As I look in the mirror during my 8:30 A.M. exercise class, I see a room of brightly clad fiftyish-year-old women, intense in their efforts to stay trim and fit. There in the front row, up close to better hear and see, I view myself -- in all-purpose black, standing tall, balancing well on one foot while I palm green seven-pound barbells. Clearly the oldest person as far as the eye can see, but I feel rather... well, ageless.
Carried along by the upbeat music, concentrating on following our energetic, ab-tight instructor, I feel, not my age, but my 'self.' The same 'me' who has danced, and exercised in various ways, throughout my life. As I move to the contemporary rhythms, my body finds its center, feeling the echoes and reverberations of earlier ballet, modern dance, creative movement, jazzercise, and scores of gym routines and classes of days past. My mind is focused, as each moment's effort totally absorbs my consciousness. Time seems boundless.
The class challenges my balance and strengthens each and every muscle group. It also serves to balance my life. Mornings here give me structure for my day, as well as energy and strength for all my activities. These women are my new friends; they greet me warmly when I arrive, and they provide friendship beyond the class. The instructor proudly announces my age as each birthday rolls around, so they are all well aware of my 72 years.
As I put away my weights and mat, Lindy approaches, to tell me yet again, that I am her "hero." This time, however, she explains why. She confides that her mother was old and weak and sad at 73, and that was what she imagined her old age would be like. She says, as she watches me, I inspire her to think differently about getting old.
Her words move me to my core.