I turned 58 on Wednesday. What is this, this 58 in the year 2023?

When I was a kid, my great aunts were 58, old ladies with the jewel encrusted cat eye glasses and lambswool coats. They smelled like face powder and got their hair “done” once a week, sleeping in curlers and hair nets every night.

They also apparently liked to wear silk and pearls and party in the basement, but that’s another story. (That’s my grandmother on the left. I think she was in her 40s there).

I had a facetime call with my cousin and his wife a couple of weeks ago. “Gosh you two look like Creedes as you age,” she said. The genes that sift to the front as the skin gets less elastic, as everything softens.

I’m away this week, a kind of holiday/ self-structured writing retreat in Sarajevo. A beautiful and friendly city, in a bowl of mountains, scarred with bullet holes and memorial “roses” created out of red paint and bomb scars. The war wasn’t long ago. It’s chilly this week, and Bosnians are relentless smokers. As a result, cafés aren’t quite as welcoming as I’d hoped. After dinner my first day, the smoke blocked my tear ducts and I had to put warm compresses on my eyes to stop my eyes from streaming.

I’m working on a book — finally — because did you know, I’m not getting any younger.

On my birthday, I decided to do a series of 108 sun salutations. I’ve done this a few times, to mark transitions, usually when I’m traveling, sometimes on the solstice guided by a teacher. I’m in a perfectly nice international hotel but the gym is utilitarian and doesn’t have a lot of floor space, and the carpet in my room makes my yoga mat fold up weirdly. So I negotiated my way into a little room off the edge of the sparsely-used spa area (a steam room and sauna and a room with white lounges no one has used since I’ve been here). The spa ladies seemed concerned that I would disturb people with my yoga. I promised not to disturb anyone, blinking my eyes still red from secondhand smoke.

I pushed a table aside and set myself up in the bright corner room, snow fluffing down outside. I scavenged a towel, paper and pen to keep track of my sets and a plastic cup of water.

What does it mean to be alive in this body, right now?” I thought, as I started. An intention of sorts.

I did sets of 12. The first set was fluid, fast, lithe. “This body is GOOD,” I thought. “I AM STRONG.” A tiny break for water.

Another set of 12. Then another. A little slower, the chatarangas less confident, a tiny bit more collapsey. But I was still hopping back with both feet, making my way back to the top with a hop. Little drips of sweat were hitting my mat periodically. This body is capable. When I paused, 36 seemed like quite a lot. The thermostat on the wall, I noticed for the first time, said it was 30 C.

A pause for water, then another two sets. Right around the same time that I passed 58 — my age, a place I could stop and still consider it a meaningful set — my body answered the question I’d asked. What is it like to be in this body today? Being alive in this body right now is glorious, is lucky, is strong. I have breath, autonomy, health. So much strength. Grit. A great centre of balance.

And it’s aging. Time does things. It’s not the same body even as it was when I turned 55, when I deadlifted 200 pounds. Part of that is COVID — I haven’t really been in a gym in three years. But I’m active every day, yoga and walking and cycling, indoor and out. I’m fit. I walk fast and confident. I cycle hard and far.

And. My skin is crepey and dry and sags when I’m in plank. My body shape is just generally more “middle aged,” belly and boobs and arms thicker despite the underlying muscle. My two auto-immune skin conditions have been plaguing me. I can’t digest the way I could before. My asthma is only vaguely managed, especially in a city of smokers. My eyelids are sagging and I might need that surgery to keep them from blocking my vision. My teeth are fragile and — I hate to admit it — kind of stained, despite regular cleanings and my relentless toothbrushing.

I am an awesome, glorious being, strong and fierce and perseverant. I’m wiser than I have ever been, more settled in my life, happier in my work, creative in my day to day life. Conscious of and connected to my community. Living a meaningful life. Robust and strong and energetic. And I’m aging. It is a thing. Bodies don’t hold still in time. We can nourish them and strengthen them and pamper them, and let them sleep — and we are also in the bodies we are in. And it’s okay.

Somewhere in the 5th and 6th sets of sun salutations — I just had no choice about slowing down. I paused more. I started to modify a little, stepping more instead of hopping. By the 9th set, I just could not chataranga anymore, so I lowered myself to cobra instead. Softly shifted to downward dog. Still beautiful. Modified and present.

I broke the last two sets of 12 into three sets of 8. I hadn’t eaten enough and my blood sugar was dropping. It was hot. I went into child’s pose between these sets, body no longer so willing, but the ferocity of spirit took over. “Ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.” Bruce Springsteen flickered through my head.

I did the last two sun salutations slowly, mindfully, gratefully. My body is glorious. My body is aging. My body is glorious.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who normally lives in the part of the world we now call Toronto, which is Treaty 13 territory signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Here they are around set three.

5 thoughts on “58.

  1. Just to warn you…I am finding 70 to be a pretty significant age. I don’t feel old as much as I realize it sounds old. Yup, I’m old now. And it hits me at odd moments…my god, I’m 70 years old…

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