Sunday, June 23, 2013

Warrior Workout

Yesterday morning’s run on the beach was more than a run.  I’m dubbing it a warrior workout.  Our five-mile run included a set of stairs (much easier to go down at any time, but especially when the going up is at the end of the run), streams that had to be leapt, gazelle-like (yes, it was one of those runs where I felt like a gazelle – at least until I got back to those stairs), and one stream that was too big to leap.  When I realized the stream could not be forded without getting my feet wet, I first told my daughter-in-law I was going to turn around there and run back and forth to get my mileage in.  But I looked upstream and saw there were boulders and logs across the stream that I might be able to use to cross.

As a little girl growing up on the coast, I was used to jumping from rock to rock.  Dad and I loved to go out to the jetty where he allowed me to go its length by jumping rock-to-rock.  Mom always tried to curtail that activity – too dangerous, but when she wasn’t around, off we would go.  As I surveyed the rocks and logs yesterday, I was reminded of my young confident body that made the jumps easily, regained its balance quickly.  Yesterday, I was hesitant with each move, unsure about my balance.  I didn’t bound across the rocks and logs like I used to forty-some years ago, but I did get across and the challenge of stairs to climb, streams to leap, and boulders to navigate made my warrior workout one that felt like more of an accomplishment than a simple run.  In memory, most runs fade into each other like the mileage that adds up with each step, but this warrior workout will stand out as the something special it was.  So special that, as I was running back, I even felt compelled to let out a warrior yell!

It didn’t hurt either that I was running with three of my favorite people under a rare coastal blue sky with the sun shining brightly.  Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Benefits of Aging

Walking in, we knew last night’s writing class would be different.  We’d been asked to bring our pieces from the previous classes so we could begin a new process.  The first write was standard.  We were given two prompts from which to choose and we wrote for five minutes.  The second write was a bit different.  We were asked to look through our previous pieces, select a line that might have additional possibilities, and write it on an index card.  The cards were then placed in the middle of the table, shuffled, handed out and we each wrote using the prompt of someone else’s line.  As always, it was fun to hear where people went with their ideas.  The third write was entirely different from what we’d done before.  We were asked to go through a piece we’d previously written, select words or phrases that held the essence of the piece, write those on an index card and then rewrite the piece, using those words or phrases, to make the piece better or take it in a new direction.

Once the instructions were given, we all went to work reading through our notebooks trying to decide which piece to dissect.  This class is made up of a diverse group of people and our writing styles are just as diverse.  Me?  I write short pieces and I always hope to make them complete pieces.  As I looked back through my work, I realized I didn’t want to rewrite any of them.  I did come up with one promising line that I wrote at the top of a new page, “His words were just the background noise,” but I didn’t feel compelled to write from this line.  I sat there for several minutes trying to bring my brain around, but without much success.  Finally, remembering an idea from a previous class – always keep your pen moving – I just started writing what was going through my mind.  I basically wrote a rant on why I didn’t like this assignment:

Okay, I don’t like this assignment and I think my brain is throwing its own little temper tantrum.  “No, I won’t do it.”  Not that I can’t do it, I just don’t want to do it.  I write what I like.  I write in complete thoughts.  I don’t want to go back and pick a piece apart.  So, I’ll just stage my own little rebellion.  I’ll just have a little rant here and ignore the assignment.  Everyone will think I’m deep into the “new” piece.  They won’t know my new piece is my “I rule Debbieland.  I’ll do as I please” attitude about being told what to do.

This exercise makes my brain hurt – and not in a good way.  Sometimes I like my brain to hurt.  I like to feel that I’ve stretched it into a new pose – thought beyond my muscular comfort level.  But this kind of brain hurt is beyond where I’m able to stretch.  This type of hurt is like trying to do the splits when I know my body simply isn’t capable.

