For years I’ve listened to my female friends complain about how their bodies have betrayed them, especially after having kids. I’ve always nodded politely and tried to commiserate, but for the most part I’ve never really understood.
I’ve always loved my body, and I’m pretty shameless about it. Even after having three kids, it pretty much looks the same as it did when I was 25. Yes, I had this beer belly even back then. I may still blame my lack of abs on the kids, but my recycling bin tells a different story. And until I don’t feel comfortable walking around the beach in a bikini, I’m not likely to give up my bourbon or my Ben and Jerry’s.
But this past year, something has changed and suddenly I’m starting to understand the concept of body betrayal. I still look the same in the mirror and my brain is still convinced I just turned 18, but that evil creeper called middle age keeps running up behind me and pushing me down when I’m not paying attention.
It started in January, when I gleefully attended my first Derby Lite practice. Aside from skating, we did strength training, like squats and pushups. We also practiced drills that involved throwing ourselves headfirst onto the floor; this was so we could learn the correct way to fall—you know, for safety reasons. After that first lesson, our instructor happily informed us that we had just burned 1200 calories. I scoffed. There was no way something that fun, and that felt that good could possibly have been a workout.
The next morning I compared the way my body felt to the time I cracked a car windshield during a head on collision. Every single muscle and bone in my body was singing like a really bad opera. That was the first time John introduced me to the magic of ibuprofen. Traditionally I would just stick with bourbon, but it was 7 am and not all of my clients would have found that amusing.
The next time I saw a hint of derision from my body was in May, when I signed up to complete a 5K with Cate. I haven’t run in years, but my thought process was, “How hard can it be to keep up with an 8 year old who obviously will quit and start walking after ten minutes.” I forgot to factor in that I was running with Ma Joad, a woman who feels no pain and never gives up. I came limping across the finish line, begging my daughter to slow down and wait for me, and then spent the next day or so icing my knee caps and popping more of the miracle drug, ibuprofen.
That brings us to yesterday, when after only a few short months I managed to forget the very obvious fact that my body is aging. A little background: at the very beginning of pool season, I had a few drinks, decided I could do a flip off the diving board and very narrowly succeeded. This gave me the confidence to insist on a diving board flip contest, when a friend informed me that he too could do a flip. We decided on the end of the season for our contest, neither of us taking it very seriously and knowing full well it is likely all talk and no show.
So all week Henry has been begging me to try the flip again. Like the good mother I am, I promised the kids that I would put on my one-piece suit and flip off the boards after the first day of school. How else would someone reward their kids after a great first day? It was actually a lot of fun. I never did manage a full rotation, and therefore landed on my back more times than I’d like to publicly acknowledge, but in general we had a great time–all three of us, plus the other little kids that joined in and the lifeguards who were giving me pointers the entire time. It was a happy hour in the sun, and I mean that in the most innocent way because there were definitely no cocktails involved.
My body hurt so badly at 2 am this morning that it actually woke me from a sound sleep. My first coherent thought was that I was having a stroke. And yes, this is a common theme with me, so that should come as no surprise, but honestly, the symptoms were all there, even if jumbled up a bit. Pain pierced the entire left side of my head and the left side of my body was tingling and hot. On the right side, my lower back is one large bruise and my right knee is slightly swollen. Every joint aches and I’m not sure I will ever be able to turn my head to the right side again.
It’s kind of like my body is trying to tell me something. On the logical side, it might be saying, “You’re forty now. You need to start being a bystander and resign yourself to watching your children enjoy these activities. It’s time to put down the goggles and the roller skates and just let it go.”
On the other hand, all I seem to hear is, “You’re still a player, Christina! Goonies never say die!”
…..and also, “Remember, the ibuprofen is in the upstairs cabinet when you need it.”