Mid-life crises are the senior equivalent of teenage angst. Kids are struggling to accept an uncertain future while we seniors know what lies ahead. Maybe we consider an affair but soon discover we’re not movie stars and we have about as much sex appeal as Santa Claus. That’s the insult on top of injury as our bodies’ decay rapidly accelerates just as we’re forced to recognize the frailty of life.
My youngest goes years without reading my blog, but she read my last post. The next day, she pulled herself away from Instagram to call me to discuss my apparent body image issues. Dare to publish your thoughts and everyone’s a critic. I defended my life choices while trying to recall what the point was of ever having kids.
Jut kidding of course and seriously, I’ve been enjoying my mid-life crisis for a good ten years. A few years past the starting line and fully warmed up, I found my stride with cancer at 51. Physically, the carcinomas were totally treatable, as many are when detected early, but that’s not to say it didn’t mess with my head. After sporting a buzz cut for the previous decade, I let my hair grow out and went on a serious racing binge, training between sixty to a hundred miles per week for several years. I even attained a flat stomach like the senior heartthrob Daniel Craig.
Of course, I never called it a mid-life crisis. I preferred the euphemism of being on a vitality kick. It’s pretty obvious I was chasing my vanity by growing long hair but I could always argue running more miles than I ever did in my youth was truly a healthy hobby. Sort of. Others did point out that anything over 30 miles was possibly counterproductive to good heart health. I’m going to start calling this the fall season of my life. And fall is my favorite time of year.
Women don’t get enough credit for having mid-life crises. The physical impact of menopause overshadows the emotional bankruptcy of a mid-life crisis. But for all their differences, men and women are mostly the same. There was this woman, looked to be in her sixties, race-walking or power hiking the Boulder Marathon two weeks ago. I started in the very back of the pack and found myself passing other runners throughout the event, but I didn’t catch her until mile seventeen. And it took me forever to pass her once I did reach her. You don’t become that fast in your sixties without some obsessive behavior. I wonder what she calls her mid-life crisis.
I ran this morning on the East Boulder Trail, my go-to course when I feel like running hills. I think I’m finally in shape enough to begin running with my local running group and almost did today but couldn’t make time for their schedule. They ran today along the Mesa Trail, a hard-packed dirt trail hanging off the Boulder flatirons like a shelf of brown grasses and pine. They’re my age and I like to listen to their talk of athletic injuries as if running was responsible for our bodies’ decay. A hard-earned lie we can share over a local craft IPA. I miss that and will make an effort to run with them again soon.
We’ve chosen to define our life’s decline by feeling it. Not through the false love of an affair but from the thrill of our cheeks and bare legs pushing past forty degree air on a mountain slope. We drown the subsequent aches in a tub of hot water and epson salts afterward, and like a phoenix the inflammation rises to haunt us as we step out of bed the next morning. That pain is our compass guiding us, cairn to cairn, through this lifetime tunnel of wear and tear and with a runner’s grace, it will carry us toward what lies ahead.