I had wanted to take horseback riding lessons for a long while, however well meaning friends cautioned, "You're in your 60s, for heaven sake. You could break your bones," as if broken bones would be less convenient or less painful at a younger age.
I'd been on a horse twice: when I was 4 years old, to have a picture taken, and in the late '80s with a tour guide along Arizona's rugged red mountain trails. I loved it, and was advised that if I wanted to know more than how to simply get on, stay on and get off, I'd have to take lessons.
Chip was a leathery old horse trainer who'd been teaching horseback riding for over 32 years. One look at me and he determined that Clementine and I would be a perfect match. Her tired sagging frame had her belly barely missing the ground and her flashing, threatening, eyes dared me to mount her.
My third lesson took place on a scorching day in August. I was doing just fine riding in circles around the sweltering enclosed arena. Then, Chip instructed me to squeeze my legs to get Clementine to trot and to pull the reins back when I wanted her to slow down. So I squeezed my legs gently and suddenly Clementine's tired old body, fired by resentment for me, managed to muster up the same trajectory as the stone from David's sling shot.
I let out a shrill, terrified scream, which startled Clementine to a gallop. She was out of control. Frantically, I pulled back on the reins in hopes of getting her to slow down, but I couldn't help involuntarily squeezing my legs in a desperate effort to keep from falling off. The horse was confused by my mixed commands, but she never stopped to ask questions. Instead, she bolted, and I reacted by squeezing even tighter which, of course, caused her to sprint even faster.
There I was, bouncing up and down, up and down, and Clementine was going down and up, down and up. We were totally out of sync. But, she was not the only one out of control, for every time we collided, I peed, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it from happening. We collided. I peed. We collided. I peed.
Finally, my instructor, who had been racing to catch up with us, caught hold of Clementine's reins and got her to stop. I was now faced with a new crisis... how to dismount without Chip seeing what I'd done to his beautiful leather saddle. I was mortified, so I simply slid out of the saddle and said with great aplomb, "I'm so hot. I can not believe how much I sweated."
One look at the saddle and he had to know what really happened, and that I was lying, but what could I do? So, I silently thanked God that I'd worn black slacks that hadn't revealed my alleged secret. My aching legs and my humiliation directed me towards my car, and the glory and wonder of riding something with an accelerator and brakes.
Needless to say, I never returned to see Chip and Clementine -- a fact for which I'm certain they were both grateful.
Mellor cautions against actually purchasing a condo nearby after move-in day...but heading back to class yourself isn't a bad idea. Mellor's own mother completed her degree as a fifty-something, but you could start a little smaller than that -- say, listening to TED talks from home.
You're free and the sky's the limit! Above all, Mellor advises, do not fester in "sadness, loneliness and abandonment."
Especially if you've never gone before.
"And that man, sitting across from you at the breakfast table...he looks...familiar," Mellor writes. "You know him, you just don't know how." Use your empty nest time to remember what your relationship with your spouse or partner was like before the kids came along.
Mellor even provides a handy recipe for your next party. (That's cocktail party, which means no clowns and balloon animals. Remember those?)
"Our bodies, apparently, will not exercise themselves while we sleep," Mellor observes. Since you must exercise at a certain point, "you might as well find some fun ways to do it." Like dancing!
A favorite strategy of Anna Dello Russo, editor of Vogue Japan, for getting in touch with "the spirit of your outfit," empty nesters can benefit from this tip as well. The empty-nest years are a time to start paying attention to your appearance again, says Mellor, especially if you've gotten into bad habits (mom jeans, anyone?).
"Learn to be a sloth, and without guilt," Mellon writes. "Wallow in languid inactivity." You've earned it.
After all those years of coaching your kids through music lessons, you've probably picked up a few things, observes Mellor -- why not indulge yourself with a few lessons?
Redecorate that extra room! Make it a yoga studio, or a new TV room. Explore what your space can be like when you're decorating with your needs -- and not Dick or Jane's -- in mind.
Follow Laverne H. Bardy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lavernehb