Chasing Youth

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©Kaityn Podulka June 25,2018

I love this picture. My daughter took it while we were out for a walk. What she didn’t capture is that behind these runners is a much older man also running. The difference between these young runners and the older man was striking to me. They ran three abreast, shoulders straight, their arms pumping, legs stretching out and pulling up high almost as though they were galloping. He was more hunched over, his head down, the efforts so apparent on his face. His steps were smaller and his feet did not come near as far off the ground. When they looped back he was still behind although much further. They were still laughing and feeling strong, he was struggling, his face red his steps smaller. But he was moving. He kept moving. And they were completely oblivious to him. It strikes me now that as opposed to looking at it as chasing youth I could also interpret it as what is coming up behind them, age. Eventually even these strong people will be older and will slow down.

I have been thinking a lot more about age because I have been feeling my age more. Not that I feel old and creaky, I just often feel as though I am the oldest person in the room. And this bothers me. I don’t know why. I think I feel less relevant and yet also I care less about what people think so maybe relevance is less important. But I have come to understand something else about aging. People age very differently. I have taken to binge watching Grace and Frankie, a Netflix show. Part of the reason I started watching the show in the first place is because the age of the characters. I am tired of watching people who have no connection to me or where I am in life, so this show appeals to me. What I love most about it is how vibrant they are. There are jokes about forgetting things but they are still so active. And this is a reality. All of the main characters are actually in their mid to late seventies. At one point in a show, Jane Fonda lifts her leg and washes her foot in the sink from a standing position. She doesn’t fall or even wobble. I was awed by this. And it might have been the inspiration for my starting yoga. Her balance and agility at age seventy something is better then many twenty year olds. All of this is to say that I am realizing that I don’t have to assume that menopause or peri-menopause is a reason for me to stop or even slow down. It is harder but that doesn’t mean it isn’t doable.

I am realizing something else. For quite some time all of the bike riding and running helped me mentally. It kept me even keeled. But I’m not sure it so much helped as just left me too exhausted to care. I think that can only last so long before you need to deal with shit that crops up. For me, besides the age or maybe in addition to the number is the reality that my son is hitting adulthood. He is moving away to college in two short months and from there he is truly in the transition of moving out permanently. I don’t think I got the truth of this until he went away for a week with his friends. I would not yet call him an adult but he is on his way to independence. I know this is a good thing and what I want for him, and I am immensely proud. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t grieving this as well. There is a part of me that aches for a childhood gone by so fast. And I see my daughter rapidly following as she continues her journey through middle school. Our house is clearing of toys and letting go of myths such as Santa Claus. It is all natural but somehow feels so sudden. And it hurts. I found myself in a negative spiral that was infecting my running and biking. I just felt too tired to care. I also wanted to hold onto every second that I could squeeze out with my kids. This isn’t healthy. So I’m dealing with my shit.

One of the ways I am doing this is through meditation, although I won’t lie. That is harder for me. It is too much stillness. It is sometimes wonderful but often painful for me to try to concentrate on just my breath. I have also started reading The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron again and committed to working through the twelve week process. I tried this before but didn’t stick with it. I do know that the morning pages, one of the tasks in the book, really helped me tremendously. It has a way of quieting my brain so I can listen for me. I know it might sound hokey or ridiculous, but if you are struggling and can’t or won’t see a therapist I highly recommend this book.

I am trying to find a way to be happy in me, in all of my numbers: the scale, the measuring tape and the age. It is hard because I feel as though it was all so much easier when I was younger. But there were times that were harder too. I don’t want to be one of those people that needs to be younger, whether it is lying about their age or trying to look younger, to feel good about myself.  I am fifty one years old and pretty happy with who I am right now. But I’m not going to stop ever trying to be the best me. Maybe this isn’t me chasing youth. Maybe this is what youth chases and tries to understand.

Oh and it is Tuesday and I have biked and run a little over thirteen miles so far this week. So far…

Yoga Take Two

So I have been trying to fit it all in. The running, the biking, the strength training and adding yoga. There really aren’t enough days in the week. So I am trying another tack. I am adding ten minutes of either yoga or strength to the days I already work out. This morning I tried another yoga. I went in with the idea that for the first few times it was just a learning process. So I spent a lot of time practicing the poses the and how to move from one to the other. I realize that I don’t have a great space for this but I am adjusting.

As predicted by a trainer last year, it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. My body felt stiff and the poses made some of my muscles ache. I am glad about that, but I am not ready to give up weight training unless I can be sure that yoga can give me the same necessary benefits. I am not sure I am getting the poses right and think I should probably take a class at least to get the poses down. I don’t have the time or the resources right now to do that. But I liked it, much better than I did when I tried it years ago. Right now I have found a routine that is ten minutes and is challenging yet doable for me. It also adds in some planks and arm work which makes me happy.

Today, I am going to try running around a track to see if it is any easier. I know everyone hates track running, but I hate that my running has fallen off so much. And I know when I first started that it was the track that first helped me to get in the first three miles. So, I am going to try. I am also going to charge my headphones. I think some music will definitely help.

