I regularly pee in the woods. I’m not particularly proud of this, however this is where I am at with my life. I am not a gym junkie or church going. I am well past the school-gate mums group. I am not a joiner. But I have joined a women’s only hiking group. Within this group, there are numerous adventures and journeys I can join. However, within this group, there is also my self-imposed, physical requirement to ensure that I am not ‘that’ person holding everyone back. There is also a level of dedication and commitment that middle-aged me no longer has, especially now there are no children at home.
When I committed to joining a New Zealand hiking adventure, it was the promise of regular pre-preparation exercise that was one of the motivations. Exercise in the beautiful outdoors and, I assumed, easily within my strolling capacity (insert maniac laughing). I have since discovered that hiking requires equipment, training, donkey-like-stamina, and patience. I may not be ‘that’ person just yet, but I could be (one day). And I love that person. She is the reason I like this hiking group of women. She will be the one who sets the pace from behind. For not everyone is designed to be the motivator, marching out front, setting a cracking pace and muttering – step, one, two, three. Some of us are much better at the back, cracking jokes about hiking poles being walking sticks, discussing family hilarities and dishing out relationship advice or recipes. This me personifies what I am looking for: a like-mind, similar-age friend. She is also the lookout when I need to pee.
Middle-age is a difficult space to fill. Our ability to make new friends once revolved around our children, or through our work. Our kids are no longer around and our focus on climbing the corporate ladder is no longer so important. Suddenly, friendships become harder to develop and cultivate. Our palette becomes more discerning. We are less interested in nurturing external drama when our middle-age bodies have so much internal change anyway. Our sense of self takes a battering from wrinkles to droopy everything – eyelids, arms, boobs. We discover that overnight we have somehow become invisible. Last to be served at the coffee counter, despite the fact that we will probably be the one paying.
Our own mothers may have joined a knitting/reading/painting group, a CWA, or some other volunteer association. But in my world, as a middle-aged woman, I have no desire to sit on the sidelines of life and watch others embark on adventures. I want to experience hiking trails right around the world. And with women that know I need to pee every two hours. I like the idea of walking with my new friends and discussing our mutual goals and experiences. I am not ready to be completely invisible. These women see me, and I see them. I understand that not all women are like me, some women need the gym, others knitting. But for me, a couple of hours walking in the green energy of the bush discussing backpacks and peeing under a tree is my therapy.