First the lie, then the truth. Sometimes the truth really, really hurts, if you're in a hurry, that is.
The lie is this homily: "All good things come to those who wait."
Really? I beg to differ.
I had a dear friend who hung a wedding dress on the back of her shabby one- bedroom apartment door for years. She honestly believed that her message to the Universe that she dearly wished to be married would work. She waited a VERY long time. I lost touch with her a while back and to this day, I rather doubt that the dress had much impact on her chances.
I waited for a lot of things. Prayed, too. Like Susan Sarandon's character in Bull Durham, I was an equal-opportunity worshipper, praying to just about anyone who would listen. Apparently they all had their headphones on, because after twenty-four years on Match.com, nobody showed up. Riches and fame didn't show up either, not that I didn't ask for them. I didn't earn them, or, you could argue, that particular life wasn't mine to have.
Waiting doesn't cut it.
I was so damned dumb I once rented an office for business in Denver for clients. It was smack in the middle of the New Age Movement. I used to sit on the carpet (I had no money for furniture) in a lotus position, and meditate, thinking that this would get me clients.
OmmmmmMY I was stupid.
You will forgive me if I refrain from making further comments, except for the fact that happily, I grew out of that phase. Some folks still haven't.
One thing that our parents, or at least if we were fortunate, SOMEONE influential in our lives intoned once in a while, was to Pace Yourself.
That isn't something many of us are good at in our youth. To be fair, many if not most of us in this hell-bent-for-leather society of ours believes that if we just hurry- hurry up to mastery, as if there were no steps in-between, we'll get all the goodies and money and accolades before the first grey hair.
Well, nice idea. Some folks peak young. Some peak young and are very stupid, and wreak havoc (see Silicon Valley). Most of us don't. If we're in any kind of trades, or we have hobbies that require endless practice (kindly, Nathan Chen's magnificent nailing of the Olympics short program DID NOT HAPPEN in three weeks), then we likely already know that the path from Here to There, wherever There is, may well be very long and full of failures.
When we are young, and I was guilty of this too, long before the Internet, we often believe that if we can spout a quote, that makes us Buddha.
My husband back in the 1990s sounded like Buddha, too. Our marriage counselor was convinced. Said counselor wasn't at the house when Buddha punched holes in the drywall next to my head.
We want so badly to be wise so young that these days just access to plenty of data causes us to truly believe we know stuff (please see 90% of Medium articles). Data isn't always good information, it most assuredly isn't knowledge, without the practical application involving defeat and failure which eventually MAYBE turns into wisdom.
“We move from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. And separating one from the other… knowing the limitations and the danger of exercising one without the others, while respecting each category of intelligence, is generally what serious education is about.”
NO, we don't KNOW it. We've read it. That doesn't mean we've internalized it or know what to do with it.
Data is just data. A great deal of data is just a great deal of pure crap. Knowing what to do with the data is the beginning of knowledge. That takes time. Practices. Mistakes. Failures. The ability to discern what's important takes experience and time and mistakes.
That's why we need to pace ourselves.
Very young folks, we've all been there, often want badly to grow up fast, and be smart and wise and respected while still very young. I suppose most of us go through that phase.
It's not until much later after we've done a fine job of making fools of ourselves, which is part of the price we pay for wisdom, that we realize that time in grade, time in service being foolish, silly, failing regularly ARE part of the education. That's only if we mean to be wise and to be able to have more out of life than constant clumsy striving.
At 69 this year, a few of the things I have always wanted are mine, at least for now. The last part of that sentence comes from experience. I realize that what I have, my home and life here in Oregon, may well be fleeting. That has taught me to appreciate the hell out of what I have right in the moment. Boy, I do, too.
Five years ago I was in the most superb health of my life. That same year, I had a two very serious accidents, including a broken back. The following year I did lasting damage to my feet on a big horse trip in Canadian wilderness. Then, one thing after another, including an horrific, soul-destroying and body-ruining whallop by my ex when he moved in with me for most of a year.
It's been interesting. Combine that with a house sale, a big move, multiple surgeries, a bad car accident and the last four years have been something else again, even as I have continued to travel. Even under the pandemic.
My last four years are nowhere near as bad as many others' last four.
