Last year, I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at a youth hostel. Tucked away upstairs, in my own spare private room, I pondered this past year.
I’d been sidelined with rotator cuff surgery for much of it, and I was just at the point where rehab had begun to pay off. I was heading out that afternoon to ride in the gorgeous, early September sunshine with a guide my age (65) in northern Albuquerque.
The woman who runs the hostel is in her 50s. A lawyer, she eschewed her profession and decided to camp outside Santa Fe for a while. Eventually, she found her way to the hostel, and then was hired to run it.
As she told me, her work with immigrants had seared her soul, and she was in dire need of work which allowed her to nurture people. Hug them. Be of service. Feed folks.
Over the time I was there, I watched her do just that, with joy and pleasure. She was in her element, not making much money, but making a lot of people happy and comfortable.
As Margaret has mentioned elsewhere on this site, there are plenty of stereotypes about those of us in what too many believe is the twilight of our existence.
Yet, I continually meet and learn from women who have discovered new purpose as they have aged – like fine wine – into the fullness of both their skills and their purpose.
Some of us, like Susan whom I met the other morning while training on steps in Denver, love to push themselves to see how far they can go.
Susan, who is 62, is a tiny dynamo. Slim and energetic, we met at the base of the steps at Red Rocks Amphitheater, where many of us train for our adventures. She’s done 76 peaks so far, including all the 14-ers (those peaks at or above 14 thousand feet) and is now doing all the 13-ers.
We talked through our breathless huffing as we climbed the steps, my hefting a heavy pack in training for Mt. Kenya, and her slowing down just long enough to accommodate our conversation.
She would run the 400 steps, then run more than a mile to the base of the steps again – and do this eight times. That’s a total of nearly 10 miles running and 3200 steps. Susan is a vegetarian, and she reports that her health was transformed by that choice.
For my part, I’m climbing Mt. Kenya and then riding a horse in Madagascar for about six days this November. Neither one of us is a natural athlete. We just push hard.
I love doing adventure travel, but it’s also a place where I explore my limitations and discover vast resources I never knew existed inside me. Adventure travel isn’t just for the young. It’s for all of us, especially since most of it is much softer and easier than what Susan and I choose to do.
On another day at Red Rocks, I spoke to a couple, easily in their 70s, whom I’d seen training for weeks. They were getting ready for a trip to the Swiss Alps. They’d be hiking 103 miles, climbing a total of 33,000 feet in altitude over several weeks. They were slim, energetic, happy.
Some of these people didn’t even begin to do this kind of adventuring until late in life. Some of the most successful female bodybuilders began lifting close to 60. We begin when we begin. Fitness isn’t the purview of the young. It belongs to any one of us who chooses differently.
While you may not choose to throw yourself into a serious workout routine, this has much more to do with how you want to spend your later years. Many more of us are redefining our lives, our selves, our options by sculpting very different possibilities.
Whether that’s a different kind of work, a new skill or making a move to a new town makes no difference. The point is to point ourselves in a new direction to see where it takes us.
Anything new that we begin breathes new life into our hearts and souls, and, in every way imaginable, makes us feel young all over again.
Two days ago, I sent an email to a horse outfitter in far northern British Columbia. I am planning to take at least two weeks, if not a month, to explore that territory, which will put me in close proximity to grizzly bears, elk, deer, untold wildflowers and the kind of scenery that makes you weep.
I’ll get cold and wet and eat cold food and not bathe properly for two solid weeks. And love every minute of it. I wanted this so badly that I booked it even before the outfitter had posted his 2019 options.
We begin where we are. Life is always reinventing itself.
As women, it’s what we do our entire lives. Yesterday I heard a story about an 85-year-old woman who is the world’s oldest trapeze artist, Betty Goedhart.
She began at 79.
Where will you go today? There is still so much life ahead.
Where do you want to go today? Next year? What will it take for you to go there? What are you willing to do to make life happen for you? Please share your ambitions in the comments below.