One of the assignments we were given during my last yoga certification weekend was to figure out what we wanted to bring to the mat as a teacher. We called it our "stand" and we had to edit it down to a single statement elevator pitch. This wasn't an easy task for me. I was kind of all over the map with it.
Eventually, and with a lot of help, I narrowed it down to, "I stand for aging authentically." After we had that done, we then had to figure out where we were not living up to our stand. Once we figured it out, we had come up with one action item that would help us correct that disconnect.
This blog entry is my action item.
When this photo was taken, I could make box-jumps onto a 24" platform. I could do step-ups and walking lunges with a 30 pound weight in each hand. I could fully balance while standing on a 12 pound med ball. Pretty awesome, I know.
And now to the purpose of this entry. The part where I'm not being true to my stand.
I've gained 5 pounds since that photo was taken and I'm not happy about that. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't keep me up at night, but when I'm working out, this is the ideal self that drives me to work hard. So hard in fact, that I have on occasion injured myself. As is the case right now.
8 weeks ago, with the photo in the back of my mind, I put together a very difficult training session for myself. It was a program of heavier weights, challenging core work and plyometrics.
The day after a tough work out is always filled with soreness, but this time I knew I had done some damage. I had unusually sharp back pain, concentrated in my lower back.
A trip to the chiropractor confirmed that I had inflamed all the ligaments attached to my sacrum. Not a good diagnoses, for sure. If there's one thing I've learned in my various trainings, it is the sacrum is not something you want to mess with.
I've been in therapy since then. It's looking good. I'm almost pain free but I can still feel it and I will have to be very careful for the foreseeable future.
So how does all this tie into my stand on aging authentically?
If I'm going to stand for aging authentically, I have to accept that in all probability I will never be the woman in the photo again. With each passing year, that ideal will drift further and further away.
People say that age is just a number. And while that is a nice thought, it's most definitely a lie we tell ourselves.
I've never heard it stated better than by my friend, Jan.
Several years ago, while listening to her beautiful, statuesque daughter complain about the various parts of her body she was unhappy with, Jan suddenly couldn't listen to anymore. She blurted out, "You're being ungrateful! It doesn't get any better than right now! Ten years from now, you will wish you had the body you are complaining about right now! And, twenty years from now, you will look back and wish you had the body you had ten years before!"
Such profound wisdom.
The reality is that no matter how hard I work, no matter how carefully I take care of myself, aging is a real process which will make an irreparable mark on me. Just as today, I wish I had the body I had four years ago, four years from now I will look back with fondness on the body I have today.
Even as I keep working out and lifting, my 63 year old self will not be able to do the things that my 53 year old self can today. At 73, even more so.
If I really stand for aging authentically, I have to be okay with that. More than that, I have to embrace it.
If I truly believe, as I say I do, that God created human life, then I have to believe that the entire life cycle is a gift from him. The scriptures are clear, everything God creates for his children is somehow for their benefit. (2 Nephi 26: 24)
Maybe in the aging process I am to learn that I have an innate value that has nothing to do with how I look or feel.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: "He hath made everything beautiful in it's time." Therefore, to God I am beautiful at every stage of my existence. As a gardener, I understand this.
My garden is not beautiful only in spring. In the winter, when the bloom fades, I see what lies underneath; the substance and architecture.
Having said all of that, I can now come to my mat ready to truly stand for what I say I stand for.
So, from this moment forward I make a promise to myself and everyone I will teach. I will no longer wound myself chasing an ideal. While I will always do my best to keep my body in the best shape possible, I will accept that my "best shape" is an ideal that will shift as I age.
As my bloom fades, I promise to be an example of substance and depth and to truly trust in the fact that I am beautiful "in my time."
Just for the record though, I can still balance while standing on a med ball. :)