The realities of aging.

Last month I turned 44. This is the first birthday I feel legitimately old. As in, aging. Don’t roll your eyes at me and tell me I’m young. I know I’m only 44 and things are bound to get worse but these past few weeks, a series of events have reminded me that I am no longer a spring chicken.

First, there’s the pandemic pounds that have piled up on my mid-section thanks to perimenopause (and over-indulging). Then, age, or spending endless days in virtual google meetings, resulted in so much squinting that I finally broke down and saw an optometrist. Cheaters are the solution, for now. A series of ads that flashed across my scereenresulted in me reflecting on the deep divots (likely from squinting) lining my forehead and a flock of crow’s feet on my eyes. A custom skincare promises to ease the problem or at least inform my ego I’m trying to slow the decline. These items would be bad enough, but manageable. But it gets worse.

Shooting hoops with my kid makes my plantar fasciitis flare up and running has become increasingly difficult. My husband also informed me, while on vacation, that I snore. He even took video to prove his case. I’m sure this is a result of any number of the above items, including but not limited to the pandemic pounds. I’ve noticed I’m not as quick to spring up after lounging on the couch. Odd cracking sounds usually follow. Muscles are tender. Hair is thinning. My memory isn’t quite as crisp.

I’ve invested in some vitamins. I sometimes wonder if these are just placebos to cater to one’s ego, similar to my new facewash routine. Time will tell. Bottom line? I’m aging. I used to laugh at women who warned me my day was coming. For whatever reason, I always felt invincible or ignored the obvious signs of aging. Turns out, I put my pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. And, neglecting my body comes with a price tag I’m no longer willing to pay.

My birthday wish is to slow that process down just a bit this coming year. Not halt it. Just manage it. How, you might ask? Atomic Habits. I read this book last fall and I can honestly say it opened up my eyes to sooo many things.

First, Clear says every action you take is a vote for the person you want to become. The simplest way to look at this is if you want to be a runner, you need to start running. Thinking about it will not make it happen until you take that first step. Even if it is just for a minute a day. Over time, you can build on this to the point where you identify as a runner. Why is this important?

Think about it for a minute. Have you experienced success in anything where you believe you aren’t capable, good enough, or identify with? Seriously. If you believe you suck at something, you will every time. If you don’t believe or identify as something, then it is hard to excel at it.

In Atomic Habits, Clear talks about how the deeper you identify with something (good or bad), the harder it is to change it. “The biggest barrier to positive change at any level—individual, team, society—is identity conflict. Good habits can make rational sense, but if they conflict with your identity, you will fail to put them into action.”

The end result, you are the product of what you believe. Or, as Clear says, “the outcomes in your life are the lagging measure of your habits. There are no high performance people, only high performance habits.”

Reading it, it seems so obvious. But, it also explains why I’m a mediocre runner. Because even after 10-years of crossing finish lines, I still find myself occasionally struggling to call myself a runner. Since devouring this book, I’ve started implementing small changes in my life while also doing some personal development on how identifying with the person I want to be.

To achieve this, when decision time comes, rather than shame myself out of eating the cookie or doing the run, I simply ask myself, what would the healthy Beth do?  Sometimes she eats the cookie. She almost always does the work-out. And, you’ll even find her on the floor in an occasional yoga pose or sweating on a spin bike. This is not an overnight transition but like always, I’m aiming for progress not perfection.

Turns out, his method works. Simple things that I once snubbed are becoming part of my daily ritual. Like committing to stretching for 5-minutes before running. Signing up for shorter races but committing to a daily training schedule… no excuses. The difference this time is the schedule is manageable, leaving me no reason to say, not today.

I’m actually starting to believe this is what I’m meant to do. As an added bonus, some of the achy joints and cracking bones seem to be less frequent. It’ll be interesting to see what these small habits equate to in a year, or in five years. This weekend is my first 5k of the season and I’m curious to see the output of these efforts.

Anybody else an Atomic Habits fan?
What actions do you put into motion in honor of the person you want to become?