Over the Hill and Picking Up Speed

Sliding down hill

Sliding down hill and picking up speed

For the first time in my life, yesterday, I felt “middle-aged.” And I actually said it aloud. What prompted me to say that? Flying like a projectile down an icy slope on a slippery piece of plastic–that’s what did it. That’s what made me utter the words, “I feel middle-aged.”

I think I usually feel about ten or twelve. But the fear of getting hurt that arose last night when sliding down, what in effect is a fairly minor hill, felt forty-five. That fear was a curious sensation and I know I’d heard others express it. I checked it out. Perhaps it was there because things take a bit longer to heal now than they used to. Perhaps it was there because as my brain seems to work slower, the world goes by in seemingly greater speeds. Perhaps it was the presence of that series of bumps carved into the slope by previous human projectiles that could launch me unexpectedly (and more importantly awkwardly) into the air. Or perhaps it was that after a lovely celebratory dinner complete with libations, the last thing on my mind was cruising downhill on a toboggan.

I overcame my post dinner food coma induced inertia and made my way to Pippy Park with the group. “How did this slope get so steep in the past few years I wondered?” Marian and I loaded up a toboggan together and with a big push from one of her sons, joined the masses screaming down the hill. It was at the bottom of the hill, after narrowly missing several folks climbing up, that I uttered those famous words. “I feel middle-aged.”

With each successive run down the hill, the feeling of fear gave way to laughter. And more laughter. We became a pile of humanity jiggling with joy at the bottom of the hill (having narrowly avoided the tree or flying out onto a yet, unfrozen Long Pond.) Perhaps too, the other feelings that arise as I notice my body/being aging these days (sometimes in spurts, other times in steady, what seems like decline), will transform to a place of acceptance, appreciation and joy. I read an article in The Economist the other day that shows across many cultures, that people tend to get happier after the age of 45. That 45 is the bottom of a U-shaped curve and it’s all looking up from here.

With each slide down the slope, I was transported back to times as a kid when higher was better and higher and faster was twice as good and bumps were to be courted rather than steered around. And being a human yoyo whipped around behind the snowmobile was the best. Being outdoors in the winter, skating on the lake, skiing or sledding down hills, driving the snowmobile for hours, and just laying on the ice looking up at millions of stars lighting up the black long winter night are memories and experiences that I am so grateful to have had. They are also what drives my passion as an outdoor educator, wanting to ensure that the generations of children growing up behind me have access to the rosy cheeks, wet mittens, and shared joy that comes from being outdoors in winter.

Thanks and Happy Birthday to Adrian for the invite to get off the comfy couch and enjoy a great Canadian winter pastime and to gravity for providing yet another life lesson in how fear often transforms into a gift of understanding.

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2 Responses to Over the Hill and Picking Up Speed

  1. Shelagh Egar says:

    It’s actually a relief for me to hear you say that. Sometimes, I think it’s just me who feels apprehensive about doing something I always did and I think “what a wuss I am”. Maybe not, we’re just acknowledging that we’re a wee bit older than we once were and we need to look after these bods of ours. (Of course, I’m a LOT older than you!) Glad you had such fun with a good old-fashioned winter pastime.

    • TA Loeffler says:

      No…you’re not the only one. So often we all think that we are “the only one” in whatever it is we are feeling. It’s always such a relief to know others have similar experiences. One of the most powerful Buddhist teachings I ever heard was “You are not special, separate or singular.” It especially rung true in the “I’m not special” realm, not in the direction of ego but in the direction of struggle. We all struggle in various ways on various days and I find it helpful to remember I’m by no means the only one. Have a good one. Thanks for sharing!

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