I’ve got a little under two months before the photo shoot that I’ve been blogging about and working toward almost
since this pole journey began. The past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride of confidence and lack thereof. I’m not alone in this. It seems to be common among the group of women I started pole with. All of us are signed up for the photo shoot as a way of gaging our progress. We’ve been training for ten months now – long enough to see major improvements in skill, strength and stamina, but also long enough to see just how far we have to go and to be impatient, sometimes disappointed, with ourselves that we’re not getting there faster. There are good days and there are bad days. There are days when it feels more like regress than progress.
Most of the time I don’t think about being twenty to thirty years older than almost everyone else in the studio. I know I’m fit, I know I am holding my own, even doing fairly well. Most of the time I’m just focused on meeting the challenge of the day. But what to wear for the photo shoot has brought my age neurosis back to me with a vengeance. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that skin contact with the pole is necessary to perform some of the more difficult moves. Wearing less and less clothing to compensate for more and more complex moves has been, and still is, one of my biggest challenges. Most of us start beginning pole in our sweats and tee shirts, and if we stick with it, the process becomes a slow, and sometimes, reluctant strip tease. As we learn and improve, we move to leggings, then to shorts, then to racer back tops we can tuck into our sports bras when we need belly for grip. Then finally the day dawns when we graduate to pole shorts and tops, with not much more coverage than a bikini, and we just get on with it. And here’s me in all my vanity wanting to look good and fearing being judged for not looking twenty no matter how good I look.
Yes, it’s only my neuroses that have me feeling this way. I’ve never worked with a more encouraging, more non-judgmental group of women. The camaraderie has made the journey nearly as much fun as the challenge of the sport itself. The difficulty of learning pole and the strength it demands has been a great equalizer. We all know what it has costs in terms of bruises, pain, sweat and tears to get to where we are now. So that means as much of the battle to become skilled at pole is dealing with my own repeated crises of confidence as it is learning technique. The truth is, of the two battles, the one that goes on in my head is by far the more difficult. And when you’re the old lady in the group, you’ve had a helluva lot more time to fill your head with neuroses and irrational doubts and fears.
Owning my age is one of the wonderful things that has come from my pole training. I’ve made an amazing discovery. There is no downhill slide once you pass the age of fifty and find yourself looking sixty smack dab in the eyeballs. There is, however, a paradigm shift – or can be if we’re willing to open ourselves to the possibilities. I was fearless when I was younger, back before I had been battered about by the world a few times. But the older I get, the more I fear. That seems to be common when you’re our age. God how I hate that phrase! It’s like the excuse to end all excuses, the get out of jail free card, the “let you off the hook” disclaimer for everyone over forty – as if the rules no longer apply. As if it’s now time to coast our way on into the end zone with as little effort as possible.
The paradigm shift comes when we’re bold enough to say, fuck it, I’m just going for it! Whatever ‘it’ is. There’s another kind of fearlessness that happens as I approach sixty. I’ve battled my own version of ageism long enough to know that most of what I fear is never going to happen, and it’s going to be a long boring journey to the grave if I let those fears of being our agecontrol me.
The push, the challenge, becomes to live in the moment, to live urgently and boldly, to remind myself when doubt rears its ugly head that age is just a number. It is NOT who I am. I’ve been on this fitness journey long enough to realize that the bumps and bruises and aches and pains as well as the challenges met and the triumphs celebrated are an outward manifestation of the deeper journey going on inside me. The slow strip tease, the exposure of skin – bruised and abraded, and not as supple as it once was, goes so much deeper than muscle and bone. It becomes the laying bare, the exposing, of the inner wounds and bruises, the deep seated fears that I’ve kept hidden away. It is a viewing of myself more clearly, a loving of who I am and what I’m becoming more completely. It is perhaps learning to be more gentle with myself even as I push myself harder than I ever have before. Oh, it doesn’t mean that the battles are over, that I am still not filled with doubts, still not afraid of the challenges ahead of me, still don’t want to run away and hide underneath my duvet. But it means I’ve had some success at pushing through the fears, and success breeds more success — something worth reminding myself of every day.
The wonderful surprise of it all is that I’m stronger, fitter, more sure of myself now than I ever was in my twenties. And the even bigger surprise is that I keep getting more so. My skill improves with my strength and stamina, and with those my confidence and my view of the world as a place full of possibilities, until I can honestly say, and mean, life is better at fifty-nine than it ever was when I was twenty or thirty. The paradigm shift is a reminder that I get to choose. I get to embrace this journey and move forward in spite of my fears, because overcoming those fears, one step at a time, one challenge at a time is truly what it means to be fearless.