Becoming 70 ~ Not over any hill yet

19 02 2016

Recently, for some reason – Could be my upcoming 70th birthday? – I’m surrounded by reminders of age– a topic I’ve not actively entertained since reaching that milestone of official “adulthood” at age 21. (Although I did have a bout of depression when I was 25: quarter of a century. Yikes!)

But now. Approaching 70?! WTF??!! That’s old.

“Fifty is the new thirty.” “Sixty is the new forty.” But seventy??!

Seventy.

Others’ perceptions of aging — or my reality?

One of this year’s many Birth Month Celebrations on Becoming 70. Or, as my daughters put it: Approaching 21° C

At 70, my life is certainly not “over.” I inherited longevity genes. My mom died at 96 – healthy until the week prior to her death. Lucid ‘til the last day, she reminded me to pay her estimated taxes. Her mother died at 98.

I plan to live every day until the day I don’t.

Zipline over Mexico’s Copper Canyon during my five-day solo train trip a few years ago. “I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by fireside and simply look on.” Eleanor Roosevelt

I am, however, noticing disturbing bodily evolutions: in rummaging through family photos – I am my mother – my nose becoming a hook, the errant gray hair on my chin mole, neck wrinkles, crazy knots on my knuckles, thick around the middle…. Not that these are totally bad things – but – for God’s sake – -this was my mother. She was old.

I’ve lived a fulfilled life of joys, a few disasters (lessons), and exceptional adventures and memories. Yet – at 70, I’m not resting on these dubious laurels and contemplating past glories from the comfort of my rocker. I’m busy creating new memories in my glorious Now.

Let’s do another 5K run/walk – ride a river raft through the Grand Canyon – or do another just-for-fun Mud Run. Maybe climb another Colorado 14er.

Takes me a tad longer now, but I can still do it.

I travel. A lot. Maximizing standby flight “mom privileges” through my daughter with American Airlines — and particularly relish the quality time  with my incredible Granddaughters.

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Sophia Loren

There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Sophia Loren

I’m taking language classes, practice yoga and Pilates, and regularly trek up/down the hills of my city.

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I have a younger partner/boyfriend/significant-other. And yes. Peter, my Boy Toy, and I are sexually active. (Shame on Kaiser who stops providing pap smears with annual check-ups at age 60!)

Peter and I plan to fly to England to visit his sister, take a river barge, and explore Europe. We want to visit Viet Nam and Thailand. We’ve driven across magnificent Mexico several times and, this year, we will experience more of its off-the-beaten-track side roads and mountain paths astride his Moto Guzzi motorcycle.

We have intelligent, well-traveled, interesting friends of diverse ages and nationalities with whom we regularly share stimulating conversation as well as travel adventures.

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We laugh. A lot. Every day.

We live on the side of a hill in the vibrant city of Guanajuato in central Mexico. With seven universities and Festival Cervantino, the largest music and arts festival in all of North America, Guanajuato has an abundance of young energy. Yet, my hero is the lady hobbling up the callejón/alley using her walker.

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Ten years ago, to honor my 60th birthday, I got my first (and only) tattoo. Not certain what “act of rebellion” I’ll do at 70. Perhaps I’ll use my travel benefits to circle the globe.

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Tattoo to celebrate Becoming 60.

No. I’m not ignoring the possible physical limitations of the future. I am not, however, defining myself by them.

To date, each of my decades has surpassed the one before. I’m not over any hill yet. I’m just approaching the pinnacle and anticipate exploring the adventures and peaks ahead.

Exploring peaks. Literally. This month, to experience the hundreds-of-thousands of Monarch butterflies in Michoacán, Mexico, friends and I rode horseback up the mountain Cerro Pelón  and then, at around 10,000 feet, hiked the last kilometer which was was too steep for the horse.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? Satchel Paige

Inside, I’m the same me I was at age 30, 40, 50.

Or not.

Actually, I’m an ever-improving version of me.

Since I’m in a reflecting mode, I’ll honor a few of the life-altering shifts of recent years. My catalyst for major change originated with a motivational seminar which led to Master Mind groups, introspection, study, and gut-wrenching work to release ridiculous guilt. This allowed me to become the “Inevitable Me” whom I love unconditionally. Then — making the leap to sell my Colorado home and possessions to move to Mexico — enjoying being an unencumbered single woman living in a beachside paradise – then saying “Yes” to sharing the remainder of my life with the man who is truly my joy, inspiration, and soul mate — and moving to Guanajuato, a city snuggled within the Sierra Madre mountains of central Mexico.

