I hope this is true. And I hope it is as true for me now as it was when I ran when I was in my twenties. In fact, I hope it's even more true, because when I was in my twenties I ran through the pain of heel spurs, shin splints and inflamed Achilles tendons and didn't worry too much about long-term injuries. These days I have friends my own age who have had knee replacement surgery, which reminds me that bodies and body parts are finite. They wear out.
On the other hand, I have met 73-year-old Doris Schertz who has won her age group in the Boston Marathon--twice. She, like me, is a former La Leche League Leader, and she didn't start running until she was in her fifties. I'd like to be bouncy and energetic like she is as I get older, able to sit cross-legged on the floor and get up and down with ease. Can't see myself training for hours on end, but it does feel good to run down suburban streets in summer, with linden trees smelling heavenly and sprinklers watering the green hostas that anchor walkways and flower beds.
Running is doing something that is continuous with other versions of myself--the young woman who started running in graduate school and kept it up, more or less, until the first trimester of her first pregnancy (that nauseous, exhausted couple of months when you're barely pregnant but thoroughly miserable). I ran for a while when my youngest child went off to preschool--put him on the bus and headed down the street in my running shoes and baggy t-shirt. I walked last year, furiously some days, with head phones and music blocking out the loops of complaints and aggravation that were playing in my brain. When I was younger I reminded myself that I would always feel better after a run, even if I didn't feel like running. Now when I walk or walk-and-run on stressed-out days I tell myself that I can stay mad, if I want, and I might not feel better after a workout, but I won't feel worse, and at least my exercise is done.
Week One, Week Two, Week Three. A day of running, a day off. A decade of running, two decades of child-rearing. A year of running, a long time without it. Days accumulate, things change. I have grown up, survived, gained some intuition, and what's more, learned to trust it. But in that pile of accumulated days, there are aches and pains, wishes and unresolved hurts. I worry about the repair process.
When I was young I assumed things would work out one day for the best, and if even if I knew that "happily every after" was a fairy tale, I still assumed that this was where I was headed, where I wanted to be. Safe and okay. But now I know this cannot be taken for granted.
Someone told me recently that if I was going to worry I should smile while I worry. It was advice for singing, which I'm doing with care and attention to technique these days, trying to fix habits accumulated over a lifetime. Why I worry so much when I sing is a long story, suitable for a therapist's couch, but it is a continuous piece with my younger self, with whom, curiously, I seem to be spending the summer.
While I was out tonight doing my alternating minutes of running and walking, I realized that I know of three men in their fifties who have died suddenly in the last couple weeks: a relative of a friend, a cousin of my cousins, the son and brother of dear people I've known a long time. Strokes, cardiac arrest, that sort of thing. There are superstitions about deaths coming in threes, so there it is: three deaths, three men allotted less than the biblical three-score and ten.
Those seventy or eighty years or more of a lifespan ought to have an arc to them, a storyline, a plot, or a coda that explains it all and brings healing at the end. These human years are a quick time gone by, and strictly linear. Time in other dimensions, in the cosmos, in quantum mechanics, may fold back on itself and repair the past as it's lived. I am not wired to experience this, though if this is how the mind of God works, perhaps I can hope that continuous repair, back and forth in time, is God's salvation at work in me.
Meanwhile I live one day after another, concentrating on the smiling.