From The Life of a Simple Man, by Emile Guillaumin: "A great weariness, physical and mental, overcame me. At every age there are periods of vexation when everyday miseries seem more intense, when everything conspires to sadden you, when you're weary of the life you lead. But in our declining years these impressions are more bitter and more painful. I was approaching my fifty-fifth year and my face was losing its last color; the white hairs multiplied in my beard and it had snowed heavily on my temples. I could no longer work so hard. ...It's not good to think too much about your fate: it doesn't change anything and it makes you more unhappy."
Being on "restrictions," I've resorted to previous photos from holidays past in Lovely Ouray. It seems there is an unenviable trend going on in my later years besides the "snow" getting deeper about my temples. Breakdowns, both mental and physical, seem to happen during the holidays…the previous one being a herniated disc in my lower spine, and now a herniation in my groin.
I've been fortunate to indulge many pleasures and passions in life. They didn't come as "gifts," we learned and earned them, just like most of you...standing in "line," waiting our turn, working hard and playing harder. The physical toll doesn't really begin to show up until later, which, for me, unfortunately, is now. If it's not bad luck, then I'm the sickest healthy person I know (sigh). Ye Gods, Mother was right after all, forewarning that I would live to regret "hard living," not the least of which were indiscretions during the 60's and 70's.
But we are who we are; grey nosed dogs trying to do old tricks better suited for puppies. If that is taken from me, then please, go ahead and take me too. A lifelong athlete losing his physical abilities is akin to a scholar with oncoming symptoms of Alzheimer's. They see and feel it happening, they know where it ends, but theres not a damn thing that can be done about it. So we try to face aging with attitudinal dignity, but how many times can one say "It could be worse" before it rings hollow? It is a truth forced upon survivors, and like bad company, it revisits more and more as time continues its steadfast march.
This Christmas morning I sit by a warm fire, amongst decorations, and presents, eager to be unwrapped. Aromatic gifts of baked pumpkin pies and a roasting turkey scent the house…all courtesy of the finest woman a man could ever hope for. I count blessings and look for some light in my "holding cell," amused by the battle between positive and negative thoughts. "Mark! Soon enough, a surgeon will patch the hole in your abdomen, admonish you to try and live a kinder gentler lifestyle, and off you'll go to Arizona to recoup and rehab in sunshine and warmth."
It's neither easy nor natural for me to be lazy. Bobbie will need to padlock the 29'er and encourage me to take up more passive pursuits like watercolor, maybe write more. But to an athlete, even an aging one, idleness is a sin. One needs to be able to sweat their Demons out on a good stiff trail.
Until then I'll walk, to be sure...but I'll be dreaming of running, of grunting out long impossible hills on the old Gary Fisher and other forms of challenging amusement most deem torture…until the next breakdown puts me back on "Injured Reserve. "Why?" you ask. Let me answer with a question of my own. Recall the aging scholar. What do you think he would do if told that he could slow the advance of Alzheimer's by not using his brain?
There is a saying, that "those who have tasted of every pleasure in life rarely look happy." What is left to stir one from lethargy and melancholy when the bucket list runs dry...the last dream fulfilled, the last wish granted? What fuels your need to live?
Now if you will excuse me, I'm off to do battle with the Humbugs by scoring a few precious endorphins on a stationary bicycle, trying to remember, it could be worse.
On that cheery note, Bobbie and I wish you the Merriest Holiday and New Year of your lifetime. Now get outdoors for a pre-feast hike, dream a new dream, and go easy on the eggnog :)).