Yesterday I was in the pool just finishing up my workout (and by workout I mean an easy, long, slow mile that took way too long). I was feeling like a crazy, awesome swimmer, basking in my mad workout skillz, when a young NBAC coach came over and asked me to move to the next lane. What he actually said was “Ma’am, would you mind moving over?” He could have said, “You Fat Cow with a lousy breaststroke, would you mind moving over?” and it would have stung less.
I’ve been called “Ma’am” before. I mean, I’m 45, so a few “Ma’am”s are going to be directed your way when you were born during the Johnson Administration.
But I’ve never been called “Ma’am” in the pool. Usually people think I’m younger than I am because I was a competitive swimmer (so the fact that I can do flip turns fools people), and people can’t tell much when you are submerged in water with a cap and goggles hiding the physical evidence of the passage of time.
But yesterday, even with the latex cloaking devices I employed, this coach saw through the facade.
So now I enter the phase of life where “Ma’am” is who I am in the pool.
Aging is an interesting process. We are all aging, everyday. You just don’t think about it when you are under a certain age. Little things remind you of the passage of time. Like being called “Ma’am.” Or attempting an athletic move you could do 20 years ago, without regard to the decades-long gap between that ill-conceived cartwheel or bike jump (I’ve done both).
The key, I think, is to ask yourself why these reminders of aging sting. I think it has to do with our days being numbered (which is true and inevitable) and our romanticizing the past (which is also inevitable but usually flawed).
As for the days being numbered, it is hard to conceive this as a blessing. But it is. I don’t want to be 200 with a body to match. Visit your local nursing home and you’ll see people only 90ish who are tired and in pain. And for those with faith that something greater awaits us, while it is hard to desire that greater something now, the truth of its existence balances our desire for the here and now.
As for romanticizing the past, when confronted with a skill I used to have but no longer can pull off without an accompanying medical bill, I have to ask myself a series of questions. Would I really want to go back to the age when I could do that cartwheel? I wouldn’t. I want to see my children, and they weren’t around then. I want to pursue my consulting work, which I was too ignorant and immature to pursue then. I want to talk to my husband every day, whom I did not know at the height of my bike jumping mastery.
So the next time I’m called “Ma’am” in the pool, and there will be a next time, my goal is to remind myself that the passage of time and the aging process are good. And then I’m going to write a blog post in an effort to practice what I preach.