Getting old -- I never thought it would happen to me.
I used to subscribe to a women's magazine that has a section called "firsts after forty." In it, they present profiles of women in their midlife who have taken up some new sport or endeavor, such as snowboarding, ballet dancing, or playing the violin. I find the idea inspiring. I love the challenge of taking up something new. The world is so rich and full of possibilities that I don't know how I can fit in everything that I would like to do in the time left to me on this earth. In the last five years, some of my new avocations have included playing the guitar, fly fishing, back country skiing, wilderness canoeing, greenhouse gardening, mountain biking, and telemark skiing.
Of course, as I am now in the latter half of middle age, I do not have the fitness and stamina to perform these activities at the level of a twenty-something. I don't mountain bike down the technical trails but rather up and down logging roads. The area where I like to back country ski is jokingly referred to by the back country crowd as "the geriatric run." When I garden, for every half hour of heavy digging, I spend another half hour sitting on my bench looking at the garden and daydreaming about it.
Then there are the little aches and pains that become more insistent and limiting over time. The achy back. The sore, stiff knees. When I was twenty, I didn't think that I had had a good day of skiing unless I had taken twenty runs or more. In the last few years, I have aimed for eight or ten runs. I mostly stick to the groomers and only include one or two or three mogul runs or deep powder runs per ski day. I have become used to feeling stiff and sore all the time. Ibuprofen is now my friend.
But I am not ready to give it all up.
I can live with the idea of only skiing half days, and staying off the black diamond runs most of the time. I can even (reluctantly) accept the idea of quitting soccer, as I can see have reached the stage of being a liability to my team in a league of mostly twenty-year-old ex-high-school soccer stars. But I am a skier. I have skied since I was three years old. Being a skier is part of my core identity. A skier is who I am.
This week, the medical specialist whom I saw about my failing knees told me that skiing is over for me. No more skiing. No more soccer. No high impact sports at all. If I stop now, I can delay the inevitable need for a knee replacement.
It feels like a death sentence.