I am writing this post from our room at a beautiful hotel (the Fauchere) in Milford, PA. David and I have been “on the road” for 11 days now and in 2 more days we’ll be back home and back to what everyone wants to insist is reality. I don’t really understand why we limit our understanding of reality to those parts of our lives where we’re spending our days earning a living (which is why I think folks look at me a bit askance when I say I’m retired) and doing chores … but there you have it. Anyhow, we’ve been having a great time and have enjoyed every day of our road trip. So why am I sitting in a hotel room writing this post instead of out having fun? Good question.
A couple of times David was able to go for a morning run along the banks of the Schuykill River. While he was running I’d find a bench in the sunshine and sit quietly meditating (or reading) looking at the sunshine sparkling on the surface of the water. Beautiful! There were lots of rowing teams practicing and I kept wishing I could rent a kayak and go for a paddle myself. Although I couldn’t find anywhere in Philadelphia to do this we were planning to have a couple of Pocono Mountains days on our drive home and I thought I’d get some kayaking in there. I could hardly wait … this would be my first kayak of the season.
Yesterday we drove as far as Milford. It was hot. It was sunny. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the river was calling out to me. It’s a big river though, and there are only a limited number of places you can get a kayak into or out of it. So when we went to inquire about my kayaking today we found out that the shortest paddle I could do was about 6 miles (or 2.5 hours) in length. Still feeling hopeful about this we bought a few bottles of water, an apple, some nuts … and the plan was I’d paddle away the morning while he took a long run and read the paper. Sounds like a plan right?
We woke up early and I started thinking more about whether or not this was a good plan. You see, I’ve never paddled for more than an hour on my own and so was a little concerned that 2.5 hours was biting off more than I could chew (I’m sure there’s a river metaphor I could use here but can’t think of one). What if I got tired? My back’s been bothering me a bit (too many hours sitting in the car, too many nights sleeping on beds that I’m not used to) and I started wondering what would happen if it hurt while I was paddling and I had no choice but to finish the course … meaning that 2.5 hours was likely to turn into 3.5 or 4 hours with breaks. At breakfast we realized that it was a kind of overcast and cool morning with threatening clouds lurking about (did I tell you I recently took a course from Environment Canada and am now an official weather tracker?). And so I made a decision (as you might have gathered by now since I’ve already told you that I’m sitting in a hotel room writing). I will not kayak today! This was no easy decision to make though.
Many years ago I bungee jumped. It was my older son Josh’s birthday and what he wanted to do was bungee jump. In a local parking lot there was a bungee jump set-up and so I made that his birthday present. Of course my younger son Motti also wanted to jump, so I included him too. That left me. “Come on Mom”, they said, “give it a try”. Jumping from a platform 100 feet above a concrete parking lot. Hhmm. Didn’t really seem like such a good idea for me. But here’s where I tripped myself up. My thoughts were “I’m really too old for this” and that, of course, led to my jump. I figured that if I did jump I could die. I also figured that if I didn’t jump because I thought I was too old it would leave me so depressed I might as well die fast. Okay – not my clearest thinking moment. Nonetheless, jump I did.
That was then. Today I rode on that same train of thought. If I don’t kayak because I’m pushing 60 (big birthday this summer; trying to figure out how to celebrate this milestone so if you have any good ideas please send them along) would I end up just feeling like the proverbial “old fart”? Was this an admission of my own limits and the reality of growing old?
Short answer …. no! I’m not kayaking because I don’t have to prove anything to anyone – especially myself . I don’t have to take on more than I can safely manage to show that I’m still full of life and energy. I can have a plan and change a plan without it being any kind of crisis.
And that’s the freedom of being at this stage of life. The freedom to choose. The freedom to pursue those things that draw me and not have to travel along roads that no longer interest me.
Freedom … another word for retirement. Yes indeed.