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When we are children, we delight in running around, making forts out of huge cardboard boxes, and playing hide-and-seek. In ourteen-age years, some of us struggle with puberty and hate the world and prefer to drive a car than ride our bicycles. And then there are all those years when we simply pursue our lives, either investing our time and energy in the routine demands of living and in staying well and healthy—or not.
But at some point, mortality sneaks up and we realize that our bodies are wearing away and falling apart. I became acutely aware in my 30’s that my body was not going to get itself in shape on its own. So I decided to take seriously the effects of the passage of time.
When did the truth of mortality’s stalking occur to me especially hard? Right now, as I recover from breast cancer. It’s been nagging at my psyche for quite a while. At 71, I have many fewer years left than I’ve used up. But six months ago, my predictable lifestyle of the joys of retirement, regular exercise and diet was interrupted. And I had no idea how challenging it would be to work my way back.
Several weeks ago, I began walking briskly for 30 minutes, six days per week. I felt pretty smug—I had this down! I was sleeping better; for several years I’ve enjoyed my early walks. But in the last couple of weeks, the joy of walking was dampened by the aches in my body—particularly in my legs and hips. Fatigue was not melting away. I stretched before I walked. I stretched after I walked. I even considered that the aching might be a remnant of my last chemo infusion. Then to add insult to injury, my feet and legs started to swell. I had to get ahold of this problem before it overtook my recovery.
So a couple of weeks ago I signed up with a personal trainer who has worked with a friend of mine for years. I wanted to begin seriously getting my health and wellbeing back, and I didn’t want to try to accomplish those results too quickly. The trainer is Denise, and she is not only extremely competent but cheerful beyond words. And she calls me Sweetheart. Now I’ve got to tell you, nobody but Denise would get away with calling me Sweetheart! She’s about my age so I’m giving her some leeway.
I didn’t think our one-half hour session would seem very long, but let me tell you, I discovered (fortunately) how flexible I still was, but also how my muscles—yes, those old hamstrings and quads, bless ‘em—were protesting loudly. Denise made sure I didn’t push myself too hard, and she seemed genuinely delighted at how capable I seemed to be. Using poles, free weights and machines, we worked on upper and lower body. With her encouragement, I powered through my hesitation. I didn’t take notes on all the machines and stretches and weights, but I’ll remember enough of them to integrate them with my regular work-out three days per week. (She’s agreed to work with me one session per week.) I even walked 25 minutes on the treadmill. And I feel that I am working my way back to a new and improved (and perhaps wiser) self.
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Nevertheless, the lessons can’t be ignored. I am getting older, and can’t disregard the fact that the likelihood of health limitations may show up again. I won’t worry about them, but they are built into the pie. I also know that having people around me who are my cheerleaders and friends will be more important than ever. My tendency, as an introvert, may be to pull back, but interactions with others are part of the healing process. And keeping my mind alert and engaged can be every bit as valuable as mending my body. The body/mind connection and all that.
I’ll need to remind myself of all of this when I try to get out of bed tomorrow . . .
[Photo by Kelly Sikkema at unsplash.com]Published in