I started thinking about this post when I was dangling from the bar in the playground. I wasn’t supposed to be dangling, I was supposed to be doing chin ups, but the up part… well… it was more complicated than I first expected. There were a couple of guys putting some new paint on the pool house trim at the local rec center where I am dangling, slightly defeated. I pretended I was stretching my arms, as if I intended to be hanging here unable to lift myself. I may be weak, but still proud. I’m no triathlete, but I pride myself in staying in shape. Hundreds of flights of stairs, yoga, push ups… I mean… I put effort into this. An inch shouldn’t be too much to ask. Seriously, an inch up. How hard can that be? Apparently, much harder than it looks.

I flip over and dangle by my knees off the bar, upside down. Though absolutely no health benefits in doing this, it still provided a brief acrobatic feeling that took away the shame of no chin up. I swung back and forth looking at the slides and jungle gym. Kids play here all day and they use these bars. When I was a kid I used these bars. I bend backward and grab my ankles. If I had a popsicle hanging out of my mouth the scene would be complete. I commit to returning here several times a week. One pull up. One chin up. Anything. That is my goal. My defiant Holy Grail.

I get back on my bike and head off down a trail that winds through neighborhoods and hugs a creek. I haven’t ridden in years, but like the chin ups, feels like the next phase somehow. Nothing makes you feel younger than riding a bike. In two seconds you are ten years old and it’s summer. It does not provide the steady attention to nature I enjoy while hiking, but the feel of the wind in my face, and the speed… oh that feeling of flying down a hill. The thrill is no less wonderful to me now at age 52 than it was at 10. I’m rusty, but I don’t care. It’ll come.

I try some of the dirt paths made by local children. Some are steep down hills, while others have little bumps for rocketing your bike over. I delight in being one of the neighbor boys dashing over a hillside for just a few moments. There is a curious fear at lifting off the ground on a bike that daunts me a little at my age. “Broken bones and hips”, my ego whispers. “You could fall or crash”, the small voice whines. So I do it again and again. Fear be damned.

As I ride along, I realize there must be a way to get through a neighbor’s yard to the field beyond. A child would’ve figured that out. So I begin to look and sure enough, a slip of a pathway passes between two houses covered in bike treads that leads to the larger field. A man is heading out with the trash from one house and I dash down the passage quick as lightning before I can be flagged off. I laugh out loud as I hit the field and race across it through tall grass and hard packed trails. I am the opportunistic thief Oliver Twist would’ve been proud of.

Here’s the thing about falling in love with yourself. You are constantly looking for ways to enjoy life. Ways to entertain yourself. Ways to make yourself laugh. I laugh mostly at what I’ve been told about aging. When I turned forty the women at my office gave me black balloons and my cake in a wheel chair. They meant it to be funny, of course, but we don’t realize how much we tell each other it’s over when really its just begun. How much we share the passed on story of decline and decay that was given to us by someone else. That life is like some creepy, slow crawl to the grave. I don’t want to give that to any of you. I want to give you vitality and joy. Laughter and hunger to learn new things. To be plotting your next re-invention, not your retirement.

I want to give you defiance of what everyone has ever told you about the laws of the body and death. Death is coming. It is as certain as the sun rising. So what? That isn’t even interesting. It’s predictable. What’s interesting is what we are doing with the time we’ve been given. That’s fire. Ask yourself, what do I value above all else? Then chase that with the power of a lion. Today, for me, it’s freedom. It’s remembering the promises I made to myself in my youth. It’s remembering to keep the fire burning in my belly for the life I’ve been given. It’s defying everything I’ve been told about how things should be.

Worth a glance, a short list of those who defied age.

12 thoughts on “Defiance

  1. Bravo! Here is to pull ups and bike rides……and skidding into home plate worn out, exhausted and had a blast.

  2. Water slides! Roller coasters! Playing dress up! Wooohoo!

    Thanks for this, Noelle, and Happy Easter. 🌷🐰

  3. Love this!
    I can’t wait until it’s warm enough here for me to get out on my bicycle…
    Hope you have a wonderful week, filled with all the freedom and promise you desire…

  4. Fantastic, piece and what a great story, experience and way to live. What you have expressed here is a very simple truth. This is pretty much the experiences I like to have myself as often as I can.

    My grandson age 6 said to me today you are not a good grandad, you are a great grandad. I loved playing football with you. This was his actully words. I was taken back a little and the feeling was mutally. There was times whilst playing with him that I felt like a child again. I believe this is a vital part of a balanced life. Also extreamly important for a child to these experience, that leads them to think.positive thoughts about others. I think his words say it all, good for my ego perhaps, however much more important the feelings he experienced.

    Thank you for this artical Noelle. As always you hit the important points right in the bulls eye.

    • I love this. I’m with you 100%. I don’t want to quietly decline and waste away waiting for who knows what as I crawl to my grave. As you so beautifully express let’s keep the focus on the constant re-invention of ourselves. Let’s keep the fire of our passions alive in our hearts and blaze brightly as we move through the world. Thank you for sharing this beautiful and inspiring piece of writing, which I’m sure will touch the hearts of many.

      • I think there is power in us sharing this energy together. It lifts everyone up. There is so much energy toward talking about I’ll ess, decline, loss as we age, we really need to create a groundswell of positive energy that says live. Live until there’s nothing left but dust.

    • I love what he said. Especially for a child there is not artifice. They are so authentic. He does not know you are anything but his loving grandfather whom he loves to play with. He will remember this all of his life. Such a gift to give him and yourself. When I am playing with my nieces and nephews it is amazing how often I forget my age. Playing with crayons, jumping hopscotch or using boogie boards in the surf. I think you are right, it is how you keep youth and balance in your life. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Such a treat.

  5. Great piece Noelle, I laughed several times while reading. I know what you mean about the jelly arms on pull ups. I do them daily and do them while hanging upside down. You have to work up to that though, don’t try it out of the gates, ha!
    Laughed at the black balloons and wheelchair. For a buddy’s 40th we procured some “happy 96th birthday!” decor from the local party supermarket. Honestly moreso because I was surprised they even stock “happy 96th birthday” stuff (they had napkins, hats, plates, tablecloth, the whole nine yards). I felt bad the store probably wasn’t going to move a lot of these items, so I purchased a bunch for a 40th party. Everyone got a hearty chuckle.

    • I won’t. I’m working up to it through various yogic and calisthenics moves. Right now I’m working on suspending and developing my upper body strength. Everyone needs a goal.

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