I’m caught up with myself now and back to the day-to-day. And realizing that the trek defined what my physical limits are now. Made me face some realities.
Many months before I went, I put a picture of myself on the refrigerator for inspiration. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I thought maybe I could be that woman again. As though looking at that photo and a little increase in my exercise routine would prepare me. My knees knew otherwise.
It was the early 90's. I was 42 and in great shape. I’m standing on the side of a road where we had stopped for some reason, out in the middle of nowhere in Mexico. We were there primarily to climb Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl and Pico de Orizaba. They are all fairly non-technical climbs, which means walking zigzag up snowfields with crampons on your boots for traction and an ice axe for stability and to catch yourself if you fall and start sliding. Beginner mountains.
The “we” being my recently no-longer-boyfriend and his friend. Both almost a decade younger than me. I was big into bravado in those days. Probably still am - or was until now. My claim to fame – crouching behind a rock on the lip of Popocatepetl to change a tampon while looking down into the steaming caldera. Booyah!
I did some more mountaineering in the years after that. Even then it would take a bit to recover from the physical demands and depletion. So I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for the trek. That, like then, I’d get out there and after a day or so I’d be adjusted to the demands? That I could recreate that level of fitness before I went? That didn’t happen. And it’s not going to happen.
Which is not to say I’m not going to keep doing as much as I can as long as I can. I’ve always thought that I can sit in foreign cafes when I’m old. Although my knees still hurt, I’m not there yet. I am here now. At a point of realization. Of acceptance. I’m admitting that I need to rein it in a bit. Take it a little easier on the relentless ascent and decent.
I can look at that picture from 20 years ago with love instead of longing and think – it truly was, and still is, all good. Even if I need a regular dose of Ibuprofen at the moment.