“A myth is the dream of a culture.”
“We’re all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.”
Having passed through the abundant harvest of my juicy, fruitful celebration of 40, I’m now freezing at the threshold of the dark winter of Coming To Terms With Aging.
I never expected this.
I always thought I’d sail through this part, barely stepping on the universe’s Life Change Lintel as I breezed through the portal into midlife.
In my vision of my 40s, I’d be one of those women who murmurs through still-full lips that Why no, she hasn’t noticed any changes to her body, thanks to perfect nutrition and regular exercise and by the way yoga and Swiss chard juice is quite magical!
I’d keep patiently adding, say, 10-20 lb to my lifts per year. You know, reasonable expectations. Modest. Do-able. By the time I was 90, I’d be deadlifting 1500 lb. Of course.
I’d say shit like Age is just a number! I have the body of a 20-year-old! (Well, not my 20-year-old body, which was saturated in alcohol, 50 lb overweight, and usually parked in front of a daytime talk show.)
Somewhere along the way, the memo to my body about How This All Works must have gotten confused.
Instead of adding 20 lb to my deadlift, I added it to my ass. OK, no problem. Bodyweight coefficient. Moar muscle. Right?
Another memo typo. I seem to have subtracted 20 lb — and more — from my lifts.
Although thanks to smart training, I’ve stayed wonderfully injury-free for many years, I do still sometimes make inadvertent unggghh sounds when I warm up for morning workouts.
Squaaauunnnghhh crunch. Wait, what? Is that my fucking knee? When the fuck did that shit start creaking? Or is that more of a clicking?
In my darkest, most hormonally-addled, helpless and hopeless moments, I rage and cry. I curse my body. It’s cheated. It’s lied. It’s let me down. It’s not following the rules.
Here is a short list of things I mourn.
Loss of control (as if any of us actually had, or will have, control, ever).
A mountain of too-small clothing. Wait… are you shitting me… my shoes are getting smaller too? [gazing at flappy flipper feet]
My smugness (and occasional self-righteous whining) about how I’m different. Look at me! Magical, special snowflake! Nobody understands me! My body doesn’t follow the rules!
My expectations about, like, everything.
The comforting fiction that a healthy diet, regular exercise, and being a diligent Good Girl about health will fix and prevent every single thing that could ever happen to me. If I can just find the “perfect” workout and nutrition plan then I will never die. (Corollary: If I get a zit, tendonitis, cancer, or hangnail it means I must root out the failure of my health habits and purge the inflammatory inefficiency with extreme prejudice!)
Notice the “if-then” equation.
If I do all the right things then I should get everything I want.
My mom, an active woman in her late 60s who’s already kicked cancer and other chronic diseases in the fucking face with a tiny foot, complained to me the other day about a bit of arthritis in her thumb.
“I don’t get it,” she said. “I’ve been eating Paleo. That helps inflammation, right? Should I supplement with something?”
“Ma. Paleo’s just a good diet. It’s not gonna make you immortal.”
I could hear my mother pouting down the phone. Like me, the revised equation seemed deeply unfair to her:
If I do all the right things then I may or may not get anything at all. Fuck you, hapless bozo on the bus, sez the universe.
So then you might — quite rightfully — ask: What’s the goddamned point? Why bother?
One cold, dark morning, deep in a hormone-deficiency valley, as I creaked and crunched in my basement gym, feeling my gym shorts slice into my emergent muffin top, I had a single rebellious thought:
I’m still here, fuckers.
I’m still here.
It’s dark and frigid. This floor has spiders. My bum hurts. There’s an icy draft.
I’m still here.
My hips are locked up like Fort Knox. An ovary gremlin stole my estrogen.
I hate feeling weak. I hate that light switch. I hate reality. I hate your face. I hate this song on my iPod. I hate this barbell and the ridiculous, embarrassing baby weights hanging on it. I hate stupid jerkhead everything.
I’m still here.
Breathe. Move. Rep. Creak.
Because this is it. It doesn’t get better than this. This is how it works. It’s all the road. It’s all part of the journey.
You don’t get to drive the bozo-bus.
If you’re lucky, you get to look out the window as your life-vehicle hurtles towards the unknown, with a drunken maniac at the wheel.
Sure, if you do yoga and drink Swiss chard juice and rep out some squats (or whatever variation on eating healthy and staying active you prefer), your chances are definitely better than if you, like my 20-year-old self, watch Sally Jessy Raphael re-runs while sitting on your bursitis-y, ever-expanding, unmoving hips, swilling chicken wings and beer all day.
Because what’s the alternative? There is none.
Either you take care of business and give yourself the best chance of survival (while accepting the inherent fuckedupitude and randomness of life), or you relinquish all hope entirely.
Good health habits and regular movement definitely help your bozo-bus driver be a little less wasted and crazy.
Most of the time.
Sometimes you look in the mirror and think Ha! No wrinkles! I feel great today! Thanks, kale! and kale throws you a fist bump and you rock out together and then you throw on a slimming black knit shift that restrains your resplendent glutes like a bowling-ball-bag and go out to ass-kick the world.
And sometimes you wake up — naturally — at 4 am (4 am? When did that start to seem fucking normal?) and stagger down to your basement and attempt to move some metal around while cursing.
It’s all part of the process. All of it. ‘Tis the season.
And I ain’t goin’ out like a sucka.