And now?

Among the activities, I’m gifting myself time to appreciate each day’s abundance and joy.

Peter and I relish “kitten time” with two little darlings we rescued from the back of an abandoned pick-up truck. Mimi Mews (my Muse?) will snuggle down, mew a bit, pummel my neck with her soft paws, then stretch her little toes. Very endearing. But, even ten years ago, I would probably not have paused to allow this, let alone appreciate it.

Mimi Mews

Mimi Mews

And flowers. We enjoy our Pot Garden on the patio. No, not that kind of pot, although we did have a healthy plant prior to harvest.

Yes. Life is different now than when I was 30.

It’s better. Much better.

"You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old." George Burns

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns

“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.”
Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

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I Will Die Living

18 08 2013

One could call me a Retirement Hedonist — living on the Riviera Maya in Mexico, strolling the beach, enjoying yoga, playing with my Grand Babies, exploring my Inner Being, doing some travel….

So why did I sign up for a Spartan Obstacle Race?

Because my daughter Leslie, a Spartan Pro Elite Racer, encouraged me, and my doing this seemed important to her. It also involved a trip to Portland to visit Jessica, my other daughter. And. It was a few months away. No immediacy.

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A great opportunity for Mom-Daughter Time.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’d done The Dirty Girl run twice – great muddy fun. Spartan couldn’t be that much different – could it?

Oh, my.

Leslie’s in the first heat, so we arrive early at the Washougal, Washington, race site. A Spartan Flag flutters and the sun emerges, illuminating the hover of fog over a blanket of lush green. A volunteer waves the way. Race Day.

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Race day.

Observing preparations and absorbing the palatable energy– I realize,

“Damn. These people are serious.”

Elite Pro Women.

Elite Pro Women.

A few of Elite Pro Men.

A few of Elite Pro Men.

 I’m registered for the second day of this two-day event. Saturday, I’m photographing my daughters as they abuse their sculpted bodies and watching them push themselves beyond previously unknown limits.

Leslie:

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Jessica:

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Shell-shocked, I’m secretly scheming:

How can I get out of this? What the hell was I thinking?!

And toward the end of that Saturday:

I can do this. I don’t care how long it takes. I WILL do this.

 Or. Die trying.

Actually: I will die living.

(My new mantra.)

Sunday arrives. Leslie competed with the Pros again and intended to also go again with me. That would entail her completing this rigorous event three times in two days. But she aggravated an old injury, and following her first-place finish, she could barely hobble. The previous day, she lost concentration on the last obstacle, falling off the Traverse Wall. Thus, 30 burpees and dashed hopes of finishing in the Top Three.Leslie ProSpartan Page Header - Version 2

So Jessica – who crossed the finish line 38th of the more than 1000 women who competed on Saturday  – was designated “to look after Mom.”

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The scenery in Washington is glorious. Washougal is nestled in majestic trees and rolling hills (mountains!). The race began with a Tony Robbins/Military style pep rally, “You are a Spartan! Look to the left of you. Look to the right of you. These are your Fellow Spartans! You will not fail! Aroo!”

And we’re off into a burst of smoke bomb.

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Let’s be honest here. I do not run. I walk. But for the sake of image and race photos – I do the obligatory sprint across the Start line. Then settled into my trudge up – severely up – the first half-mile. Across vistas, through trees and the first obstacle: hurdles. Not so bad. If you don’t count form.  All followed by a treacherous rocky-slidey down the same mountain.

While Dirty Girl involves climbing towers of tires, Spartans flip, drag, and push them. Spartans also do the Atlas Carry involving a 60-pound cement block and a requisite five burpees. They carry sand bags up a mountain, then back down. And walls and hurdles, over-unders, and a massive slip-n-slide into frigid muddy water. Dirty Girl had us boosting each other up stacks of straw bales and scrambling through a bit of squishy mud. This Spartan Sprint – only 5k (a loooong 3.5 miles) with 18 obstacles – had us crawling/slipping/grasping/sliding under (real) barbed wire for a full quarter-mile. Uphill. For starters.

