Watching the Sochi Olympics, my nine-year-old granddaughter turned to her mother and asked, “Do you think I could skate in the Olympics?” To which her mom replied, “No, Sweetheart, you are too old.”
Too old!! Well, yes, at nine, Winnie probably is too old, but what does that say about me at my age!
I find comparing myself to Olympic champions disheartening. What drives these athletes to sacrifice a normal life for demanding coaches, exhaustive training, and repetitive injuries? If they are made of Titanium, what am I made of… low-grade plastic?
I go to stretch class and the instructor urges me to extend my range of motion. Sitting cross-legged on my mat, I am supposed to lean forward and rest my head on my feet. My feet might as well be in the next county.
Open-mouthed, I watched the Olympic ice skaters spinning on one leg. As for Yulia’s other leg, it was parallel to her body… her knee close to her ear! Talk about a soul-sucking assault on my ego. I’m feeling my age.
Adding insult to injury, during the Sochi Olympics, I was simultaneously reading, I Promise Not to Suffer, by Gail Storey. The photo on the front cover of the book says a lot about the author. By all appearances Gail is a girly girl. She stands there in brand new, ankle-high hiking boots. Above the boots, we see tanned, shaved and shapely legs that extend below a knee-length, satin and lace flared skirt.
The discrepancy between the boots and the skirt foreshadows a storyline that sees Gail and her husband Porter hiking the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Not that Gail hadn’t challenged herself before, but as she tested herself on the trail, she wondered if she could raise her “misery index. “
Given that my husband and I walked The Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain this past October, my daughter who gifted the book probably felt that I would identify with the storyline. As indeed, I did. Gail and I shared the same ambivalence in the beginning and ultimately the same joyous awe and transformation at the end.
But at that point, the comparison screeches to a stop. Walking The Camino takes five weeks; walking the Pacific Crest Trail takes six months. True, on The Camino, we carried backpacks, sleeping bags and snacks; however, on the PCT, the Storeys also packed a stove, a tent, and a week’s worth of food. We walked from lodging-to-lodging and hot food-to-hot food… topped off with wine. In contrast, after 20-mile-days, the Storeys had to find a water source, set up camp and cook their own food.
The more I read, the worse I felt. Prior to reading I Promise Not to Suffer, I felt reasonably happy with my trek across Spain. Now I’ve begun to see my pilgrimage as a walk-in-the park. True, Gail left the trail having walked “only” 877-miles north from the Mexican border. But even so, she hiked farther over more difficult terrain than I did.
Did I mention that I’ve been feeling my age?
And then on Sunday, February 23rd, I felt my load lighten. Listening to NPR Morning Edition, I heard an interview with Joe Newman of Sarasota, Florida. I suppose given Mr. Newman’s age, I should refrain from presumed familiarity, but I love this guy! I’m his newest best friend, and I’m going to call him “Joe.”
Joe is 101-years old, and he is running in Florida’s 16th congressional district as an Independent for a seat in the House of Representatives. A life-long activist, he’ll be butting his head against a solid Republican stronghold, but he is undeterred. Joe suggested that we watch kids getting off the school bus and ask ourselves what lies ahead for them. Quoting from his website, “At what age does a person no longer have a concern for society?”
I’ve got years to go before I’m 101. Perhaps I’m not as old as I thought I was.