Confessions of a 60-year old Athlete
Sixty is sixty. A third grader can tell you that sixty is not forty. Think we could just honor that reality? At sixty I can tell you I’m still the kid I was at six — climbing trees, rolling around in the grass and dying to play basketball in the driveway with my brothers, even though they cheat. Yes, there’s a zero now after the “six” so I’ve had to modify a few things but I still check out trees for good climbing branches, and I’m a barefoot broad for sure.
From childbirth to breast cancer, my body has taught me everything worth knowing. Some people learn by reading books; I learn by heaving up yesterday’s lunch after a six mile run. When my first son was born I was furious at my body for betraying me with the kind of pain you see in horror flicks. A cocky runner and strong 24 year-old, I was humbled when nature put a vice around my belly and said “See here, Philly girl, you’re not such a big shot after all.”
Four decades later when cancer showed up I was a lot less cocky. I gave up my breast tissue for peace of mind, and even threw a going away party for my boobs — a Ta Ta to My Ta Tas Party — grateful for the fact that they served me so well for so long. The first time I went for a run after my bilateral mastectomy I was like Wow! This is easy! Girl athletes know that breasts can get in the way.
At 60, no matter how fat or skinny you are, you’re sort of shaped like a vending machine. From my extensive research I found that you become a rectangle so that men stop being interested in having sex with you. Apparently, the primitive male brain seeks a waist to mate with and if you’re a rectangle, they’re not interested which certainly frees up a lot of time. In my case, my best friend — who grew up on a farm in Iowa and never minces words — tells me that from the side I look like “a pack of mayonnaise from Wendy’s.” No breasts, no ass, clothes now sort of fall off me, which would have been a boon in my sexual heyday but now is just sort of funny. I love and honor the pack of mayonnaise I am, and every step my sweet and sturdy feet take every day.
Aside from humility, my body has taught me invaluable life lessons that guide my thoughts and action in the world. Believe me, there are plenty of times I wish I could have learned this by watching a movie but I’m a knucklehead. I learn through my body, often via a world of pain. If you stay tuned in as you run, ski, ride horses or backpack you’ll learn crucial lessons. But stay put and learn from a 60-year-old body in motion:
- Watch Your Step: Everything is fraught with peril, so best to put one foot in front of the other carefully. I won’t inflict the “mindfulness” rap on you but take it from one who has stumbled while climbing a 13,000-foot mountain pass with a 40-pound backpack. It pays to pay attention;
2. Be Protective of Those Below You: When you’re higher up — on a ski slope or in an organization — it’s your job to watch out for people below you. Period.
3. Pay Attention to Pain: It’s trying to tell you something.
4. When You’re Tired and You Don’t Wanna, Do it Anyway
5. Control Your Speed: If you’re out of control — on the ski slope, the bike or in life in general — you endanger yourself and others.
6. Trust the Horse, Or the Force: There are times we’re just riding some big thing and we have to have faith that whatever it is, it will take care of us.
7. Improvise, Adapt and Overcome: Marines, athletes, and old people.
8. Keep Moving: Ever forward, girlfriend. Eye on the prize. When you’re on a horse or a bike that’s climbing up a gnarly pass, lean forward. Always forward.
9. Wherever You Look is Where You’ll End Up: This is the most important lesson of a body in motion. Where your vision is, you’ll go too, so if you’re skiing through trees and you look at a tree you’ll end up kissing it, and not in a good way. Same thing on a bike or a horse. On a skinny, rocky single track if you stare at an obstacle your bike will crash into it. Horses can actually sense your “sit bones” (a/k/a ass) and your body follows your eyes so if you’re looking all over the place, the horse will take you all over the place, which is not what you want when you’ve got a 1100 pound animal between your legs. Look beyond and not at the obstacle.
10. Be Grateful Every Step
I watched a YouTube video the other day where women were asked to describe their body in one word. It was profoundly sad to hear what they had to say: ugly, fat, awful, mediocre, embarrassing. There was a clip of a husband sort of yelling at his wife — “Come on! It’s time to go!” and she so hates her body she’s paralyzed in front of the mirror, unable to go out in public.
Holy moly, sisters. That’s so sad. I just want to hug you with my skinny breast-less body (my heart is that much closer now, to the world). I guarantee you there’s a talent in you waiting to shine. Being ashamed of your body just clouds your light so love, love, love that amazing bag of bones that gets you from A to B. Take it from a pack of mayonnaise, don’t miss one second of being alive and just keep moving forward, eye on the prize.