It seems we so often need "permission" from someone, other than ourselves, to admit we no longer want to participate. We grow older, weary, bored, annoyed, irritated and look for an out where we used to want an in. Perhaps it is the same old, same old that disappoints in its failure to amuse and please. Perhaps it is the self realization that we never really enjoyed it, but felt we should. We were trying to please, impress, keep up with someone else.
Today I read a fairly breezy little article, about admitting we really don't like things we have always pretended to like. The author talked of living in Portland, and being asked to go hiking on an almost daily basis. Eventually realizing that more time was spent trying to get out of going on hikes than going on them, there was a realization "Hey, I really don't like hiking". I agreed, mostly. I like hiking, somewhat, but I am not a hiker.
Hiking is virtous and the epitome of a healthy, conscientious, nature loving, outdoor living, non violent, granola eating tree hugger comes to mind. I come from a family that always did a fair amount of hiking, when I was young, and I loved our walks in the woods and cross country skiing. As I got older, and my body more prone to injury and less prone to flexibility (while still pretty young), hiking was a way to keep participating with people I admired. I lived in Santa Fe, and one had to have at least one or two regular sporty activities to be considered a valid person. Hiking there, in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, was almost universally a given. Even among smokers.
Over the years, between living in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and visiting California, Wyoming, and Oregon, being up for a hike was a given. My brother is a major outdoorsman, so a trip to the beach with him might mean scaling down sandy bluffs and climbing over slippery rocks to get to a secluded outcrop of sand and stone. Or kayaking. Or river rafting. This was great, exhilarating, and now is a burden. We aren't on an Outward Bound trip, after all, every time we meet up for a weekend. I don't think his kids have made this not happen, just changed the rate and rhythm.
I have fewer and fewer outdoorsy friends. We get on with our working lives, and little injuries from sprained ankles to back injuries started slowing us down. Lots of decent hiking is within a ten minute drive, there is no shortage here. I always flinch when I arrive in good shoes, a hat and glasses, water bottle and sunblock to see a family picking their way down the hill, in flip flops and a baby slung on the hip, no water bottle in sight. Even worse is getting passed by the elderly Chinese lady at a pace of 3 to 1, with her cane, on the uphill stretch. I like the views, I like the scenery, I like the company, but less and less do I like the strain. A gentle hike I used to be able to jog pushed the last bits of nucleus pulposus out of my disk, and into where it didn't belong. Two days later, in the ER, I thought, What the fuck?
I meet my exercise and physical therapy needs with a stationary bike, now. I can get non impact cardio, no risk of falling off the side of a cliff, and it pushes my disk into place instead of out. This means no more social hour, taking my movement with a tv show instead of a friend, when everyone else out of the living room asleep or elsewhere. Not joyful, but safe and very little pain. My heart is probably healthier than it was all those years of hiking, I don't want to throw up, I no longer take 30 minutes to recover, there are no reflex migraines.
Still, with sadness, I think of all the white water rafting, kayaking, and super hikes I will no longer take. Of course, I passed on many of them while I still could take them, because I just really didn't like it as much as I wanted to appear to like it. Hike to a waterfall up the creek, swim in a natural pool, naked sunbathe to dry off, hike back? Sounds glorious, yet I haven't done that in almost 20 years. Just thought I'd keep it in my book of possibilities, maybe another weekend. We're stiff this weekend, we have a headache, we have the kids, we have other plans, we're tired.
I should be feeling joyful, really, at the reprieve. I have a lifelong opt out excuse for why I can't move heavy objects at the office, help anyone move house, carry children or do extensive housework. It also means I likely won't feel the thrill of white water washing over my face as I fiercely paddle into battle with a Level 4 or 5 rapid. I don't have to make excuses about why I don't want to hike (it's too hot, it's too dark, it's too steep, there are too many people). Of course, I still want the option of trying even if I know it will lead to two or three days of down time to recover. Once you admit to trying again, you are on the hook for turning people down, all over.
What of the other things we really no longer like to do? Family dinners? Music festivals? Arts and crafts fairs?
Recently, I went to Comicon for a day with my sweetie. He loves it, and has mostly attended the local version of SciCon now Comicon in the last 20 years. Many of his longstanding friends are part of the community of people he knows through there. I have never desired to go, not being into fan stuff, cosplay, figure collecting, warcraft and roleplay. It was my idea to go, even though I knew that the day would be long, the place would be crowded, and I didn't have anything "particular" in mind. I don't like big crowds for long periods; if there is a chance for fresh air, I will step out. I long ago stopped pretending I liked to go to the mall or any food court. And concerts. And the Rainbow Gathering.
It was pretty cool, all in all, as I have recently become a fan (as in watched the episodes in order) of Battlestar Galactica. I got to see Brent Spiner's shiny face from a distance, and see video of Jamie Bamber from the talk my sweetie went to the next day. People were fun, there was much to choose from, and I got outdoor breaks with good food. I didn't hate it, and got to add to my list of new things I will now do with others. It gets so exhausting to keep pruning the social tree with fewer and fewer buds.
Still, somewhere, I feel I need permission to decline. I am afraid that allowing myself to admit defeat in the face of strenuous activity puts me on the disabled list. At least it makes it about my limits instead of my dislikes or disapprovals. Other activities involve rejecting other people, though, and what they like to do. I no longer accept invitations to spend dinner hours with my friends' young children at restaurants, because it really mostly sucks. I no longer want to go out dancing in the fancy upscale scene with my recently single and man-magnet friend. We recently tried contra dancing, something I used to enjoy many moons ago, and we both survived. I will try again. I signed up for a summer dance class, hoping to get some swing into my hips and get out of my biking only routine. I have had a few walks lately, with a friend who is an avid hiker. She is having some heart issues, and has refrained from all her usual fare of sunset hikes and zumba until she gets an all clear. Her license plate references hiking, her favorite thing to do. I haven't joined her for one in years, and now, neither will she.
In the spirit of open call- in either comment or your own post- write about the things you have had to give up, and things you were relieved to give up. How hard it has been to admit to yourself, or openly say to others, that you no longer want to do.