Hardly a day goes by when I don’t mention my age to someone. Thirty-one is significant enough that it seems to warrant a great many mentions. And yet, with my lucky genes that make me look about ten years younger, I JOKE about old age, but quite comfortably feel young, dress young, and assume most people think I’m young.
But the moment of truth unhappily arrived two days ago. I was on my annual family vacation in the hills, and the mango tree of my childhood called temptingly to both my very energetic nieces. With a loop of rope attached to a branch, a hoist up by a ten year old second cousin, and they very smoothly swung themselves on to it. They were regularly spotted perched up in the tree.
“Ah, tree-climbing is the best! I think I might try it again.” I’ve been a tree-climber from the age of five, and have spent many happy hours up a tree. I had climbed trees as an adult too, and was quite pleased with myself when other people oohed and aahed at my skill. I had climbed the selfsame mango tree not long before, I thought. Maybe a couple of years ago? Or perhaps five or six years ago? I don’t really remember, I’ve been an adult so long, the years roll into each other.
I approached the tree confidently as the children welcomed me. But something seemed wrong. I feel like the tree seemed larger than it did a few years ago. Wasn’t it supposed to work the other way round? “I’ve done this heaps of times. Piece o’ cake.” But where do I put my foot? There seemed to be no foothold anywhere close by.
My ten-year-old second cousin, a solid little boy, offered me a foothold of his looped hands. Eh, that should work. I’m pretty light. Just hold still, Mikey.
Crash! I brought him down with my tiny frame. Okay, maybe not. Now what? I gazed at the tree, not wanting to give up that easily. Perhaps I could grab the rope and swing my legs up like my niece had?
There are some things in life one just KNOWS. And I KNEW that I did not have the arm strength, body strength, or general flexibility to pull that off. I have never regularly exercised in my life, never lifted weights, and yet have managed most physical exertion fairly easily. I knew I wasn’t fit, but I never felt really UNFIT until that day. (Apart from being winded the other day after just two dances at a wedding.)
My younger brother decided to cheer me on and tell me I could do it. He just couldn’t understand my SURENESS about what I could not do. Probably because he is a mere 25 years of age. He finally gave me a hoist up. I grabbed the branch, and clung for dear life to it. “Aah! I can’t do it! I can’t do this! I’m stuck!” “Are you joking? You’re joking, right?” asked my brother. That’s the problem with regularly being over-dramatic about everything. I assured him about my seriousness about my dilemma by continuing to scream. He finally pushed me up. Not the most graceful moment for someone who tries to avoid awkward situations.
Somehow I got my legs up. Is the same body I’ve owned my entire life? Why won’t it do what I want it to do? I enjoyed my brief moment of glory up in the tree, but couldn’t get any higher than the first fork in the branches. “Angle the camera so I look like I’m higher up!” And then of course, I had to face the descent. How bad could that be? I’m 5’4” and it was probably only a foot more than that. But once again, I was immobilized by fear. I just knew that hanging from the branch by my arms and then dropping was going to be useless because of the aforesaid lack of arm strength. But I had no option. After playing it all out in my head several times, I finally did it, scratched my hands and landed on the ground safely.
I suppose now is when I should seriously start thinking of Couch to 5k, or Zumba, or not sitting on my butt all the time. Or I could just blog about my deteriorating strength. I guess you know which option I’ve chosen today. Welcome, old age.