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…

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