Growing Older While Growing Bigger

I think it was a Wednesday morning. My new, sweet Zen-like alarm app decided I needed to get out of bed. As I turned over to tell it to shut-the-hell-up, my stiffened knee refused to straighten.

“Hmm.” I wondered, refusing to let a small bout of physical pain stop me. “Must have been that jump rope at CrossFit yesterday.”

Then, with my usual full-fledged denial and optimistic will, I put my feet on the floor. Walking – that is without a painful limp – was not going to happen. I hobbled my way into the kitchen, reaching first for the Advil, something I would normally never do ahead of coffee.

“This will make it all better,” I stupidly thought to myself. “How many of these orange candies are within the legal limit?”

Four hours pass. I was still in pain, walking like an old woman. A week passed. Seven days of Google-endorsed cures – ice, heat, rest, an ugly Ace brace, extra attention from my family, more Advil – and still, no change. My damn knee required me to pull out all stops – a bonafide doctor.

“Can you make it brand new, Doc?”

“Unfortunately, no. I can’t make your knee thirty years younger. Too many miles on those legs to turn back now.”

Fucking doctor. He is far too realistic about my growing physical limitations. Tell me I am not the first person that wants some miracle doctor that can keep me young, keep my body from growing old and tiring out. One that can preserve my body as a working machine – doing what I want it to do, when I want it to do it, with little maintenance required.

Not possible, huh? Ugh.

So far, at least, nobody is immune from growing old. Bodies are not designed to last forever. Each day moves us closer to greater physical limitation.

But, compared to Dr.-Bad-News, my line of work provides some good news. You ready for some?

Our inner psyches – our emotional cores – are not limited as we age. In fact, they can expand beyond imagination. Our capacity for vitality never ceases.

Are folks emotionally limited? Sure. They cross our paths each and every day. We smack into their walls and edges. Wives drag them into therapy. They talk incessantly about wanting to be happy yet stay committed to misery. Yes, emotional limitation is pervasive and can dress in a wide-array of costume.

And, it has little to do with age. Mind you, we can go from soup to stew to Jello to concrete. Time does harden internal habit. But, unlike my worn knee, emotional restriction it is not a given. It is a choice. Restoration is possible.

So, join me, will you? I don’t want to be the only wrinkled old lady rocking it out in the wheel chair. My body will fade, but, I will be damned if she’s taking my spirit down too. That shit is precious and will not, dare not, be contained.

Lunching Before It’s Too Late

I had lunch yesterday with my 91-year-old friend.

It’s not what you might imagine. I did not go visit her in the nursing home. We did not dine over bland mashed potatoes and red Jell-O. No, not my friend. She invited me to lunch. She made a reservation. I dressed for the occasion, pretending to be one of those ladies-who-lunch. She drove. She talked intelligently. She didn’t drool or spill ketchup on her shirt. She asked about details from my life that she recalled accurately since we had lunch a few years ago. She challenged me. Told me what she thought. Asked questions as if wanting to learn something new at her old age.

I love my friend.

She told me about this club she started. After leaving a retirement community (and losing tens of thousands of dollars to do so) because she wasn’t ready to “give up and die,” she rented an apartment. She and another widow started sharing a glass of wine during the summer evenings on the patio. Before long, someone noticed their fun and asked to join. They are up to eight ladies now. They call themselves the “70 and 80s Women at the Portico.” Spontaneous geriatric group therapy, I thought to myself. I laughingly told her she needs to change the name, given that well, she is 90 now.

I love my friend. And what I love most is that she’s alive. Rather than her soup spilling on her blouse, her spirit overflows with vitality. She enthusiastically told me three times how great her sandwich was. And that the cup for her tea was too hard to drink … how do you manage a square tea cup? She eventually gave up in frustration. I asked her some honest questions. Before I finished the sentence, she said with passion, “no!” Okay, then. This woman has a thought, and a mind, and a heart. I asked her if she was bored. For, after 91 years of living, you still get the same choices – beef or chicken? Mountains or beach? Bath or shower? She looked at me strangely and said, “life is one grand adventure. Who knows? Maybe the key lime pie we just ordered (of course, she wanted dessert) will be awful.”

I love my friend.

She did say that she gets lonely sometimes. Her kids don’t call enough. And friends are sick or dead. But she volunteers at the local library. And she reads. And sometimes she feels crappy and then she just sits with the crappy till the crappy goes away. And of course, she has her club of women who drink wine at the portico.

I listened to her in awe, my body perched on the edge of the chair. I was watching a legend. Not only has this woman done life, but she keeps doing it. I want to be just like her someday.

Before we departed, she told me we should do this again soon. Before she’s no longer around. My heart saddened. I knew what she meant. (Here she goes again – speaking difficult truth so freely.) But I resisted her honesty. I didn’t want to know what she meant. She is a gift I don’t want to let go of.

But I know she’s right. At the age of 91, you surely can’t take the future for granted. None of us can, really. We can only hope to milk this baby as long and deeply as we possibly dare. And thanks to my 91 year-old-friend, I have witnessed such possibility.

Enjoying Life’s Plum

By most counts, I am still a young woman yet I can already tell you that I don’t like this aging thing. It sucks.

My energy is no longer limitless. I don’t recognize my body in the mirror. Every day, simple things, frequently vacate my mind. In-style fashion would make me look ridiculous, like some call girl want-to-be. The idea of an evening out sounds fabulous until it comes to actually doing it. I’d much rather enjoy a quiet night at home, in my loose-fitting clothes, with close company and a glass of wine.

What the hell happened? I guess it’s just nature. Time ticking. The calendar flipping. Life, being what its meant to be – marked and limited. I get my turn and then I have to move over. There are new ones coming down the pike and I have to get off the ride.

But I still think it sucks. Put me down for that. I refuse to like this limited quantity thing.

But my feelings aside, I guess there is little I can do to stop the earth’s rotation and my human body from aging as a result. I am just not that powerful.

But I have thought of a go-around. My latest strategy to cheating the system. Ready? Living in the now. Fully, unabatedly, intentionally and consciously. Because when I do that, time seems timeless. I am not looking at my watch, or my phone or my day planner. I am too busy engrossed in living, wrapped up in all its ripe juiciness. Whether it’s through hardy laughter, engaging my craft or connecting intimately, at that moment, time stops mattering.

So, screw you, time. Yes, I surrender. You will win the war. My body will age, I will die and my life’s work will come to an end. But until then, I’m gonna win a few momentary battles. With awareness and abandon, I will squeeze out a plum or two. In all its deliciousness, I will honor what I got and make the best of this one-way ticket I am fortunate to have.