I hear about women in their fifties who run marathons, take spinning classes, or kick box like they're auditioning for the WWE and I’m amazed. How do they do it? Is it their diet? Their chi? Their can-do attitude? It’s a mystery. In my dictionary, though, there is no ”I” in stamina and I must confess it’s not a recent development.
In my thirties I had to attend hearings on the 10th floor of the courthouse twice a week for work. I always took the stairs because the elevator was packed in the mornings and the thought of getting stuck there made me hyperventilate. Alphabetically, claustrophobia was number three on my list of phobias.
For six years, I climbed the stairs, in heels, and it never, I mean never, got any easier. Luckily, there were no security cameras because it was not a pretty sight. The first two floors were effortless but after that you’d think I was scaling Everest. I would stumble onto each landing, huffing and puffing like a chain smoker. I would’ve quit smoking if I’d ever started.
After gulping down some musty air I’d push on, the burning in my lungs only exceeded by the burning in my legs. Had there been an oxygen mask available I would’ve used it, cameras be damned. Also, a defibrillator would’ve been nice (just in case) but as I was the only masochist climbing the stairs, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t do the whole Grey’s Anatomy thing myself.
By the eighth floor my legs were like rubber and I was hoisting myself forward with the handrails like a reverse slingshot. Being alone meant I could use any means necessary to reach the top, however ridiculous. The stretch between the ninth floor and the tenth was the worst—like swimming the English Channel, but without the glory. When I finally reached the top I was too winded to speak—which was awkward since speaking was how I made my living.
Then, panting like a dog and sweating like a horse I stumbled out of the stairwell to officially start my morning.
Nowadays, stairs aren’t a problem and I don’t wear heels anymore but even the right shoes can’t save me when my husband takes me on a hike. How am I supposed to reflect on the beauty of nature, its babbling brooks, lush canopies, and rarefied air and also focus on walking? And why are hikes so hard? They are all uphill, through snow and mud, over slippery stones and sharp boulders, with knobby tree roots conspiring to trip me. As my husband effortlessly glides ahead of me, he knows to reach behind to pull me up. When I finally make it to the end, gasping but proud, I check out the people who got there ahead of me: a toddler, a grandma, a pregnant woman and a three legged dog. Oh, yeah? Well, I’d like to see them try the stairs in the courthouse.