I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 15, 2016

We're all in this together

The stream in the Church Mountain meadows
I was so thrilled to be able to join the Senior Trailblazers for our Thursday hike last Thursday and see this wonderful scene with all that snow still in the High Country. It had been over a month since I was able to go out with them because of my knee injury. On the hike on April 7th, I tore the medial meniscus and was hobbling around, unable to go up and down steps, unable to walk without a pronounced limp.

It improved quickly, once I accepted the situation and stopped going up and down hills and curtailed my walking somewhat. In fact, getting sick a few weeks ago was the first time it really improved, because I was off my feet for three days. It's such a hard thing to stay off my feet entirely, even without doing my regular routine. I found that bicycling on the stationary bicycle at the gym didn't hurt it at all and I ended up doing that most days, since I couldn't attend my usual aerobic class. Strangely enough, yoga didn't seem to hurt it, so I continued that too. I was not completely immobile after all, but it was such an annoyance.

One of my blogging friends, Linda, wrote a post a while ago that summed it all up for me. She called it "A Thousand Little Pestilences." She recounted several annoyances that kept her going to specialists for treatment, and I could relate to every one except for the hearing aid problem. I know I have lost hearing in my left ear, and probably my right one, too, but it's not a problem for me so I haven't had it checked. Maybe I should. My left ear has some tinnitus occasionally, a clicking that goes on for a short while and then stops. If it continued, I would have more of a problem with it, but it's intermittent and not really a problem. When I lay on my right side in bed, I can't hear the crickets outside my window and everything gets a little quieter.

Now that I am able to enjoy my usual aerobic activity, my mood has improved; there is no doubt in my mind that I am addicted to physical exercise. When I exercise hard enough to break into a sweat and then have a nice hot shower and step into clean clothes, I feel just great. Leaving the gym after a workout and walking around in the spring sunshine makes me happy and content. The whole rest of the day looks better after that, which is one reason I get up early and am finished and back home by noon.

The only day that doesn't have exercise built in is Sunday. The one thing I have on Sundays in my self-imposed schedule is this post, the one I am writing right now. I get up and make a cup of tea, and then I head back into bed and prop myself up with pillows as I create a post. Sometimes I have a hard time getting started, and other times it just flows out of my fingers. This morning I had a topic in mind, which is that ageing is a process that we are all in together. There is no way to stop the process except by dying, the final chapter of this adventure we call life.

In my yoga class, the teacher always starts the class with a reading from B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of this particular type of yoga. Lately we have been talking about samskaras that we carry with us, unconscious habits of behavior. From that Wikipedia link:
In the philosophical theories of Hinduism, every karma (action, intent) leaves a samskara (impression, impact, imprint) in the deeper structure of human mind. This impression then awaits volitional fruition, in the form of hidden expectations, circumstances or unconscious sense of self-worth. It manifests as tendency, karmic impulse, subliminal impression, habitual potency or innate dispositions.
 I realized that in my own life, samskaras often manifest themselves as being in a rut, being unable to even see that rut, making it virtually impossible to change. My sense of self-worth is tied to exercise, obviously, and that makes me a little uncomfortable, as I know that as I get older I will find it harder and harder to continue my level of activity. Hopefully other activities will emerge if I am able to be nonjudgmental about it all. The thing is, I am not alone in my anxiety about this process called ageing. We are all in this together.

The image of being on a life raft, a rather large one, with people continually getting on and continually slipping off the edge seems rather appropriate. A life raft that holds a certain number of us cannot be sustained unless some of us are willing to leave. In a manner of speaking, this is the life raft we are all on. I find myself looking over the edge into the dark water below and wondering if one day it will invite me to dip my toes in. Well, of course it will, and I may not look forward to that day, but I know that it is in my future. What I get to choose is not whether or not I go, but how. Right now it seems far in the future, but who knows? Each day I live I realize is a gift. That each of us has here, together, is a gift that should be appreciated and lived to the fullest.

Joining my fellow Trailblazers was not without a price. Although my knee was fine, the rest of me felt the impact of that strenuous hike, and although three days have passed since then, my leg muscles are still very sore. It was just over a month of hiking that I missed, but it was long enough for me to get out of shape. And it wasn't like I was in my easy chair the whole time. Getting older means putting more and more effort into the constant upkeep of this body. I wrote a post not long ago about this being the year that I started to fall apart. But actually, it's just the time when I first began to notice. It gives the phrase "keep yourself together" a whole new meaning. I'm doing the best I can.

Every single day I am reminded that I am a septuagenarian. I think of this as being my last active decade, and once I reach eighty (if I am so fortunate), I'll take up basket weaving or something. But not unless I find out why I am so addicted to exercise and find a suitable replacement activity. All my life I have been giving up things, so you'd think I'd be an expert by now. But no, I have conveniently forgotten that I was ever able to run, to play hopscotch, to ski, to skydive and pack my parachute for days on end. Those activities are now out of reach.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to lead the life I do, even with all the limitations that are placed upon it. I've learned that it's possible to be happy with less, in fact it seems to be what I'm called upon to learn even better. I'm surrounded by like-minded friends, and I am continually pleased to realize that I've got a virtual community that is a new and wonderful addition to the world: the blogging community. Although it's only been around for a short while, it now is a lifeline for many to connect with others like ourselves. It's no coincidence that most of you are older and dealing with the same issues. As I said before, we're all in this together, but boy am I glad to have your company!

