I’m writing this last week, Monday afternoon, from the La Casa Lodge at Ski Santa Fe, from our annual granddaughter ski adventure.
We had a great morning skiing. It was cold and snowing, a near white-out at the top. We skied uncrowded trails and short lift lines due partially to the weather and also to the fact it was the first day of Texas Spring Break and tons of people were still trapped in ski rental and lift ticket lines. They should have started early like we did.
That is, until about 11:00 am, when I started feeling lethargic and queasy. A couple of times I thought I might throw up, so I stayed to the edges of the trails just in case. I eventually skied down to the mid-mountain restaurant and sat with my head on the table for almost an hour. Finally, because people wanted to use the table to eat lunch, I got up and skied on down to the bottom, put my boots and skies and poles in the truck, grabbed the group lunch and carried it back up to La Casa to wait for the others.
It wasn’t like me. I’m not a great skier, but I tend not to stop unless forced. The only other time I cut a day short like this was when my knees were so bad I was afraid I would hurt them worse if I stayed. But I had both knees replaced that summer and haven’t stopped using them since. Until Monday morning.
And I don’t remember ever being nauseous while skiing. My fear was maybe this wasn’t the leftovers from a recent cold I thought I was almost over, or maybe this wasn’t some sort of new virus attack. What if it was another altitude attack (which I haven’t had before while skiing), or worse, another dreaded aspect of aging, the slow deterioration of skills and practices I love.
I’m more than aware of the haunting shelf life on all the things I love to do, and my diminishing input on how quickly they progress. I suppose I should expect these dark thoughts to arise when I’m feeling sick and pitiful.
I recently attended a Noble Heart retreat called It’s Your Time, about living with significance in the 4th-quarter of life. I prefer to think I’m in my 3rd-third rather than 4th-fourth, but that’s an irritating and nitpicky argument to make, so I won’t. The retreat was about attitude and motivation, and I’m fully engaged in that. I don’t want to back off, stand back and relax, or grow isolated and cranky and opinionated, all real temptations during the 4th-quarter. I want to be poured out like the Apostle Paul, sharing what I’ve learned, giving myself away, until the very end.
As it turned out, I stayed in town in bed both Tuesday and Wednesday. That put my ski total for 2019 at a half-day, hardly satisfactory. By then I knew the problem was congestion, a nagging cough, and associated brain cloud. That knowledge shifted me from fear of aging to symptom-management. Sleeping all day is my first line-of-defense and default reaction to any illness. My body can’t recover unless I lower the energy level to the lowest possible state and give it space to heal.
The rest of the family, including granddaughters, had a great three days of skiing. I wish I’d been with them, but their smiles at the end of the day made me almost as happy as actually skiing together.
Which brings me to today, a week later. Since we returned to Midland I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in bed. By this morning, Monday, I wasn’t completely well, but I knew I was on the other side of the misery curve.
I’ll be back on the slopes next year, and I hope I won’t jump to such sad conclusions the minute I have a setback. I learned it now takes me longer to recover from a cold in the same sense it takes me longer to recover from a sore muscle or hard effort. That’s an aging effect I can live with, no matter what quarter I’m playing in.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32