's not first, but it's in the top 10.  And that essay contest for Real Simple Magazine?  Well, let's just say that I am free to submit my essay elsewhere.   But I wrote it.  I gleefully poured my heart into it.  I shared it with some friends.  I did it, freely, with love and optimism.   And I might be way off here, but I'm beginning to think that I might be onto something: if I'm free to fail without being devastated, and if I'm throwing myself into projects ("dares") that I love, then any achievement that gets measured along the way is just, well, wonderful, but it's not the pre-requisite for feeling like a winner.   I'm a winner when I keep living, learning, failing, and trying again, chuckling at myself.   

I read "The Once and Future King" a long time ago, and have watched the movie,"Camelot" more times than I should admit.  The line that sticks with me is what Merlin said to young Wot (later called King Arthur)  "The best thing for being sad is to learn something".   Merlin had it right.  The best thing for being sad is to learn something.  And middle-age brings PLENTY to be sad about... um, gravity, can we talk?  Or those moments when we have to acknowledge that our kids really aren't going to be Rhodes Scholars or Olympic medalists or Van Cliburn Competition winners... (and if yours are, well... why are you reading my blog? You've got places to be right now.)   Relationships that change and maybe end, physical decline...And then there's the basic fact that my journey on earth is probably about half-done.  Yikes.  That's a lot to be sad about.  And if I take my eyes off my own tiny life and look around, there's so much greed, injustice (even within my beloved church), abuse,exploitation... Let's not go there today.  

So, I guess, for me, that means I'd better keep going with the learning-something path.  In the past couple of weeks, I've been sidelined from running by a small stress fracture (check the boxes marked "gravity", "physical decline") in my heel.  I'm wearing a "boot" for about 4 more weeks, but I need to keep training for my half-marathon.  

So that has booted me into the brand-new (for me) world of cross-training--another great adventure in "who knew this was so cool!?"  I'm water-running  (put down your coffee before you watch how funny this looks)

And I'm bike-riding.  No, seriously.  I have pedaled 49 miles this week, and I just bought myself a bike that actually fits my big-ol long legs.  And I am learning, learning, learning things: like "bike shorts with padding that protects one's hoo-hah is truly a necessity and not a luxury" and "don't try to shift gears on the steepest part of the hill".  I've discovered that my part of the East Bay is just riddled with paved bike paths that connect me to all kinds of destinations.  (If it weren't for the rain predicted for this afternoon, I'd be riding my bike to my dentist appointment. )

Oh,and I'm studying barefoot running, as explained in Christopher McDougall's  book, Born to Run .  I've even joined the "100 Up Challenge" to see if I can overhaul my faulty running technique by marching slowly in place, in my bare feet.   Sorry, no snarf-inducing video on that one yet, but stay tuned. (That's either a promise or a threat,depending on how you feel about watching a well-upholstered middle-aged woman march in place.)

Meanwhile, I'm just about $1200 short of my fundraising goal for my run.  I want to raise $3500 for the American Brain Tumor Association, to fund brain-tumor-fighting research and treatment, in honor of my very dear friend (living beautifully and courageously with brain cancer), the friend who helped me kick-off my middle-aged renaissance in 2009 by helping me re-learn to sing.

I was sad.  My friend taught me something new.   It worked!

Who knew?!

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