It's happened again: I've written a post from the brain froth that coalesced here on this page, with only a topic to guide me, and several stops and starts to get to this place right here. I'm hoping that this coming week will bring you peace and contentment, and I wish the same for myself. Until next week, when we meet again, I wish you all good things.


Linda Reeder said...

Ah, yes, peace and contentment. I haven't felt a lot of either of those lately, and I need to figure out why and deal with it. I think it has to do with not being able to lose the weight I want to get back off and hurting more when I exercise to try to control that weight. I need to work on finding more pleasure in small things, things that I don't eat!
I can start my Sunday now that I have checked in. I have my mission.

Rian said...

Yes, I can see that you enjoyed being able to hike again with your friends. So glad your knee has healed... or healed enough to continue hiking. But I wouldn't overdo.

You mentioned tinnitus. I occasionally get this too... sometimes a clicking... lately a heartbeat. But it doesn't stay, so it's not too bothersome. And I also believe that I've lost a little hearing - mostly in my right ear, but again not enough to do anything about it. And I've put my classes on hold for the summer. Missing working on the wheel won't hurt me, but I do worry that 2 months without my exercise class may set me back.

And yes, you are extremely fortunate to live the life you do... as am I (although I'm not near as active as you). But continuing to substitute other interests in the place of the ones age forces us to give up should keep our minds active and our spirits uplifted. At least I hope so.

Anonymous said...

That life raft metaphor seems appropriate. I know I will fall off some day, but I choose not to dwell on it.

Carole said...

I love your blog DJan. You are such an inspiration to me. I too, am pleasantly addicted to exercise. I enjoy it immensely and hate having to miss any of my classes at the Y. I am currently nursing my knee back to health (I think it is the IT band) and have avoided the jumping around in Zumba. Piyo is currently one of my favorite classes; it's a combination of pilates and yoga. It focuses on core body strength, balance and flexibility. All of which are important as we age.

I like your reference to the life raft. Never thought about it that way, but it is a good analogy. You are a model for aging gracefully!

Elephant's Child said...

I too love that life-raft analogy.
And suspect that our world would be a nicer, safer place if we took it further. If we viewed this world as a community, no us and them, but only us, what could we achieve.
Hugs. Always.

Marie Smith said...

Yoga is such a wonderful exercise. I discovered accidentally it helps my hip which had been so painful. The hip now is quiet; it has stopped screaming at me with its piercing pain. I have lived with it for so long, the silence now is deafening but welcome.

I am amazed how resilient we can become as we age. If we choose and don't give up, we can adapt and continue to live full lives. A challenge certainly, but interesting in its own way. Who knows what is to come but the journey has been great so far.

Red said...

You make a good point that ageing will continue it's path on it's own. we are not consulted. However, we can work hard and enjoy a good quality of life while we're here. I sometimes look at people with health problems and think how they could have prevented some of their ills.

Tabor said...

Attitude is a strong key toward aging that most articles ignore. YOu have a good attitude in spades and thus your process will be smooth. We cannot fight progress, but the more adaptable we are to change, the better we will change.

jo(e) said...

That looks like a gorgeous place!

I too have been thinking about the whole aging process. And it's very comforting to know that I'm not going through it alone -- my friends are all getting older too.

Meryl Baer said...

An acquaintance of mine will be 99 in August. She still exercises, although not as hard as years ago. She tap danced into her 90s. I am convinced she is as alert and mobile as she is because exercise has been an integral part of her life for decades. Keep on moving, DJan, you are an inspiration too!

Arkansas Patti said...

I was afraid the return to hiking would hurt your muscles more than your knee. It takes so long to get in shape as we age and no time at all to get out. My gardening in the Spring refreshes that principal every year. Knowing you, you will be right back to normal in no time. Somehow I feel you will be like that 100 year old lady Ida that just completed a race.

Rita said...

I was hoping the after effects of the hike wouldn't be too bad. You'll find your way along your path. How you live is more important than how you die. We all fall off the raft eventually. ;) Love your Sunday posts!!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I'll throw you a life vest!! I hope you don't get off the raft for a loooonng time.

Barb said...

I'm definitely addicted to exercise and know in my heart that when I can't be active anymore, I'd be ready to slip off the raft. I think that as I age if I don't keep active, I lose fitness very quickly. I do have friends in their 80's who are very physically active, so they are my mentors.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I absolutely love this: "Each day I live I realize is a gift. That each of us has here, together, is a gift that should be appreciated and lived to the fullest." Concise and right-on! It's a great example of why I look forward to Eye every week. I think I've especially felt that way ... that each day is a gift ... ever since open heart surgery in 2010. Without modern medicine I wouldn't be here today. It definitely gives one a different outlook and so many of the small annoyances just roll off like water on a duck's back. It has been a real pleasure to get to know you in the blogosphere.

Deb Shucka said...

Powerful post, as always. I think aging successfully involves being in the present moment, with full awareness of who we are in the moment. In my yoga classes the teachers always say to check in with our bodies today. It doesn't work to assume that because I was in a certain place yesterday, I'll be there today. The good thing is if I pay attention, what I can't do always gets replaced with some new thing I can do.