However how I use bad news, how I move through rough times, how I juggle the just plain bad luck nature of some parts of life are only gained through life. That's why I keep writing about how being older is often the only antidote to being dumped on by life.
Life doesn't stop dumping on us. What happens is that if we stay in play, we learn how to deal with what we're handed.
While I am no Pollyanna optimist, a state of mind now known, with good cause, as "toxic positivity," I do have resources which allow me to do what my parents advised: pace myself. And have a sense of humor about the shit shows.
Age, and the regularly-occurring stupendous, spectacular failures in life have taught me a lot about seasons. My body put on unfamiliar weight under quarantine, then I lost WAY too much of it after an horrific car accident in 2020. Being unable to train as I am accustomed to has changed my fitness level. Both my guns have lost some of their size due to surgery.
That's not a failure. That's a season. I am not where I was in 2017. However time, training, injuries, setbacks and simply being in life have all taught me that a season, even one that lasts a year or more, really is just a season.
In the most perfect example of precisely this, Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin is discovering what it feels like to lose.
From the article:
American skier Mikaela Shiffrin again did not finish her race at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games Wednesday.
Shiffrin is one of the best female skiers in the world. She arrived at the Olympics hoping to win several medals.
When asked what happened, Shiffrin said, “I’ve never been in this position before.” With tears on her face, she added, “and I don’t know how to handle it.”
Precisely. She doesn't. Because she was so good for so long she believed her own press releases. This is one of the prices we pay when we haven't had any big failures. Or, in fact, the only real failures are the small ones along the way to gaining mastery in a sport, say, which are expected, especially while very young and as exceedingly gifted as she is. When we fail spectacularly on such a huge stage, THAT'S the teacher.
How this enormously talented young woman learns to shrug off her missteps, pick herself up by the bootstraps and get it done anyway is for all of us a statement of character and maturity. Simone Biles and other athletes have learned to say "back off" to the media and the unfair expectations of fans who identify far too much with their wins, and whip them mercilessly when they have a misstep.
Or choose taking care of themselves over sacrificing themselves for our entertainment.
Talk about immature.
They're not allowed to fail only because we don't allow ourselves to fail. Grow. The. Hell. Up.
When my Dad reached sixty, he had long given up on any kind of exercise or body maintenance. His attention turned to food, bread-making and working on hobby models. He was confused and angered when his body began to fail him.
Today, you and I have unbelievable access to solid information not only about aging but also what you and I can do to get in better shape and maintain, if not even surpass, the fitness of our youth. That's available to you and me and all of us, if we pace ourselves.
This year was supposed to mark the Big Return to Adventure Travel. Part of that is likely off the menu.What age and experience teach you is that there are plenty of ways to still be fully in life without necessarily having it be the same way as before, even when "before" felt a lot more badass.
I would LOVE to have this body back:
Like all athletes, I continued to push myself, and I paid the price. My arms aren't quite that sculpted after two major surgeries. But I can get them back. If I pace myself. I have to allow my shoulder to heal properly, do the painful PT, and then get past hand surgery, and again, do the painful PT. That takes time, patience, humor and pacing.
I'm not far off this body at all. But getting to the 2022-2023 version of it is going to take patience and pacing.
What isn't off the table is exploration. I can still type with one hand. Write long hand or dictate. I'm learning to ride horses one-handed which is one hell of a lesson in humility. I plan to spend May in Africa, and I also plan to spend part of my hand recovery somewhere in South America. I am damned hard to nail down.
You learn workarounds. My Wednesday mornings, before I start Hump Day, begin with an hour with a specialized trainer. We are designing band exercises that I can do without a working hand.
I don't give up. I don't get depressed. I don't stop. I don't mourn the body I no longer inhabit. I find a way around. And even as impatient as I am, I force myself to pace.
I’m not going to lie and tell you I don’t have my moments. But they are moments, not decades, of being down.
That doesn't come naturally. But to that, I am far more motivated by examples of people who learn how to fail, then get back up and keep going, than some Greatest of All Time who ended up self-immolating because she didn't have the backbone and courage to tell the world to back off.
That said, pick your heroes wisely. Some of today's so-called heroes aren't very wise.
The body comes back with work. What 100% fitness looks like with bits and pieces removed, new bits and pieces of metal inserted, is going to be a different 100% than the above photo. I'm pacing myself. That, in and of itself, is a brand new adventure.