“We’re not as young as we used to be”, I said, picking at my salad.
I don’t mean to imply that I’m at the end of my rope or my time or some other metaphor that indicates there’s nothing left for me – I loathe people who think that, and intend never to be one of them. However, there are certain realities that I am learning I need to accept about myself and my body as I age.
I used to be indestructible. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. I used to be able to go without sleep for days and still be chipper and alert. I used to be able to handle tremendous stress without breaking a sweat (or so I remember it with my rose-colored glasses). When I got to college this began to change – I gained weight, I started feeling down when I didn’t sleep, and I started having anxiety attacks when I was caught in one of those inescapable inbetweens of which college is full. At the time I wrote it all off as part of the necessary evil that was college, I scrapbooked it all, and I moved on. I moved back to Farmington, and then I moved to New York. But not without all that baggage.
When I commented about us not being so young anymore he smiled – he knew. He of all people should know – he’s a person who beat his body to hell and back, and sometimes it amazes me that he’s actually still here today. And while it makes sense to me that a person who has pushed every limit of their body – from drugs and alcohol to over-working and over-stimulating – should have to live some tempered version of their former life, it baffles me a little that I should have to as well. I’ve always prided myself on pushing myself to the breaking point – but never beyond. I’ve always known exactly where my limits were, and exactly how far world be too far and that’s how far I wouldn’t go. There’s a very fine line between insanity and unbelievable success, and I’ve made an art of walking that tightrope.
But I guess walking a tightrope is always a balancing act, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. And especially with age, keeping that balance become both more difficult and more important. In my first few weeks here I pushed and pushed and pushed. I piled on tons of pressure and perfectionism with not a lot of sleep, and compounded it with caffine and the gustatory delights of New York – rich food and drink almost every day. At least I’m on my feet all day, I told myself to justify the calories and in an attempt to make it seem like I doing something healthy for my body. But then I crashed. I got sick, started crying randomly and for very strange reasons (getting on the wrong train, being late for a brunch-date etc.), and couldn’t sleep because my heart and mind were racing at the speed of light. I spent two nights in a row lying awake until 5am, only to get up a few hours later hacking and sniffling and head to work to run up and down and up and down and up and down those damn stairs (our store is essentially 4 floors). And the last two days I’ve felt absolutely awful – physically and emotionally.
But, I have begrudgingly begun to accept that I’m not 16 anymore, and not only does that mean I have to go to work even when it’s sunny outside, but it also means that I have to eat well, keep my drugs of choice (alcohol and caffeine) in check, and sleep every night. And by slowly getting back into these habits I can feel myself turning around.
“Trying to grow up is hurting, you know. You make mistakes. You try to learn from them, and when you don’t, it hurts even more.” – Aretha Franklin