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Then. Grab this chain – it’s fastened to a cement block. And get one of those logs. Take them around those trees and back. Together? At the same time? How far?

Leslie calls this the Toddler Obstacle – not totally unlike carrying a sleeping baby while dragging a screaming toddler and balancing bags of groceries. For her: static items such as chains, cement, logs –no problem.

“Need some help, Mom?”

I can do it.

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Although I did accept a “leg-up” for a couple of particularly tall wall-climbs.

I’ve watched my 3- and 5-year-old Grand Daughters shinny up rope cargo ladders at the playground. Those climbs, relative to their heights, must have been just as daunting. In my mind, I can hear 5-year-old Lucy: “You can do it, Nana. Watch me.” But this ladder strung between trees was at least 30-feet high. No safety net — Oh shit. I’m up. Now I have to get my leg over?! — And then, back down.

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I could feel Jessica’s nerves. (Is Mom going to panic and freeze? How do I get her down?)

Oh, ye of little faith. I am doing this. All of this.

I will die living.

Carl Jung wrote about the four archetypes, four stages, that we as humans move through during our adult lifetime:  Athlete (we are preoccupied with our appearance).  Warrior (out to conquer the world and emerge ahead of anyone in the way).  Statesman (our focus turns to serving others to make the world a better place).  Spirit (we realize that we are infinite spiritual beings having a temporary human experience).

My daughters are beautiful, amazing Warrior Women.

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Leslie St. Louis

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Jessica Dover

I’ve also been a Warrior in my own way, raising them, starting and managing my own successful business. And now, I’m relishing my life of being part of, rather than conquering, the world.

And no. I hadn’t trained enough. No way could I even try the rope climb. And I fell flat on my back attempting the Inverted Wall. (Jessica helped me by doing 15 of my 30 burpees for that failed obstacle.) I almost hit the target with the spear throw (“almost” doesn’t count). And perhaps I could have done the Traverse Wall, but not after all the other trudging, crawling, swimming, hurdling, slithering, sliding, climbing that day …. So overall I did about 75 burpees– albeit modified, very slooooow ones.

But. I did it.

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And finished #1 in my age group.

This statistic would be so much more impressive if I could omit the fact I was the only person in my age group (others had more common sense?). However, in this year’s race season, there have been 11 of us Spartans aged 65-69.  Currently, I rank #5.

To add further perspective: On this Sunday, Leslie, a Pro Racer, claimed the First Place female title, clocking in at 50 minutes.  On Saturday, Jessica finished in 1 ¼  hours. The event took me 2 ½ hours.

I can barely move. My knees are raw. Shoulders ache. I limp. I’m still digging mud out of my ears and various orifices.

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In the words of three-year-old Grand Daughter, Sky, who ran a Spartan Kid Race:

“I won!”

Lucy: "I made so many friends in the mud!"

Lucy: “I made so many friends in the mud!”

Sky: "I won."

Sky: “I won.”

Yes. I won.

Not fading away. Living.

So, today?

Do I meditate with a beach sunrise? Or. Attack the world with a Spartan Race?

I will die living.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”   Hunter S. Thompson

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” Hunter S. Thompson

Related Links:

Although Leslie’s website  and Facebook, Colorado Obstacle Racers, targets events in Colorado, it is also a great source of overall information on obstacle racing, human interest stories, and data applicable to life and wellness —          http://www.coloradoobstacleracers.com/index.html

To experience beautiful writing and a valuable perspective on intention, outcomes and success, read the story of 3-year-old Sky, Eye of the Tiger: My Preschooler Won the Spartan Kid’s Race               http://www.coloradoobstacleracers.com/1/category/leslie%20st%20louisa786cd900c/1.html

Spartan Race site:    http://www.spartanrace.com/index.html

Obstacle Racing Media is a new online e-zine dedicated to the sport:         http://obstacleracingmedia.com/





My Past. It Lives in a Tuff Shed.

10 08 2013

Monsters under the bed.

Skeletons in the closet.

My Past lives in a Tuff Shed.

I’ve come to believe that at a certain point, life creates a dichotomy.

A dilemma.

Do I maintain my safe, comfortable, familiar life — remain with status quo?

Or.

Experience the life I dream of?

