As I lay up in bed, sick with body fatigue and tiredness of which I haven’t felt in two years, I know I am exactly in the right place.
Let me go back to the stuff I keep writing about intermittently in my blogs because this is a subject that is rather kept under the blanket or ignored or the society behaving as if it doesn’t exist.
Yes ladies and gentlemen I am talking about the ubiquitous women of our society, the older women, the women that are above 35. The ones that have already been slotted as middle aged, over the hill. And god forbid if one crossed 40! Either the assumption was you look that age or look ‘young’ with the statements, omg! I didn’t know you were ‘that age’.
Strangely that doesn’t apply to men doesn’t it? Either they mature like wine or they don’t, at least most of them don’t get comments like over the hill. Why am I saying this? Because my friends, I went through a transformation this year and I think it’s time to share it.
I was always physically active since childhood. Basketball, badminton, swimming I was on the go all the time. Playing basketball in district levels meant the pushing that happened from coaches. But I was also a ‘big girl’, no one from my generation was as tall or big as me when I was growing up. Always the odd one out, I was either looked at with admiration or with sheer contempt. Completely extreme. There was nothing in between when it came to me.
I started training at the gym or rather entered into one when I was 17, and at that time the only option was to workout in a gym filled with only guys. Yup, heckled, teased whatever you call it, I went through it and started my fitness journey.
My fitness journey continued nonetheless right through when I entered into my 20s. Always the active girl, the strong girl I neither looked like an athlete nor like an unfit person. I was somewhere in between. So I would get jokes on my ‘thunder thighs’ which genetically was big or asked why was I fat? You got to remember that ‘Big is beautiful’ ‘be your own size’ is a phenomenon that happened recently. So what did it do to me was work harder, push harder, not to look that way.
When I entered triathlons living in the US, did half Ironman, Ironman I still didn’t look like how a triathlete looked, no way. When I think about it now, in 2004-2007 when I had my triathlon journey I was probably the only coloured person doing it wherever I went, just that I wasn’t aware of it. Yet with all the above I didn’t look like one. Did it bother me? Yes it did! I won’t say it didn’t.
Yes the wonderful thing about what a country like USA did to my morale was amazing. It made me aware of my strengths, when people walked upto me and told me you look strong, look at those strong muscled legs! For the first time I felt I had something. But sad too isn’t it? I had to go to another country, away from India to know my self worth.
It didn’t matter I dedicated 4-5 hours every day for training with a job to boot. Yes I also had a wonderful man in my life who kept telling me that I was worth it and more. But the scars inside were too deeply engorged by then.
Once I crossed 40 then it metamorphosed into something else. I went on Himalayan treks and I looked like anything but a trekker. I neither fit into the senior down and out Trekker nor into the young lithe trekker.
My moment of reckoning happened in April 2021 when I did a repeat trek of Deorital Chandrashila with my friend Bhim. All that jazz of how fit I was came crashing down when I struggled hard. My ego took a beating. All my years of triathlons, Yoga, running came to a big zero right then right there. All that I thought I was, I was not. I looked unfit, I was distraught, completely shattered inside.
Added to that was because of my age I was called a Mom by the youngsters. I never wanted any labels, far from it I have run away from anything conventional. Be that a marriage, children or career. It was always my choice to live life on my terms and yes take full accountability for it.
Why did it hurt me so much? Being a woman in her 40s meant I was over? I was done? In almost every trek barring a few I was labelled. I have battled this for years as I grow older.
I went back home after the trek with a determined state of mind. What is it I wanted to do truly in every sense, the rest of my life? Out came the answer, keep trekking in the Himalayas. As long as I had my feet to stand and walk on, I would do that. No going back.
The journey that started in April took me to a steel like determination when it came to nutrition and fitness. I looked at myself, with awareness, and there had to be major lifestyle changes. Out went the drinking, out went sugar or anything processed, this was no longer ‘losing weight’ this was to make myself worthy enough to keep exploring Himalayas and only the fit and fittest can thrive and keep going on.
So out went late nights, late social calls, my social circle became minuscule. In that process I also learnt who will support you truly in your hour of need. Friends are those who will respect your choices, who will encourage and motivate you to stay on track and I found I had very few then. Lots of experiences were happening.
Once my lifestyle started out went everything else. It was not at all a sacrifice, it was a choice, a big choice I made to transform. People who saw my transformation got shocked, some stopped talking to me entirely like how is this possible? to you don’t look good, you lost your charm! Yup it happens.
So with aplomb I completed 5 treks in 2021, I was happy I was elated, finally my fitness was what it was years ago. BUT this is what happened too and let me tell it directly. Instead of feeling happy, feeling good I could do this, instead of being proud of myself that I could build the endurance, instead of seeing the progress I made in all these months, all I did was to keep pushing myself.
Highly critical when I ran lesser kms than my usual, when I lifted weights lesser or ate a little more than usual. We are but humans but invariably I became this machine that kept pushing pushing and more pushing. More stamina, more endurance, more personal best, I was bound to burn.
In the past few weeks I was exhausted, fatigued, and yet I kept doing what I did like a machine. What was my fear? I will tell you, I didn’t want to go back to being that person again. That unfit person, who was slotted and labelled like hell, it became my motto and goal that it consumed me in all. You see how deep the scars get in? Decades of scars don’t go away that easily. It requires therapy, it requires understanding, it requires facing some harsh truths.
And then it happened, my fatigue, my pushing caught up with me. I couldn’t get out of bed, all I wanted was to rest up and like that it struck me like lightening. What was I doing? What the hell was this? What did I want to prove to anyone? Then I knew the biggest critic was me, that me on myself was harsh, critical, with no compassion. Instead of enjoying what my body could do now, I focused on what it still couldn’t.
And if you ask me, most of them out there are doing just that. Instead of celebrating the gains they made in whatever little way, the focus was primarily on what they couldn’t.
So right now as I lie in bed completely resting and giving myself that tender loving care I apologise, profusely to this body. To not giving it’s due, to not even acknowledging the journey and transformation it made. This body has gone through so much and yet I never thanked it enough.
And for the first time I have freed myself from the chains that locked me in. The chains of harsh judgement, of society wanting me to be slotted as I move onto different treks with young guns, the older middle aged woman tag and so many more. It won’t happen overnight but it’s a practice,a daily step by step process I follow now.
And in that process I might lose people and maybe gain a few, but it’s worth it. Surrounding myself with those very few who can appreciate, understand and support this journey of mine 💙