My latest podcast addiction is Dr. Sharon Blackie’s interviews on Hagitude, The podcast is conversations with a diverse collective of women approaching, experiencing or on the other side of menopause. When it was first suggested to me, I had a moment of What? Who me? Oh no, is that what you think of me? I never lie about my age. And yet, her assumption that it would resonate for me, caught me up short. Brought me closer in on the reality of my age. This is, in fact, a podcast for me, a woman who has gone through menopause. Then, I listened to the podcast. And listened to another episode and another one and so on. Almost everyone had at least a nugget that grabbed my attention. And her interview with Peggy Orenstein was unusually provocative. I found myself questioning them out loud. In the episode, Peggy talks about the need for women, as they age, to keep being curious. To try new things that we aren’t good at. Okay. Yes, and …
My question: what does she mean by new things? As in, brand new? Or might the newness reside in the very act of continuing things we’ve done for years, in a different way, as modified by age. I was thinking, in particular, about our engagement with sports. That special challenge of staying curious and engaged with a sport, maybe especially one we used to be quite good at, when we can no longer perform at the same level. When we are no longer good at the sport.
Sure, yes, there’s age-adjusted this and that. We rate ourselves now strictly against our cohort and might try to ignore the broader category of all women. I was never a terrific athlete. And, I did my share of road races and triathlons in which I placed in the top five among women. Now? That doesn’t happen. In fact, for the most part, I’ve given up participating in races. Age adjusting was not enough of a palliative. Because, the bottom line is that I am no longer as fast and strong and that loss comes with some mourning.
I am grateful that the loss did not make me want to quit, as I have seen (understandably) with many people I know. I am not the only one to miss my younger self. As I listened to Peggy talk about curiosity and new things, it occurred to me that continuing to engage with a long-loved sport is a genuine and valid version of trying something new. The curiosity comes in figuring out how to evolve the relationship with our bodies and the sport. We can truly inhabit the age-adjustment, making a mental shift that solicits our curiosity. And we can do what I did, which was to change the nature of my relationship with, for example, running. I needed to strip out the competitiveness, even and especially with myself. I had to get back to basics. Back to the why.
The joy of being in my body. And that required curiosity.
As a side note, I do also try new things—in the last year I’ve developed a brand, new passion for 5Rhythms dance, which I had never before participated in; and I studied Reiki and got my Level 2 certification, with zero background in prior energy work.
And the universe may be asking me to try quite a few new things in the next months. I’ve recently had a too-close brush with my own mortality (more on that may come in another post). This, too, has required a reset around my physical activity (among other things). I am struggling with the issues that arise around my sense of myself, if I can’t just head out for a double digit run whenever I feel like it. Yes, I am acutely aware that to be able to do that has always been an enormous privilege. And it has been a part of my identity. Who am I, if I am not strong in the way I’ve always associated with my wellbeing? What does strength even mean and how can I redefine it for myself? Questions to be explored with curiosity. In the meantime, my relationship with my existing sports is going to transform into something new for some period of time, which may be forever. And I’m considering whether there are new opportunities for movement I might explore. Tai Chi?