|My favourite photograph of the young/old divide.|
The podiatrist was very nice and very funny. She referred more than once to "naughty shoes", her expression for high heels. Like a G.P. suggesting to his heavy-drinking patient that he cut down, the pod suggested that I wear high heeled shoes only once a week. As it happens, I haven't worn high heeled shoes in months. What really bothers me is I no longer have a full range of motion. For example, I will never do Pilates planks again.
"I wish someone would tell me I could never do Pilates planks again," joked the pod, which I thought was taking the bedside manner just a bit too far.
It seems to me that aging brings a trade-off. When you are young, you usually have an enormous capacity for physical prowess, but you may feel terribly conflicted, thwarted, frightened and self-doubting. When you are older, your body starts breaking down, but you feel more certain, wily, courageous and confident. Sometimes you are richer, too, but not necessarily. I dreamed as a teen that at forty I'd be swanning about in designer clothes. No, alas. I picked the wrong career for that.
When I am confronted with a problem associated with aging (or, in the case of the bunion, the simple passage of sufficient time for the ailment to become an issue), I am deeply grateful to my younger self for having taken up athleticism at the relatively late age of 25. Should I get Parkinson's I will no doubt regret my boxing days, but right now I am delighted that I worked my body so hard in my late twenties and early thirties. I was so full of energy, I could run from the boxing club uphill to my apartment about five kilometres away after the two hour boxing workout that had followed my 9-5 job. I was not a happy young woman, but I was using what I had. I am grateful, too, that at 27 I paid a professional photographer friend-of-a-friend to take photos of me. At the time, I thought I would be able to figure out who I was better through the eyes of an artist. Now I'm happy I have reminders of what I was once like: fit, young, furious.
Naturally I think younger readers should do this too. I do not mean glamour shots! The point is not to make yourself look like someone else but to meditate upon who you are (and then later on who you were). In most of my photos I am wearing an oatmeal-coloured jumper. The only ones I still have are in black-and-white. Occasionally I look at my scowling, comparatively beautiful, black-and-white 27 year old face and feel great compassion for that young woman, who found scowling a tremendous relief after years of well-bred social smiles. Sometimes smiling gets you into more trouble than it gets you out of.
I also think younger readers should get out more. Get up at 6. Go for a run. Take up the heavy weights. Take up dancing. Go backpacking across Europe during your two week vacation from work. Go train at a boxing gym. Go to a late-night club with friends, dance until dawn, have an early-bird brunch, go to bed at 9 AM. Go, go, go. Push yourself because one day you may want to and then find out that you can't. If you have never discovered your physical limits before, that will be a sad day.
Age does not put an end to physicality, of course. Indeed, it is more important to be active as you get older, even if you cannot match the committed young in ability. I'm very curious as to how my body will react to this temporary low-calorie, low-GI diet and to how it will cope with a 70 mile pilgrimage. (Yesterday I was in a raging temper, so I know how my mind likes the diet.) I'm quite excited, really, and going for a long hike is a lot more fun than Pilates planks anyway.