Youth is something we covet the older we get. I remember earlier in my life when I would excitedly count down the days until my birthday, and be thrilled about each additional candle on the cake. Then there were the special birthdays: becoming a teenager, the driving age 16, the R rated movie age 17, then adulthood at 18, and the drinking of 21, even the 25th birthday was celebrated with finally being able to rent a car. Then life was about the big milestones like turning 30, 40, and 50, milestones that would not be as welcomed as the excitement of reaching double digits at age 10. Getting older was much more fun as a child with the increased privileges, but now it’s more wrinkles, aches and pains. It is dealing with graying hair or loss of hair. Even more serious, as we age we are faced with health scares, increased risk for heart disease and cancer. Nothing about any of that is fun. So when I say that I covet youth, it means that I am longing for my young body that could do cartwheels on the grass, topple down the stairs on purpose and get up giggling, and a mind that does not forget what I was looking for or what I was about to say. I miss my younger sprite self.
Yesterday this yearning for youth was brought to the forefront of my mind at my weekly tennis match. My partner and I were warming up against our two opponents. One of the ladies was a large 70 year old woman who wore two knee braces. She was friendly and spirited on this cold fall morning. We were hitting groundstrokes, and as she was going for a ball she tripped and fell. It was clear right away that she had badly injured her wrist, but she was also sprawled out and felt pain in her hip. We ended up calling for an ambulance. She broke her hip along with her wrist, and needed surgery. All day long I kept thinking about this friendly 70 year old woman who eagerly took the court on a crisp cool Wednesday morning, excited to play a sport she had played for years, and in one fall had seriously injured herself. I kept thinking about how a ten year old child would bounce back up from a fall like that. Maybe even a thirty year old would only sustain a sprained wrist from braking her fall. But for a 70 year old, landing on the hard surface of a tennis court was simply too much.
I am surrounded every day by youthful energy in these puppies. They run, chase, fall, wrestle and get back up and do it all over again and again. I remember when our 14 year old Aussie Dot would run around our farm on the weekends. She flew across the fields like a 4 year old dog, but her 14 year old body suffered the brunt of that boundless energy. Dot would be limping by the time Sunday rolled around. In her mind, she must have felt like Koda and Summer do, but her aging body just could not keep up. I can relate to that. I did gymnastics as a very young child, I still feel like I could do a cartwheel, a back bend, or even a somersault. But if I tried this at 53 years old, I am sure I would either fail or get hurt. There are some older women that are the exceptions. My mother, who is 78 years old, still teaches yoga, and does inversions (headstands). I’m not exaggerating. She even likes to do inversions. That inspires me and scares me at the same time. She does not run marathons or play tennis anymore, but back bends and headstands, no problem.
Instead of wishing my aging away or stopping activities because I could get hurt, I need to accept the transformation we make as a part of life. But then I need to put forth effort to do all the necessary things I can to prevent injury and extend participation in the things I love. Flexibility, strength, healthy diet, cardio fitness, sunscreen, rest, sleep, brain exercises and preventative medical care can all contribute to a more positive pathway to aging. While cartwheels (or headstands) may never again be in my repertoire, there are other activities that I can enjoy into my later years, tennis is just one. Koda and Summer need long walks and playtime now and for years to come, so I better take care of myself. They, along with the rest of my family, need a healthy Mama Bear.