Friday, February 16, 2018

How bittersweet the sound

I’ve been immersed in a big writing project, and as a result the blog has been neglected of late. It’s a good sort of neglect, like when you get a new book by your favorite author and you let the dishes pile up in the sink all weekend. That said, some thoughts came to me last night when I should have been sleeping—how about that, there’s an upside to insomnia—so I figured I would return to blogging for a moment.

I’m going to be 50 at the end of the calendar year, and so far in the month and a half since my last birthday, my body has done its best to remind me of this unsettling fact. Hot flashes during a cold winter can be really fun, almost like a game: how fast can I get a hat, scarf, and coat off and then, two minutes later when I’m suddenly freezing, get them back on again? There’s been other stuff, too. I’ve fallen twice during running, once during the Disney marathon, bruising both knees, and the second time last weekend during a trail run. The Disney fall, which I’m going to call it forever because it amuses me, hurt like hell; the trail run fall initially did not hurt much at all because I landed on a pile of soft, wet, mulch-like twigs. I landed hard enough, however, to get the wind knocked out of me, always an interesting experience—that sickening feeling and “oof” sound, as my running buddy put it, as the oxygen bursts out of your lungs. Days later, my ribs hurt. I’m a side sleeper. Bad enough my brain won’t shut the hell up at night, worse that I feel like I’m wearing a whalebone corset six sizes too small when I toss and turn in bed.

Whatever. I’m an aging klutz with a balance problem and small feet; I fall down a lot. In the words of that weird, slightly irritating but impossible-not-to-sing-along-to song, I get knocked down but I get up again. When the word “graceful” is applied to the young, it is most often used as an antonym to “clumsy.” Olympic figure skaters are deemed graceful when their movements appear light and fluid—and when they don’t fall. Of course, these young people are incredibly strong athletes, and grace is also about being purposeful and controlled in your actions without calling attention to that fact. In short, they are graceful when their bodies do what they want them to. That definition changes with time, when your body is less willing and able to do what you want it to. I think for everyone, grace changes from not falling down to something else: getting back up as if nothing much has happened, even though it has happened, and may keep happening, because you’re not getting any younger and life isn’t getting any easier but look, the fall wasn’t permanent, you got up, you’re still alive, so onward then, right?

Right. Onward, all bruised knees and cracked ribs and clumsy, aging grace.