The middle ages (I am 45) are not unlike the Dark Ages they suggest. Between 35 and 45 many mysterious changes have taken place in my life. I have found my art and lost my art. I have been unemployed (and perhaps unemployable). I have found that "real job"...the kind the sucks the soul but makes everything level. I have let an obsession with thinness blossom and become a runner (fat kid). And in the middle of the middle I have found love...the real kind, with someone you respect and learn from and laugh with. With love came pancakes. Margaritas. Chips and dip. Fabulous pastas with rich sauces. Restaurants. Vacations with more restaurants. Cocktail hour. Cocktail parties.
And so I have begun to eat (and eat) in earnest. Om.
This is not to say that I haven't always loved me some food; I had a bag-a-day candy habit from as early as I could see over the counter and finance it. I would romance large bags of Funyons or Doritos on the long walk home from the store, or better yet carry them gently so that I could crawl under the house and not have to share them with 6 brothers and sisters who would beat you for them. Yes I love food. I wasn't ever an obese child or person but I have always carried that endomorph body type: fatter around the middle. As the straight-haired wants curly my 13 year old self would always look at the thin boys in their baggy chinos with intense admiration. My huskies never quite draped. Well let's face it nothing draped. So I became bookish and enjoyed my food and stayed plump but never really fat. And I was happy. Ish. Om.
Then I met hormones. I met my stranger self. Sex entered the room. I wanted thinness passionately. Bone thinness. In high school I began to cut back on lunch. I watched myself eat. I will never know whether it was nature or nurture but by senior year I was a rail. Although I flirted with denial-like anorexia I could never quite go there. So I was thin, and still my body was never right. That shape was still there....just odd around the middle. I always had to try my clothes on so carefully to even out the disparities: small head, thin neck, small shoulders and the trunk of a Russian wrestler. I will never be sure how I got baby making hips but I did. OK I may be exaggerating. But the drape, that Roman body, remained elusive.
So I have yo-yo'd with this 10 or 15 extra pounds my whole life, and middle age has recently gifted me with 5 more. I am happy and not so body conscious but the cholesterol is high and I am 20 pounds (officially that is) overweight. Now I want to lose 10, accept where I am at, and not run my knees into surgery to do so. How? How Lord how? And the answer came to me as Yoga. I tried it years ago and sprained something and never went back. I could dig the mystic part of it but never the group part of it. I hate groups. I hate the association with any group. It is like a religion, this distaste. But I knew in my heart that I could not have the figure or the dream of the figure of a teenage boy anymore. Plus my life is busy and I need the breathing. I need a new obsession.
The local YMCA offers a class and I have been going for a couple of months now. Let me tell you the old me was easier - even the running, punishing me. Yoga is hard! There are no parameters, there is no ruler by which to measure, there is of all God awful things no ego increasing reward. It is slow. It is variable. I have usually always played to my strengths; if I could not complete a task I could always at least tell a joke. Not here. All is quiet. It is just quiet, 13 year old fat me and a mirror at the front of the room and lithe women and men who know all of the poses. I tremble. I sweat. I am terrible at it. Right hand left knee toes curl thread your arm open your chest on the inhale: I am lost. Which one is the right hand? And we are on to the next move.
But I really like this practice and I am hoping to improve. Every now and again the instructor comes quietly behind me and pushes my pose further or corrects my stance. No one ever talks (nice). The music is quasi-eastern ambient: I like. The lights are low. I have my own mat. And perhaps this is the time in my life for a little patience. Perhaps I have been running from one accomplishment to the next with too little meditation. I recently began again the artwork that I lost somewhere between my 30s and 40s and this too is no easily defined undertaking. Before I would feed nervously on the novelty of a new drawing, a new approach, or just on the ego of producing something. This second phase for me is not unlike my Yoga class: I am nervous and dissatisfied with every move. Is it an old move? I tremble and try the next position, the next drawing, the next medium with no teacher to help push me into place. I am learning that I need a little patience here too. Middle age is difficult just like the practice of Yoga: novelty is out and steadiness is in. It takes practice and maybe a little compassion for yourself. No reward for that. My obsession with food has finally – oh who are we kidding? I am positive that if they put a bag of Lay's Classic potato chips just out of arm's reach I would master Yoga in 48 hours. It ain't a perfect world people. But I am giving it a shot.