Ugh. Those words.
The death knell of enthusiasm.
You come back from an epic trip (as I have just done) & your heart and your soul are filled to the brim with happiness and peace and the overwhelming beauty that only the mountains can give.
You have struggled, achieved your goal, and been rendered awestruck by the sheer size and splendour of the mountains.
You feel as though you’ve finally got some sort of perspective on life.
On your return, secretly, in your heart of hearts, you hope that people will ask about your trip and your adventures, but of course they don’t.
At best they’ll say, “God, you look awful. All puffy and swollen.”
At worst they’ll stare irritably at you and say those fateful words, “It’s time you started acting your age.”
This happened to me yesterday, courtesy one of the most waspish people in my husband’s family.
But still safely & happily on my rocky mountain high, I ignored the barb.
And then, bang on cue, I happened to check Instagram, and read the following post from Tanya Agarwal, one of my impossibly young & glamorous running girlfriends.
And I quote:
“I don’t know how to act my age because I’ve never been there before. If you didn’t know how old you were, would you still behave/function the way you did? Does your age bind you to conform to “should” or “would”? Does age play at the back of your mind as you go along playing the many roles in your life?”
Spot on, Tanya.
100% spot on!
I repeat: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ACT MY AGE BECAUSE I’VE NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE.
I’ve never been this old before, and there doesn’t seem to be a manual of Appropriate Behaviour for Old Ladies.
I don’t know any other 60+ women, who dream of climbing ever higher and higher (though I am sure there must be loads of us out there).
I don’t know of any other 60+ women yearning to break sub-2 in the half marathon and, well, let’s say 4;30 for a full. (I know my limits!!)
What I do know for sure is that there are loads of super accomplished senior runners in the world & here in India, and I take comfort from that fact.
But going back to the suggestion to act my age: What are the options?
“Start acting my age” and then what?
Stop running? Stop trekking? Stop climbing?
And do what, pray?
Watch the afternoon soaps?
Not on your nelly 😛
As long as my legs hold out, as long as I can reach down to tie my running shoes or lace up my hiking boots, I’m gonna be out there, pushing my limits, challenging myself, because the options are too grim to contemplate.
Who the hell wants to knit or watch soap operas, when you could be standing on a thin ledge in the snow, shivering, a little bit scared, but overall excited, as steps are cut in the ice for you to cross a narrow ridge?
That is living, in my book.
Not lolling on the sofa.
Heading out to run in the early morning heat and humidity, knowing you are pushing yourself towards your next race goals – THAT is living, not sitting quietly at home, watching life pass you by.
There is simply too much gorgeousness in the world still to be explored.
There are still so many challenges and goals out there.
Yeah, there may well have been moments on my just-concluded high altitude trek when I quietly muttered to myself, “”I’m getting too old for this shit”, but that was nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek figure of speech.
So, am I going to start “acting my age”?
If age appropriate behaviour involves pushing my limits & trying to be stronger & faster, then hells yeah, count me in.
If, however, it involves slowing down & hanging up my boots, well that ain’t happening.
I’m choosing to ignore the mean-spirited nay-sayers, and take comfort in these words from the great C.S.Lewis:
Oh, and to answer Tanya’s questions from the beginning of this blog post:
“If you didn’t know how old you were, would you still behave/function the way you did?” YUP
“Does your age bind you to conform to “should” or “would”?” NO
“Does age play at the back of your mind as you go along playing the many roles in your life?” NO