I went jogging again today. My running schedule could best be described as…sporadic. I’m talking leap year frequency here. Running isn’t my least favorite thing to do, but I can certainly find more fulfilling things to spend my time on. It did remind me that I have a body that can do things, though. In fact, as I get older (such a disgusting phrase), I notice a changing relationship with my body and fitness in general. Naturally, we all age and in the process we have to renegotiate our physical embodiment and the transformations entailed, that makes sense, but what I was not expecting were these complex feelings about it! Feelings in general give me the pee shivers (if you don’t know what that means, here’s a NBC news article about it…yeah that NBC…this is journalism in the 21st century: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/body-odd/pee-shivers-you-know-youre-curious-f688401) and I try to keep things emotionally as close to neutral as possible. Still aging is a complex intersection of factors that, at times, is fascinating, but is often just horrible and an unending reminder of one’s human frailty. Every disaster scenario you’ve heard from your parents and the other aged folk in your life is true…well, kind of.
I won’t bore the tens of people who read this blog with a lengthy register of my ailments, but what I will say is that the older I get, the longer that list gets. There’s nothing really seriously wrong with me in any incapacitating sense, which is great, but it seems like the things that are a bit wonky stay a lot longer these days or just don’t leave at all. That’s a marked difference from only a few years ago when I seemed to be able to recover from even the most debaucherous of weekends within hours. Nowadays, even moderate libation lingers, sludging my body’s ability to function as a productive human well past the following Tuesday! Also, just daily wear and tear on the joints seems to turn into some sort of internal war between the north (my mind: youthful, plucky, witty) and the south (the rest of me…which is losing badly and which will most certainly NOT rise again!). Of course I overdramatize here for effect, but not by much!
Yet, and perhaps more importantly, there is also a new kind of appreciation that I’ve gained for this shell. It’s the only one I’m ever going to have, and that’s hit home with me in more than just an intellectual way lately. As I’m not a total idiot, I certainly was aware that we all grow older and that we have to take care of our bodies for reasons of health and longevity, but what I hadn’t considered was that despite my post-humanist fantasies, I probably won’t live to see the technology that will allow us to really regenerate or upload ourselves. That’s a pity. But, as mentioned, this realization has led me to see my body in a more forgiving way, in a more humane way. Before, my body was something for getting me places, or lifting something, it was functional and built-for-purpose and I honestly hadn’t really thought of it as an integral part of my identity. Now, I’m coming to the understanding that I’m going to have to live with this thing forever. The more I spend time with that though, the more I actually respect my body and the good work it has done for me over the years, and continues to do. Slowly, I’m learning that just as I’d be first in line to voice my support for the preservation of some object of significant historic cultural heritage, I have to become just that vocal of an advocate for my own body — both as a physical presence in material time/space terms, but also as a concept in my mind.
For much of my life, I’ve focused on artistic or academic enrichment and through the luxury of good health, and first world living, was able to effectively ignore the very thing that shows up for me in the world. I’d always been envious of those really sporty people who seemed to get a kick out of physical fitness and all their talk of endorphin highs and such. I never have that! It’s not that I’m sport averse, but I’m only good at two of them, and as I can be quite competitive, those are the only two I stand a chance at winning in and will therefore participate in. I don’t feel better after working out, playing tennis or jogging. Definitely worse. I do quite like winning though. Therefore, I’ve decided to celebrate even minor wins in my journey with my body. I’m going to cultivate compassion and genuine admiration for every way in which my body continues to serve me. I’m going to remember all the climbed steps, the daring jumps, and close calls that my body has absorbed like a champ the next time I start feeling like Tin Man, and rather than curse the pain or make some deprecating remark, say thanks instead.