The Road Ahead

I should know better when I reach the high country: On every climb, I expect the view, back to where I started, forward to where I’m going. But mountains are deceptive and it’s not always clear like that. Anything can block the long view: fog or trees or subsidiary ridges. A path that shines clear as a yellow brick road one minute might the next be swaddled in such mystery that you could step of the trail and die of disorientation.

The path ahead is not always clear. (Picture: The Italian Dolomites).
The path ahead is not always clear. (Picture: The Italian Dolomites).

The path to this point in my life has been, I imagine, quite a bit like yours. Often, the mountains we’ve crossed have given us clear views and obvious directions; but other times, we’ve been waylaid by meandering detours, spiking high points, and brooding canyons. Sometimes we’ve been lost for days, or weeks or longer, with no idea which way to turn, or how to go forward.

This place I’m in now? It’s a good one, combining all the things I love: music, writing, travel, nature, outdoor activity, and a beautiful home on a mountain dirt road in the woods. I feel lucky to be here. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always taken the best path to get here. So I’m asking questions:  What could I have done better? What can I do better in the future? What has been consistent the entire journey?

Inertia being what it is, it seems that the things I have carried with me this far will stay with me going forward, that what is important to me now is what has been important to me all along. But will what worked in the past be necessary in the future? Will it even still work? In hiking, technology has lightened our loads, experience has taught us to do more with less, to walk less encumbered by stuff we don’t need. Can the same be true in life?

Paul Simon wrote, “Lord ain’t it strange, after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same?” I am the same but I am also different. My growth rings spread out from the same fundamental core.

But when you get to this age… maybe you’ve made the same mistakes more than once. Maybe it’s time to fix that. Can I be more or less the same, but better? Am I not tired of feeling the same lack of control over how I approach a loaded all-you-can-eat buffet? And looking in the mirror the next day? Do I really HAVE to make the same damn New Year’s resolutions every damn January?

So… Fitness.

As with Tolstoy’s unhappy families, those of us with fitness, weight, and health issues each have our own story. From my metaphorical mountaintop I look back and see a trail of relationship eating, a few silly diets, and roller coasters of extreme activity (walking from Mexico to Canada, say, or running marathons) interspersed with months where I spent days on end doing nothing more physical than clattering away at a keyboard. And a lot of denial. A large frame hides a lot of weight gain, until it doesn’t and you can’t fit into your size extra-large ski pants and have to borrow some from your even bigger partner.

I need to be on a different trail, and this hiatus have given me the opportunity to find it.  I’m in a bit of a home-bound pattern right now – David’s stroke turned everything upside down. He’s recovering, I’m staying home to help (at least, that is what I think I am doing) and what with all the doctors visits and blood tests, we’ve decided to face our issues of fitness head on.

I’ve joined David in his weekly Tai Chi class, and we’re both doing the low carb thing. (David’s blood work has come back so normal that he is off of virtually all medication; I’ll be writing more about that later). We’re walking every day, and I am hoping to add running to the mix . For the moment, I am telling myself that I want to be ready for a killer ski season, for a longer hike next summer, and possibly for a triathlon next fall with my teenage niece.

This is the path I am following — It’s clear, at least until the pass. Who knows about the other side. As in life, it’s a leap of faith. (Italian Dolomites(

But most important of all is getting ready for ordinary life in the years ahead. I’ve been people watching closely for a few weeks now, and what I see scares the hell out of me.I don’t want to age into a body that waddles and slumps and staggers and huffs and puffs and stoops and falls and breaks.  I will never be younger than I am now, which makes this the best time to insure my future that I will ever have. I want to keep my agility and physical competence and I want to look as young and move as youthfully as I feel.

I have role models:  My amazing neighbors have just turned 90, and  one of them was teaching skiing until just a few years ago. We can’t always choose what happens to us – acts of God and strokes of bad luck can hit anyone anywhere. But insofar as we have a choice, I am making it now.

David doesn’t recommend what he is calling the “stroke diet,” (also known as the “Karen is too fat to go paragliding diet” because that is what inspired me to look for a quick weight loss plan.”) But we play the cards we’re dealt, and David is playing his as well as anyone could. Me, I’m learning from the sidelines, cheering him on, and taking care of myself.  David’s stroke is not the path we’d have chosen, but here we are on it, and it leads to a summit all its own. We both might come out the better for climbing this mountain. At least, that is my hope as I contemplate the path ahead.