Keep keeping on.

Bridge to Nowhere

 

This morning while I was out on my bike I noticed a wooden bridge on the front lawn of a house. I’ve seen this bridge before, but for some reason it really struck me this morning. I can’t decide if I like it or not. Because I want to like the bridge, simply because I like bridges, I find them romantic, especially wooden bridges. But this bridge, which is about three or four feet long with a small arch is randomly placed in a front yard. It doesn’t, as far as I can see provide a necessary path, there are no flowers that adorn the bridge, it simply is. And it goes nowhere. If you cross the bridge, you are on the other side, but still pretty much in the same space. This caused a moment of dissonance in my brain as I chugged up the hill, the bridge to my right. A bridge should lead you somewhere, carry you over to a new destination. This bridge was simply there.  And although I know it is ornamental, the randomness of it in the center of the front yard, with no other embellishments to affirm it’s decorative identity bugs me.

I wanted to find the poetry in the bridge like all roads really lead home, but that seemed somehow trite and didn’t do the bridge justice. I thought about the analogy to my own life, that very moment, as I bike around and around the neighborhood going nowhere, knowing I am going nowhere but still going. And always returning home. And then, maybe because I still had a few miles to go, or maybe because I had been biking for about forty five minutes at that point, I went deeper. I thought about all the work I put into training four years ago, and here I was back at the very beginning.  All of the hours on the bike, running and in the gym, achieving a certain level of fitness only to return to where I started. Miles and miles gone by to be simply where I started. Another bridge to nowhere.

But bridges are also connectors, bringing together two separate spaces. Except this bridge didn’t need to connect anything, the space was already whole. I again thought about how I had come so far only to be back where I started. But I also thought about how all the biking and running helped me to connect to myself. The time in the morning that I take and hold for just me. No one benefits from this, but me. It is my selfish time. As an introvert it helps to get me through a day so often filled with people. It is my bridge to me, my bridge to nowhere. It takes me back to me.

This morning I did twelve miles on my bike in a little over an hour. I spent the last twenty minutes more or less thinking about beginnings, going home and connections.  I thought about all the work to achieve something and then losing it. I thought about starting over and going nowhere. And I thought about home and what that means.  I thought about all of this because of that bridge to nowhere.

 

Change

Hello, World. It’s been a while. And although I’ve been working out (sort of) less, with less intensity. I have done a complete backward slide.  The original purpose of this site was to sort of track my progress, and force accountability.  But it also served as a way for me to journal through what it all felt like.  I lost that. I also lost the time and the mental discipline to work out. This created a shame cycle that was just completely unhealthy. So, I’m back. But not in the way of starting over. This isn’t the beginning, it is the middle.

Every good leader knows that change, new initiatives whatever go through cycles of chaos, and feeling lost. It isn’t until you come out at another peak that you often can see and understand the point of the harder times. I resist all harder times, and sometimes hide from them. I am considering this somewhere in the curve of the “u” and wondering what I can learn down here. Because, you know, I do believe understanding where you are in your journey is pretty important. It helps me to center myself and know that it is a place in my journey and not the destination. Goal markers change all the time, they have to. Otherwise we would be dead. So, goals yes, destination unknown.

I’m fifty now, almost fifty one! How about that! I weigh just about as much as I did when I was pregnant with my first child. My legs are larger than I’ve ever seen them and when I do run I feel as though my ass is like an extra piece bouncing along behind me. Oh yeah, I can’t run. Yesterday I did my first  mile in a really long time. I’m not sure how that happened and I use to come home and cry about it, but I don’t anymore. I just keep trying. I do run less, which I know isn’t helping. But the joy is no longer there. Well, sometimes it is. It feels much harder. It’s like yoga only more tiring.

I needed a reassessment for myself, and here it is This might be the best I can do. Seriously, I am going to keep trying, but what if this is it? What if the person who ran all those miles, biked for joy and ate healthy because she was fueling her body has aged away? What if this is my new best me? Then what? Well, fuck! (Yeah, some things have not changed). Then I am just going to love this body. Because it’s the one I got. And it is still getting it done. I am going to find the beauty and the joy in who I am now. I’m proud of my accomplishments. And being me, I am going to keep trying. I am going to keep pushing myself to be stronger, have more endurance, etc. But maybe this is the new peak. Okay, well then Yea, Me! Because I’m still here. I’m still out there even though it feels as though I’m going backwards. I’m still trying, even though I have so often wanted to just give up. So, YEA, ME!

I am going to keep writing and I am going to post it, because I feel as though that helps. I want to be able to run seven miles again. Why seven? I don’t know but it has always been the number. And I want to bike again. I have been out a few times, but not as much as I would like. I know I need to strength train, and I want to add yoga. This is part of the problem. It is so hard to keep up with everything you are supposed to do. It becomes overwhelming and constantly feels as though somewhere I am failing. I tried doing what brings me joy but apparently that much red wine isn’t healthy. Who knew? So, I am sort of tweaking and working out a schedule. For the working out, not the wine. Wine needs no schedule.

I can’t start over, but I can keep going.