“I’m not 24 anymore: Up Close and Personal” Mickey Glantz August 27, 2010

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies

Published on August 27, 2010 with 1 Comment

Perhaps this is just a 70 year-old’s lament: alas, he’s not 24 anymore. For those of us at this end of the age spectrum, even for those who are still pretty energetic, there is an on-going conflict between mind and body. As always, the body sets the physical limits on what we can do on a sustainable basis, one-off activities notwithstanding.

mind over matter?

The conflict I am talking about is taking place constantly these days between a 24 year-old mindset and this 70 year old’s bodily constraints. As much as I might hate to admit it, this body is slowly but increasingly imposing new constraints on what I can physically do in a sustained way. Herein lay the source of my particular conflict: I still want to engage in strenuous physical activities, like a typical 24 year old.

I see guys play soccer, shoot basketballs and engage in Frisbee games, and I have the urge to ask if I can join them. Recently, I played in a tennis tournament but refused to be assigned to my age bracket, 70 and over. Instead, I chose to play in the 4.5 level in which a player of any age could compete. I lost, as most people, including myself, expected. But I lost to a 40 year old in a 2-hour, 3-set match that ended in a tie-breaker. Though I thought I would likely lose playing a 40-something, I did not expect the match to take so long or to be so close.

The real reason I decided to play in a tournament, after having been absent from them for two decades or more, was a desire to relive the feeling of one-on-one competition that I used to have in tournaments. Would I feel pressure to win my matches or feel anxiety with each point, game or set? Would I become hungry for victory? The fact is that I just wanted to feel once more the ambiance of tennis competition. I wanted to see if it would be like it had been several decades earlier, when I started to compete as a teenager. Little did I think that I would walk away with a psychological victory. Indeed, I lost but I won. I took a much younger guy to 3 sets and a tie-breaker.

Near the end of the match I started to think “What if I were to win?” I would have had to play another prolonged match in the hot midday sun. It was not an appealing scenario, especially when I had already gotten what I had hoped for by participating in the tournament; I felt like I was 24 again. Subconsciously, I got to thinking that stamina-wise and ego-wise I had already won, so now it was OK to lose. In this instance at the age of 70 I got to relive my tennis youth for a couple of hours.

It's worth a try!

But my mind continues to act like that of a 24 year old, posing other physical tests for my body to endure. For example, during a recent trip to Brazil, I spent considerable time and energy, mine and that of others, trying to find a school for Brazilian jiu jitsu, capoeira, in order to take a few basic lessons. I have been fascinated by its need for balance and flexibility, which is something we seem to have diminishing quantities of at my end of the age spectrum. I can get them at home but wanted to get them in the country of origin of capoeira. Between conference lectures, I tried to find a capoeira master to teach me basic stuff but to no avail. My Portuguese level of fluency was not high enough to make clear that I just wanted to “feel” what capoeira movement would be like (the mind) and to “see” what the body could endure.

The awareness of my subliminal mind-body conflict came to me during a trip to Shanghai earlier this year. Early in the morning on a main pedestrian street I watched people of all ages exercising in unison to chants or to music. I was attracted and amazed watching the most elderly of these groups by their balance and apparent minds over—or at least harmony with—their bodies. As old as they were, they were amazingly agile, and I thought of my early morning ritual of putting on socks while standing, of how lose my balance and fall over most of the time.

typical scene early in a Shanghai morning

I got to thinking that I could learn from them and others on how to maintain physical balance by focusing my thoughts on the need for balance. It seems to me that those elderly Chinese people exercising, like those who engage in capoeira as well as in other sports activities that typically favor young people (volleyball, Frisbee games, soccer, etc.), had been able to find a compromise between mind (what one thinks they can do) and body (what they are physically capable of doing).

Aging is, well, just that, aging. But I’ve come to believe that the conflict between mind and body is a healthy one, until one reaches its limit. Personally, I hope to continue to think like a 24 year old as long as I can and in doing so continue to think about and try to engage in activities that allow me to taste, even briefly, the ambiance of physical competition I enjoyed when I was a lot younger. I am sure that my body will let my mind know when its time to compromise and accept the limits imposed by my age. Only then will I have to settle for watching rather than doing.

Here is a mind-over-body experiment


While writing this, an incident came to mind. I was at work one day walking at a fast pace down the hall (my normal pace) when a 20-something researcher came out of his cubicle on purpose to ask me a question as I passed his door: “Why do you always walk so fast in the corridors,” he asked. A weird question, so I had no stock answer. I thought for a second (not breaking my stride) and said over my shoulder as I passed him, “because I have something to do.”

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  1. Mickey, Although we’d had this conversation earlier on, I was cheered to read your blog – … up close and personal.
    The subliminal mind-body conflict is always there, and perhaps ever more present because what society and everything that is so structured around us expects us to do – in accordance to our age range (and limits)… parallel to this conflict, i often dwell on the concept of ‘completeness’, are we there when the degree is finished? when we tie the knot? or when we get a certificate that says we are qualified?,
    or are we there as we live each experience?

    To you I say: Keep your stride and fast pace!!!! for I am sure we will follow.

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