Afterwards, as people shared their writing, I passed, but I did own up to what I had done.  I realized on the way home that being able to say, “No, I don’t want to do that,” is one of the benefits of aging.  This was a pretty significant little rebellion for me, the person who has always been a model student.  It felt good to just say, “No!”  I would not have done that in my younger years – ah, the benefits of aging.  But then, as I thought about the writing assignment, I realized there is a piece I wrote that I might like to expand.  I’m not sure I’d go about it by picking out specific words or phrases and rewriting, but the idea of making that piece into something more is now intriguing me.  Perhaps I was wrong to let my brain stage its little temper tantrum.  Perhaps I should have been more open to this new idea for a writing prompt.  Perhaps I was wrong.  I surely wouldn’t have admitted that in my younger years – ah, the benefits of aging.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Water, Spanx and Rock 'n' Roll

The last couple of months have been prom season for the high school set.  Last night my husband and I attended a grown-up prom – a ball.  This event was sponsored by a local philanthropic group with a median age range I would guess at probably somewhere around 60.  Surely there were a few younger folks at the event last night, but there were far more that were close to us in age and many who were older.  It had been a hot day in Portland and the venue’s air conditioning system hadn’t seemed to catch-up with the change in weather.  As the evening began, women throughout the room used their programs as fans.  I noticed a couple of women at a nearby table who, probably learning from past experience, had brought their own small, decorated fans.  A room full of menopausal women and the temperature was too warm – not a good combination.

In addition to the temperature issue (the internal type), I thought about the ways this ball was different from a high school prom.  I realized that most of us were probably warmer than we needed to be because we were wearing full body armor under our gowns, i.e. Spanx – an extra layer of clothing not needed by our high school counterparts.  Along the line of clothing, I also realized that my dress, more low-cut than I normally wear, was an issue for me because I have more cleavage now than I did in high school.  The combination of that and the foreignness of wearing a low-cut dress was disastrous as a piece of cheese off my first bite of appetizer fell off the cracker and down my d├ęcolletage.  (I fished it out – age does help us deal more reasonably with those embarrassing moments.)   Unlike our high school dances when we could dance constantly all evening, last night we incorporated interval dancing into our routine.  My husband and I would dance with energy and vigor, then we’d come together for a few quiet moments of swaying before getting back to more vigorous moves.  When even those intervals weren’t enough, we took breaks at our table where I used my dinner napkin as a sweat towel.  I may have needed a sweat towel in high school, but I never would have been brave enough to use a dinner napkin – too gauche!  Then there was the matter of the need for liquids.  While the high school group would not likely be drinking wine, normally I would, but with the heat and the dancing, I soon realized that what I needed to drink was water – lots of it.  That brings up another problem common for the menopausal set:  bathroom breaks.  Mid-dance, another couple on the dance floor made me laugh and, just like that, the dance was over for my husband and me as I raced for the ladies’ room.  As I washed my hands, the woman at the sink next to me said, “Hurry!”  She’d hit upon another difference.  Unlike the high school kids who know that there’s always another dance next season or next year, at this age, we don’t have many opportunities to dance and let loose.  We don’t want to miss a moment of the fun.  Or maybe it’s just that we’ve learned something about the preciousness of life and we don’t want to miss a moment of the fun that also extends beyond the dance floor.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Can I Drive 55?

My 55th birthday was this past Friday and, I have to admit, it’s a birthday that bothered me a bit as it approached. 55, mid-50s, senior discount age – those are no big deal. What’s bothered me about turning 55 is my parents both died when they were 71 and the math between 55 and 71 is just too easy. I realized in just sixteen years I will be the age they were when they died and that’s simply not long enough!

As I went through my day Friday, Sammy Hagar’s song I Can’t Drive 55 kept running through my head. I looked up the lyrics and found these words:

When I drive that slow, you know it's hard to steer.
And I can't get my car out of second gear.

I ran a 10k last weekend, a 5k this weekend. I met a friend for coffee this week and enjoyed lunch with my best friend: my husband. I celebrated my birthday with all of my family and some of my dearest friends. I started attending a new writing class. I tapped my creative side making cards for a couple of special people. My husband and I discussed our long-term plans for the future; today we will plan what we will do this month to make those long term plans a reality. I realized I don’t drive slowly, I’m not having trouble steering and my car isn’t stuck in second gear. I CAN drive 55! I can ROCK 55!