Things I’ve enjoyed throughout my life: Linens. Shiny baubles. Rusty gadgets. Christmas ornaments. Funky hats. Books. The unique, the no-longer-produced, the weird and the wonderful. Hand-crocheted nut cups from the 1940s. Rosebud Haviland china. Depression glass. Silver-plated pewter. Rosepoint crystal. Ginny dolls (predecessor to Barbie). Headboard beneath which my great-grandmother was born. The round 54” claw-foot table that expands to seat 21 at which my grandmother fed a multitude of harvest hands at Threshing Time — at which I fed a multitude of Fab Fam and friends for numerous Thanksgivings. A lovely home nestled in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.

I also enjoy travel and new experiences. Meeting people. Mountain vistas. Deserted beaches. Sunrises over marshes.  Sunsets on the desert. Undulating fields of wheat. Neighborhood bars in foreign countries. Adventure.  My family and life in Colorado. Friends and lifestyle in Puerto Morelos.  An easy to lock-and-leave, uncluttered, condo near the beach of Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

Precipitated by many of the changes that take place when one proceeds to fifty and beyond, I thoroughly examined and re-invented myself. Actually, with the help of a kick-ass Life Coach, I created the Me I was destined to be.  (Wow. That sounds weighty. )

Growth? Definitely.

Scary? Certainly.

Exciting? Unquestionably.

Worth it? Absolutely.

I sold my business. Bought a condo in Mexico. My husband became ill, then Transitioned. Our family home in Colorado found new owners.

My mother also Transitioned, and my brother (who hadn’t spoken to her in over 40 years) protested her “Irrevocable Trust,” and attacked my integrity as the executor and as her daughter.

All this is now resolved. I am stronger for having had these challenging experiences. I have learned to put things into perspective — to lighten the load — to let go of hurt and anger – to forgive.

During these – and other — upheavals of life, I consciously set a direction:  Simplify my life – release what no longer serves me.

Sounds easy enough. The actual logistics, however, were practically overwhelming.

Take a deep breath. Believe in the Outcome. One step at a time.

Making the decision to release my house – my home for over 20 years – and all the wonderful Stuff in it — was major.

The basement den was delegated for Stuff To Release.

Staring at shelves holding more than 60 years of book acquisitions, here’s a sample conversation with Self:

“I can’t get rid of this book. I love this book.

Mary. Seriously. Will you ever read this book again?

Well. Probably not. Actually. No.

Ever heard of a library?”

Many similar conversations followed by enough trips to Tradesmart, which pays 25-cents to a dollar per book, netted nearly $1000 and a barely a tad of freed-up space.  A beginning.

My daughter Leslie provided the best mantra, “Does this item bring me joy?”

Things that truly bring me joy – into boxes to stash and store.

Gifts to family and friends. Load after load to Salvation Army and women’s shelters. An auction house took two giant truck-loads. Several months later I received an itemized sales list with a not-fat-enough check. Cashed the check, never looked at the list.

And then I inherit my mother’s three-bedroom home with a packed-full-of-stuff two-car garage.

“Children. The time is Now. Take what you want.”

“Mom. We don’t want it.”

I come from a long line of Savers. I have been the repository for All Family Stuff. Thus, in the past year, I have reduced my lifetime of Stuff (No. More accurately: five generations of lifetimes) from two large homes to two 10’x20’storage units. Throughout this time, more sales and give-aways.

Down to only one of these units.

And I still have Stuff.

But as of last month, I’d down-sized to (#1) Stuff That Gives Me Joy and (#2) Stuff I Must Keep, such as tax records, photos, 35-mm slides of family (having discarded thousands of scenic slides early-on).  For me, family photos and slides are “Must Keeps.”

Again and again, I asked myself: Does this item give me joy? Yes.

However. Do I have a place to display, use, or enjoy it? No.

Am I ready to release it? No.

Sigh.

So. Fed up with paying storage rental fees, I invested in a Tuff Shed. Surely my Stuff will fit into 8’x14’.  It does. Barely.

Simplify and Release.

My Stuff has become a metaphor for my life.

I consciously choose:

What to keep.

What to discard.

Stuff.

Ways of Thinking.

Ways of Being.

The Past, of course, is part of Me.

I can bring it out at will.

Rely on it when necessary.

Love it.

Cherish it.

And lovingly tuck it away.

I am neither controlled nor defined by it.

My Past lives in a Tuff Shed.

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