I just spent four days in Packwood, Washington, with Dawn and her family celebrating my 75th birthday. I had a great time, but in reflection it was also a traumatic moment. Three quarters of a century. Guess it’s time to quit kidding myself I’m “middle-aged.” Probably not going to reach 150, and, even if I could, I don’t think I would want to.
The 5-year-old inside me is pissed he has to drag this 75-year-old body around. Though I’m unwilling to give up snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, two days of snowshoeing with kids and grandkids left me sore and tied up in knots. Luckily I no longer have to break trail for those younger than me and can safely bring up the rear, but when Gavin and I were snowshoeing alone and headed off trail and straight uphill I was huffing and puffing trying to catch my breath after two or three steps.
Of course, being out of shape didn’t come as a sudden surprise. I’ve been working harder and harder at staying shape — and failing to do so — since I retired 17 years ago. I spend an hour or an hour and a half at the gym most days and spend at least one other day walking/ birding. Compared to my peers I’m probably in better shape than I’ve been at any other stage of my life, and I’ve always enjoyed physical activities like basketball, hiking, mountain climbing or cross-country skiing. Though I envy the young people who run past me at the gym while I’m trying to walk two miles in 30 minutes, I don’t delude myself that I’ll ever be doing that again. Nope, though I enjoy exercise, I don’t enjoy pain and can only comfort myself knowing I’m smart enough to know when enough is enough.
Though I expected snowshoeing to be challenging, I WAS surprised how traumatized I was at having to go four days without phone service, much less WiFi. Born in 1941, I can still remember when mom bought our first 78 rpm record player, and we didn’t have a TV until I was in Junior High. I’ve spent most of my life “dis-connected,” in so many ways, that I resisted even getting a cell phone until I started car camping by myself after retirement and Leslie was worried when I disappeared into high-desert country for weeks at a time. Even then, I turned the phone off most of the time because I didn’t want to be dis-turbed while hiking or birding, not to mention I was out-of-range of most phone services. I only turned it on when I wanted to call Leslie.
Which leaves me wondering how I got so attached to electronic devices in a relatively short time. I can’t count the number of times I found myself checking my suddenly dumb smart-phone while in Packwood. Now that I’ve relegated my memory to Google, I had a hard time maintaining a simple conversation without being able to consult Siri. I’ve even gotten to the point where I rely on my Apple Watch and my Spire to tell me how I’m feeling — whether I need to calm down or to rev it up before I drift away to Netherland.
Do all these electronic devices help me to stay healthier because I’m more aware of my weight, heart rate, breathing rate, and stress level, or are they just another cause for worry? I suspect I would never have lost 30 pounds in the last two years if it hadn’t been for my calorie tracker which gave me new insights into the foods I’ve been eating for years. Suddenly I was aware enough to make better choices on what I was eating. Perhaps measuring my heart rate while working out pushes me to work a little harder while still avoiding a heart attack. Not so sure I really need to know my HRV and whether that knowledge will help me to know when to back off my exercise program and when to push a little harder.
Somehow, I’ve been trained to consult my Activity and Heartwatch Apps several times a day. Sometimes they convince me I need to get up and get outside; other times they just make me sit in the corner trying to figure out whether I need to worry about what they’re telling me. Do I really want or need to know when my bpm falls below 50 bpm or sky-rockets to 172 bpm?
Has checking all these readings become the equivalent of sitting around McDonald’s with other retirees complaining about ailments? Just another sign you’re getting OLD? Where did the blissful ignorance of childhood go?