I am told I don’t look fifty, or move or speak or act like whatever the common understanding of fifty conveys. People are taken aback when they hear my age and they ask, how? Why? Sometimes I say, “cosmetic surgery.” And then I wait for a beat, until they guess that I am joking . Or not.
I think there are three reasons why I feel so physically young these days:
The number one true answer is just one word and you know what it is: bicycle. The bike keeps my body strong and engaged, blood pumping strong, and eyes wide open in childish wonder.
Number two is, I do work that uses my entire body. Not hard labourâ€”at 5’0 and 105 lbs I’m not made for that. But gently moving, stretching, changing position…not sitting slumped at a screen all day…makes a huge difference in my well-being.
Number three is, my meditation practice. The psychological benefitsâ€“focus, relaxation, easeâ€“are well-documented. But I have been surprised by how this gentle internal yoga of minding breath and posture makes me stronger in my core, and more relaxed and supple through my whole body. It’s that Zen thing 😉
But more than physical practices, I suspect my weird resistance to aging is based on simple refusal to get old. Rejecting the social constrictions of age, I have never learned how to walk like a lady or sit like a grownup, hips fused and legs crossed primly at the knee. I don’t wear high heels or tight jeans that restrict my movement. I don’t suffocate my skin with makeup. I sit in the grass, play with the air, dance with my shadow, sprawl like a starfish on a sunny rock. I feel the world through all the pores and planes of my body. My body responds by staying curious, sensitive and alive.
Don’t get me wrong hereâ€”it’s not that I don’t feel the challenges of an aging body. Things don’t work the way they used to. My brain doesn’t work as quickly or as sharply as it did once upon a time, and sometimes I feel like my memory has gone to shit (or maybe there is just too much now to try to remember). But at the same time, I am seeing the gifts of a maturing mind. At fifty I feel that I am finally, truly, embracing my path of childlessness and singledom; learning to treasure my own company as a deep and not an in-between state. I’m still open to lovers and partners, and I cherish the company of friends. But with the shift of hormones I no longer feel like I should go to social occasions, the imperative to meet and to mate, is gone. The din of human voices wears on me. What I really want now, most of the time, is just to focus on my practice and care for my home. There is no more should to what I will do.
A wise woman told me, it is all about slowing down time. It really is all about that.
Time will move far too quickly no matter what we do. Killing time is the most tragic of homicides. When we lie on our deathbed there will be nothing in the world we would not give for just one more moment waiting in a checkout line or flossing our teeth, or biking the long way home in the soft summer darkness. All those leapfrogged moments, seconds slaughtered and tossed aside between here and thereâ€”there’s no getting them back. Time is not to be killed! Every millisecond is to be explored, minded, respected, dissected, turned over on the tongue and sucked like a juicy fruit. Still and ever more so.
At fifty, just this.