The above title to be delivered in reverberating Richard Burton-like intonations.
"The Measure of a Man"
The measuree in this context being myself.
Dispatch From The Fitness Spa:
Two days ago, I was walking along on the "Seven O'Clock Morning 'Quail' Hike", designated as the least strenuous of the various morning hikal alternatives, when, ten or so minutes into this invigorating enterprise, the question suddenly occurs to me:
"Has this hike gotten harder, or am I simply getting older?"
The words in quotes, because I actually asked myself that question out loud.
Certain that I would not bother anybody, because the preponderance of the group was far ahead of me, so far ahead of me, in fact, that I could not longer see them.
There were a few stragglers trudging invisibly behind me, but I am not concerned with them because they're them. I was concerned about me, and the people whom I had started the hike with who had since cruelly abandoned me in their energetic dust.
This did not used to happen on my previous visits. I was never necessarily even with them. But at least I could see them!
As you know, I have just negotiated a milestone birthday, so the question resides prominently in mind. That's what you do when you get older. You are continually calibrating your "Pulse Rate of Possibility." (If you're like me), you are continually taking physiological (and mental) stock, asking yourself,
"Can I still do this?" "Can I do it as easily?" "What am I losing?" And "How fast am I losing it?"
It doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It is happening anyway. But for some of us, at least, as they sing in Fiddler on the Roof,
"It's nice to know."
Why? So you can stay on top of the decrepitizing process, and not find yourself one day suddenly unable to get out of a chair.
"What happened! I'm OLD!"
"What happened" was you were not paying attention. Matters were proceeding in a certain direction, and you, in your boundless optimism, were determined not to notice, And now look at you. I know. By then, I won't be able to get out of a chair either. But at least I'll have gradationally seen it coming.
I know you are not supposed to concern yourself with the hikers ahead of you, and in the past I rarely did. Not that I didn't resent their superior fitness, stamina and endurance, but I lived with it. Pretty much. As in "Whattaya gonna do?"
The rule, as we all know, is:
"You proceed at your own pace."
The problem was, I had a feeling that "my pace" had just changed. The issue was not keeping up with the other hikers. The troubling and, to me, legitimate question is, "Am I keeping up with myself?"
Meaning the "Self" I used to be. Until my last visit, in fact, when this hike seemed considerably easier.
And now it wasn't.
I can hear my loyal, "Invisible Mariachi Band" fan base (mentioned in previous dispatches), concerned with my pace and my puffing, singing, with appropriate Mexican music accompaniment,
Mr. Pomerantz is on the trail
Mr. Pomerantz is looking pale
He looks paler still
As he climbs up the hill
Mr. Pomerantz is on the trail.
My supporters were not whistling Mariachi-inflected "Dixie". A hike I had once thought was "not challenging enough" was suddenly all I could handle. Evidence: At a point when I believed I had gone half-way, it turned out in retrospect I had only gone half of half-way.
I was a quarter of the way slower than I used to be!
I retained a one "escape route" of hopeful possibility. Perhaps, as had happened in the past, there had been complaints about the over-easiness of the "Quail" hike and they had made the appropriate adjustments.
Perhaps, in truth, this hike actually was harder than it used to be.
There was only one way to find out: Ask the spa's hike leader. Which is exactly what I did not want to do. If I did not ask, my thinking went, I could retain the illusion that they had made the hike harder. If I asked, I was staring reality right in the face.
This morning, however, after some serious inner discussion, I bit the bullet. At the assembly place before it began, I - courageously, I like to believe - went up to that morning's hike leader and I said, hopefully with not too much quavering in my delivery,
"Excuse me - and forgive me if this sounds crazy - but is this hike harder than it used to be, or I am just getting older?"
Her answer unequivocally suggested the second of those alternatives.
The hike was the same. What was different was me.
I had just turned a decade. And just like that, I had immediately found the hike harder.
The question now was: This immediate decline...
Was it physical or is was psychological?
No wait, don't stay tuned.
I can never figure that out.