Weeds: The spirit for cartwheels is willing, but the flesh?

I was at the Corn Days street dance in Sleepy Eye. Up on a flatbed trailer, Heidi and his Good Ole Boys were offering up their distinctive blend of Americana musical dishes. There was a gap on First Avenue between the band and picnic tables, a place set aside for dancing.

Early in the evening, dancers were still being shy. That space was taken by a group of little kids, mostly girls. They were flinging themselves through the air, cartwheeling, flipping, and hand springing across the street in front of the band. It was a whirlwind of arms, legs, and hair as the kids put on an amazing display of athleticism. It was as if gravity had loosened its hold on them.

I and some friends sipped our Grain Belts as we watched this demonstration of physical buoyancy. That’s when I told them of my plans to do a cartwheel. At this time, my cartwheel exists solely as a theoretical possibility. But then, so did space travel once. I have discussed this with Pam. She is dubious. I’m working out some of the details for my cartwheel now. Like, should I have medical staff on hand. Just in case I am wrong about this.

Seriously, how hard can it be? It’s just a matter of momentum, propulsion, and space. This is preceded by a running start and throwing oneself to the wind. After all, it’s arms, legs, and a torso, same as the kids at the street dance, right?

Those kids have one advantage over me. Their parts don’t have nearly as many hours on them. There is getting to be, as they say, quite a bit of wear on my tread. There’s debate as to when we reach our peak physically, somewhere in our late teens to perhaps thirty. Regardless, those ages are wistful memories to me.

Lately when getting together with friends my age, there is often time spent comparing aches and pains. Mostly these are annoyances that allow us to carry on. But the older we get, the odds of things becoming more than annoyances increases with each passing year.

Of course, to be here at all requires thankfulness. I have a brother and several friends who weren’t give the chance to see life through middle age. Stuff happens, some of it bad. Serious accidents, slow things like cancer, sudden things like heart attacks: any of us could be “chosen” for these. “Each day is a gift” is heard more often now than 20 years ago. Of course, it was as true back then as it is now. That is perspective working there.

Another common topic of conversation now is healthy habits. Almost everyone my age I know is walking, biking, doing yoga, or going to the gym. Science indicates that it truly is a case of use it or lose it. And doing anything is better than doing nothing. Along with moving, we’re trying to eat better. Some of us have made incremental changes; others, big life transformations.

I have run off and on since I was in high school. “Run” is not quite accurate; “jog” is more like it. A few years ago, when our kids got older, I got a little more serious about that. I know I am lucky to be able to run and don’t take it for granted. I try to go about a half hour at a time. That’ll get me 3 miles, give or take.

Runners talk about the release of endorphins creating a “runner’s high.” I remember that from when I was younger. Those were glorious moments when running seemed effortless. I’m not sure what happened, but endorphins don’t come around much anymore. Whatever produces endorphins seems to have gone limp. It’s a chore tottering around the lake trail or the highway.

On bad days, I come home and tell Pam that I feel old and fat and slow. I tell her I want to feel young and thin and fast. I get that same look that I get when I am discussing my cartwheel.

At some point I will shift to walking. There are couple elderly folks out mornings on the lake trail, balancing with walkers, moving one step at a time, one foot ahead of the other. They are my role models if I live so long. One step at a time, one foot ahead of the other, until the Lord says it is time to stop.

A lot of us inflicted needless harm to these bodies in our early years, the bodies we hope will keep on going for a few decades. I smoked a few years (quit), carried too many pounds (down twenty), ate junk food (eating better with occasional lapses), and drank more than I should (I’m working on that). What’s past is past. Today is the gift we hold in our hand, not yesterday or tomorrow.

In First Corinthians, Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Our body as a temple? We likely don’t think in those terms. If we do, some heady responsibility comes with that. Then, it’s not just a matter of feeling well and living long. It’s also giving right glory to God.

I admit to making a mess of this temple on occasion. While God is forgiving of our sins, that doesn’t always translate into fixing our bodies when we abuse them. But again, all we can do is live from today forward. Honor thy temple the best one can from this moment. And if we fail, try again. One step at a time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I might go try that cartwheel. If you don’t see my column for a while, maybe Pam was right to be skeptical.

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