This week in Pittsburgh I went to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It in the lovely O’Reilly Theater. Great production – very well done. I was one of few people there without fluffy white hair. And here’s another thing: I had to really, really focus to follow the play. Obviously we don’t walk around listening to that kind of language every day, but I took a class on Shakespeare in college (which I loved), so I have this memory of it coming more easily. Darn it – where did the ease go?
Of course, since I’m obsessed with the fact that I’m turning 40 this year, it has me thinking about all the other things that I can no longer do, for lack of practice, time, ability or stamina. Here’s a list:
- Play the flute.
- Run ten miles (or a marathon, but it was only that one time).
- Speak (a little) French.
- Sit through a two hour class or meeting without checking email.
- Ice skate.
- Recite all of “The Road Not Taken”
- Diagram a sentence.
- Wear a bikini.
- Stay up past midnight.
- Knit. (I can probably still knit, actually, but I can’t remember how to cast on so there’s no way of knowing for sure.)
- Touch my forehead to my knees with my legs straight.
- Explain photosynthesis.
- Sleep through the night.
- Drive a stick shift.
- Do a flip turn.
- Turn a cartwheel.
- Monkey bars.
Now, there are things that I’m happy to be rid of. I don’t really need calculus (which I suspected all along) so I’m fine freeing up that space in my brain. But there are plenty of things I wish I could still do! I liked knitting. I liked playing an instrument. I might want to speak French sometime! So I’m feeling sorry about losing those. Not to mention all the things that I don’t remember forgetting. (For example, what am I doing in that picture up there? Something to do with yearbook and giant glasses, apparently. I have no idea what.)
And perhaps the hardest things to face on the list are things that I’m now physically unable to do. Nobody wants to own up to the fact that things just aren’t working the way they used to. And they surely are not. After I exercise, I have aches and pains that I didn’t used to have. I’m winded more easily than I used to be. I’m tired more of the time, but I also can’t sleep that well. I’m not couch-bound obviously, but I definitely feel a sense that there’s a shift happening. Not in a good way.
When we’re younger, we’re constantly put into positions where we’re encouraged (or forced) to learn and try new things. We don’t really think about it then, we just do it. When that pressure stops and we stop doing and remembering the things we learned, we don’t miss it as much as we should. The truth of the matter is that I am not doing a very good job with maintenance. My brain and body are lazy, and I could do a better at keeping things on track.
I have ideas. First, by my birthday, I’m going to try to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test. Thank goodness they adjust the standards for age. Second, I’m going to relearn The Road Not Taken and reread the six plays by Shakespeare that I studied in that class (which was an alarming number of years ago). Third, I’m going to try to learn to do something that I’ve never done before this year. I don’t know what yet. Suggestions welcome.