My husband and I went to a communal dinner last year and sat next to a very friendly couple. They were about our age – mid-50’s – and, by outward appearance, looked very suburban. As we got to know each other, the woman told me about taking a Vision Quest in New Mexico a year previous. “It was one of the best experiences of my life.” I tried to picture her with a Native American healer as she continued, “It was a perfect combination of inward exploration, relaxation, physical exertion and spirituality.” She radiated peace and joy as she talked. I want that, I thought.
This past March, on my 55th birthday, I reflected on what I want to accomplish this year and this woman’s story re-emerged. I felt the tug of desire to go on a Vision Quest.
For so many reasons, I chose not to pursue this desire, but the main reason is I don’t want to leave my life to find myself. I want to find myself right here, in the middle of this messy, confusing, sometimes boring, sometimes exhilarating life.
But I still want to have stand-naked-on-the-mountain-top moments this year. I want to push my limits and do things that scare me. It’s important, as I age, that I don’t get too complacent or stuck in a rut. To ensure that doesn’t happen, I decided that my entire 55th year will be my Vision Quest. Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Do something every day that scares you.” Well, I’m not going to stand-naked-on-the-mountain-top every day, but I have committed to creating at least one stand-naked-on-the-mountain-top, scary experience each month of my 55th year – moments that lead me closer to my vision for my future.
Last week I had a surprising stand-naked-on-the-mountain-top moment. I joined my friend at her gym for a “body pump” class. She has talked about how much she loves this class and I was looking for a way to get fit.
The morning of the first class, as I put on my holey stretch pants and torn t-shirt, my stomach felt like a glass of Alka Seltzer. I imagined a bunch of 20-somethings with adorable bubble butts and perky breasts lifting weights in their stretchy workout clothes. I felt so intimidated. Going with my friend certainly helped, but even so, I had a full swarm of butterflies flapping extra hard that morning.
I imagined all the judgments these cute bubble butt gals would have of me for being so out of shape. I assumed there would be inner eye rolls when I had to step back and not do part of an exercise. Walking into that room of 40 people was harder than walking up to a podium to give a speech.
When will I learn? When will I remember that fear of judgments from others is simply a reflection of the judgments I have of myself?
Everyone in that room was there to take care of themselves, not to judge me. They don’t go to the gym so they can see how many people in class they can scorn with judgments. People may have noticed me, but, quite honestly, I’m not that important to them.
And that makes me feel really good.
I made it through the class without throwing up or having to quit ten minutes into the routine. Because of my hip, I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue, but I’m proud of myself for doing the thing that scared me.
What about you? If you were to choose a stand-naked-on-the-mountain-top experience, what would it be?