I’ve been substitute teaching yoga for seven years. Although I’ve been asked several times to take over a permanent class, up until now, I’ve declined the offers. I’m a commitment-phobe. I love yoga and sharing it with others but feel backed in with a regular obligation of having my own class.
One of the instructors I’ve subbed for over the years, Elizabeth, moved to Florida. She just turned 80, has taught yoga forever, has a huge following of all ages, and was my revered mentor. It was daunting, but I finally agreed to step in and take over her class when she asked.
A small segment of older teenage girls attend this yoga session regularly. One is the daughter of a friend of mine. I received an email from her the other day calling me the “New Fav Guru” among the high school girls. I was flattered, but at the same time, I wondered if I was becoming the “new” Elizabeth. Was I now taking over as a mentor because of my age and experience? I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that role.
But, no getting around it, I’m now middle-aged. I sometimes catch myself in a store mirror and for just a moment don’t recognize the woman looking back at me. Inside, I still feel like a twentysomething. So the question is: who is this twentysomething? Who is this self that some know so well? Who is this unique presence, situated at an unchanging age of resilience and insight, this “self” who witnesses the passage of time in body and mind while remaining true to an authentic tempo that’s very different from the scary ticking of the clock?
We are aging in greater numbers than ever before. As people explore what it’s like to be elderly, I think we not only need guidance from those ahead of us but we need to become, in essence, the mapmakers. I can accept being the “new fav guru,” even though I envision a much older woman in that role. I have to embrace my aging and evolve into one of the wise. Perhaps the urgent things we do while in our youth and adulthood—finding the right partner and career, raising a family, creating security and so on—hide this ageless “self “ from the big picture.