When I was little, I read this book about a group of townspeople who got together and thought it would be a good idea to unhook the moon. They devised a plan to gather a ton of barrels and stack one on top of the other until they stretched high into the sky. Up when the rickety tower until the man at the top got so close that he could nearly touch the moon. “One barrel!” he yelled to the people below, “We need one more barrel to unhook the moon!”
The falling action, so to speak, turned out that one more barrel was one too many. As the town tried to bring the very last barrel to the very top of the pile, the entire construction tumbled down and the undertaking was abandoned. I can’t quite recall the rest of the story, but the point I suppose was that everything has a breaking point. I think about this concept a lot, but usually it’s only in passing as I’m multitasking poorly while running from one life event to another. I’m not even sure why I remember the children’s book at all, but I do understand why I am starting to reflect more and more on the concept of “too much”.
This year is quickly winding down, and while it has been as busy as any other, I do feel an unfamiliar new weight of experience that has come with my developing age (I don’t’ say “old age”, because I think that the term is too subjective). For me, developing age has helped to gift me with a pulled psoas muscle that is impacting my enjoyment of standing up or sitting down. A pulled muscle is my proverbial “one barrel too many” experience du jour, and it serves as proof that I’m not as steely as I once thought I was. It was dumb of me to drag a 22kg suitcase for a few kilometers through two cities in two countries on one day when I could have easily called a cab in both places. It was a work trip. It would have costed me nothing.
It’s funny, I am barely into my forties, and I can already see how my mindset is shifting. And while I don’t spend time obsessing about the actual number of my age, I do see it as a sort of gentle reminder. Like the trusty chiming of a clock that impartially informs you that you are now running late. The fact of the hour is there—it is ultimately up to you to decide how to factor this piece of information into your day. Age is important, but ultimately it’s just another data point. Another barrel that is stacked up on top of everything else that you’ve already spent a lifetime in building.
Over the course of my life, I’ve demonstrated several times over that my barrel stacking skills are less than proficient. No one would hire me to try and unhook a jacket, nevermind a moon. I’ve made a lifetime out of stacking them—and myself—too far, too many times. Now I am left with a rather messy and acrobatically interesting assemblage that I find a sick interest in negotiating.
It’s more than clear that what I have managed to construct, it was created with no real blueprint in mind—but really, I don’t know many people who have fared any better. The big thing now is remembering to tread a bit more carefully, or at least be a little more thoughtful about what I’m going to put myself through before I make my next move.
So with all of this in mind—the complicated balancing act and the realization that falling to the bottom again and again is not going to do my maturing mind and body any favors. I will continue with multiple attempts to rearrange my nest of Pick Up Sticks and just hope it stays together well enough for my purposes. It won’t be easy. I know that it is hard to modify personal behaviors (which is why I still think that ice cream on waffles is a suitable breakfast)—but if this past month of physical and mental calisthenics has been any indication, I know that I need to start making small changes.
My next work trip starts dark and early tomorrow morning. After my last trip—the one with a suitcase that compromised my core stability—I have already taken the liberty of organizing a taxi. My ego and irrational sense of independence is starting to be called into question. I now grasp that it is not only a logical and adult move to be kind to my body, but it is also wonderful for self-preservation.
I know that my future will be filled with more white-knuckled barrel tumbling adventures, and I need my body in as good of a condition as possible if I’m going to withstand those. So long as I loosely apply the lessons I learned from childhood books with the consumption habits I’ve mastered throughout my life, I think things will be more or less okay. If not, there’s always Ibuprofen.