Friday, August 31, 2007

At Sixty, I Finally Reach Middle Age

I think I was thirtysomething until I was well past forty eight, maybe forty nine. It was probably getting that AARP invitation that finally jolted me through the forties in a instant and slapped a restraining order on my age awareness. I was suddenly shy around younger people and started having odd thoughts like : "Gosh, I wonder if this is the last baseball game I will ever see." And that was when I was fifty.

Then I realized that I hadn't reached middle age, I was beginning to believe that I was past it, that, worse, I was at the end of my life. It's very difficult to enjoy a ball game when thoughts like that are coursing through your synapses. It slows everything down and speeds everything up only at moments when you want the opposite to be happening. "Hey, you repeatedly and pathetically say, where is the freeze frame button on this life?"

Then, one day after work, you decide to walk a little farther to the subway and two years later, sixty pounds lighter and averaging twenty miles a week running, you find yourself right back where you were - moving along with all the thirtysomethings and the forty-somethings and the fifty-somethings even though you yourself have reached your middle age.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Can't Stop the Music or 20,000 Songs In All.

There was a time when I could quiet my mind. I'd sit down in a corner of a room or lie flat on a mat and just listen to the silence in my head. It was easy to do after working on learning to do it for four or five years. Yoga is like that. You do something over and over and over and think about how you are doing it and where your feet are and where your elbow is resting and then one day as you begin the posture you don't have any thoughts about it, you are just flowing through it. It's a parallel to riding a bicycle, one moment you are trying so hard to balance, the next you are floating above the wheels in perfect harmony with them.

Yoga was a long time ago and I have gotten stiff and tight and I get red in the face as I try to remember where my elbow should be. (We do a little stretching before and after Running Class and I think that is what triggered the thought that I should listen to the silence again.) That and the fact that my headphones died in the middle of a fourteen mile run last Friday.

Wait a minute.

I am mixing all of this up. Starting from the beginning: I have been using headphones and a Zen player during all of my training runs and most of the races I have been in, I like the music and it distracts me. Coach Mindy at the Marathon Seminar two weeks ago said that could be a problem, the distraction part. I hated to hear that but I knew (kinda sorta) that she was right. So of course, I ignored her advice.

I don't use the headsets during the Running Classes with Coach Shellie because it's not allowed.
Two things happened semi-simultaneously: 1) I started actually hearing my breathing during class and 2) the next day the headset died in the middle of the long run. What happened then?
Well, my breathing, fairly important to running as you might imagine, improved 200 percent. Before I had had this little ragged rhythm going with the occasion gasp in the middle. Not good. Now I am as steady as the bellows of the old church pipe organ.

So now I have no music to listen to, right?

Wrong. The music has continued to play in my head.


All 20,000 songs that I have ever listened to or played or half-heard passing by a bar at midnight now burble up and unwind inside my mind at every moment of every waking or sleeping hour. I didn't really notice it until I tried to stop it. And, um, I couldn't. I woke up last Sunday with the last few bars of Mustang Sally, complete with sax backups, winding up to it's finish and while I fed the cats Don't stop thinking about tomorrow started rolling into town. These are the recordings of these songs, not just my brain's attempt to remember, they are chapter and verse the complete unabridged versions. They play through, a fact for which I am grateful. I do not want to fight my mind over a six bar repeat of the chorus from I'm bringing Sexy Back (yea!) for several hours.

Then I tried to meditate.

Just to see how bad it was.

It was bad. I ahoomhmed and ommmed and let my mind be, but Two Tickets to Paradise and Lungs don't fail me now kept right on playing, spinning on their own little internal discs.

It's only been a few days.

Maybe the batteries will run down.