In the last five days I achieved my goal of doing as little as possible. Sort of.
I came to a lovely resort outside Tucson, Arizona, to see the desert in bloom. And to read. A few margaritas might have been in the cards too, to celebrate the end of radiation therapy.
Dogs in tow, I alighted at the Loews – a very pet friendly chain – not sure what to expect. In my mission of trying not to do, I didn’t even have some research under my belt: no restaurants I wanted to visit; no museums; no tourist landmarks that had to be seen. I didn’t even know what, if anything, was a must see in Tucson.
The city is a mixed bag of University of Arizona students, retirees looking for a warm climate and Latino immigrants. The state being one of the next election battlegrounds, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were in the neighborhood. I skipped them both.
My idea of doing nothing still involves physical activity. So off I went for a run on a path snaking along the golf course; I took advantage of the beautiful gym and of the classes they offered, and went hiking in the desert. One thing became clear while I was partaking in all these activities: everyone I came across was older than me. Considerably older.
Ladies in pink, with or without Botox, lunging, lifting, stretching, pulling. Older gentlemen swimming avidly. Tanned 80 year olds running my same path with an ease I couldn’t fake in the intense dry heat.
Sprightly 70 year olds, armed with walking sticks and bandannas, overtaking me as I was scrambling over rocks – how far are the pools? I asked of a group that seemed particularly purposeful.
“Another hour or so.” At that point, I had been climbing uphill for well over an hour. The thought of another hour or more under the sun didn’t seem a possibility: four hours to go see some pools on top of a ridge?
I realized it wasn’t my body that couldn’t do it. As I am writing this at the end of my five days, not a single muscle is screaming bloody murder. I could have kept on pushing my limbs – it was my mind that was refusing to cooperate. Exhausted from the last six month, right now, it wants to be left alone. I thought I was taking a break and recuperating from the tiredness of the experience but, in reality, the exhaustion was all in my head. My body never felt sick or tired. My mind, relentlessly spinning, did.
Sitting on a boulder, debating with myself on whether to press on, I finally decided to leave it alone, to draw a blank, to stop thinking about how much farther I needed to go. I turned back and started the descent.
As time goes by, our joints become less well oiled, our muscles shrink but, just maybe, it is not our bodies that entirely betray us. Could it be more about the limitations of our conscious mind?
Clearly, I can keep on squatting, running and climbing well into my 80s, if I am motivated enough.
There was a white-haired lady at the back of the Toning and Strengthening class who couldn’t have been a day under 80: poised and without breaking much of a sweat, she was swinging her dumbbell, pulling the elastic band with much more ease than the teenager to my right, pink and flushed and sweaty. It made me smile. And it made me happy. As soon as my mind comes back from its forced vacation, that will be the attitude track I want it on.