The Reality Police

Sometimes, I need to remind myself about my age.

Inside my head, there resides a hardbodied juvenile who can perform handstands on anything from bridge rails over a rushing river to still rings eight feet above the floor. It was a part of my life when I was young, it is a part of me, many years later. So is the runner, the biker, the swimmer, and the scuba diver. They are all a part of me that will never leave. The memories keep them there, and I go there from time to time.
This can become problematic when my brain tells my body that I can still do those things. I recently saw a man in a wetsuit who was attached to hoses that were connected to a large pump on the back of a boat. When he pulled the trigger, jets of water would shoot out of nozzles and he was propelled fifteen feet into the air. My juvenile self immediately became stimulated and processed all of the events that were happening in front of me. The diver said, “I have a wetsuit just like that.” The gymnast said, “I used to do flips better than that guy.” When he shot up and came down headfirst in the water only to emerge like a dolphin, my diver woke up my swimmer and the delusion began in earnest.
“I can do that,” the voices in my head said in perfect harmony.
Remember all of that Freudian psychology you learned in high school and college, the story of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego? Well, it’s all crap. The Id and the Ego got together and hid in your brain from the Superego, and they venture out at times like these. Since they have been sleeping for many years, they emerge in the same state of mind as they were back in the days when your body could actually do the athletic feat that you are considering.
After Id and Ego spend a little fun time considering all of the aspects of Doing It, Superego becomes aware that they are loose and unleashes a fury of reason. “If you do that, you will hurt yourself.” “Do you recall the time you tried to pack yourself, your girlfriend, and a large cooler in a solo canoe?” “How about the incident involving a paddleboard, a coconut, and a speedboat?” Consideration quickly becomes embarrassment, and my body begins to blush. Still, the heart is beating with the excitement of Doing It again. “All I need to do is find my wetsuit. It can’t be that hard, or nobody would ever try it. How much does it cost? Did I make my health insurance payment this month?”
The influence of reason is having a sedating effect. Ego begins to retreat.
“Do you remember the time you got between a Mama Gator and her babies, or being chased by that Bull Shark? They’re maneaters, you know.” Now the Superego is hitting below the belt. To be reminded of my own mortality at a moment of adrenaline-producing certain triumph is nasty and brutal. Id and Ego launch a counter-attack in the hopes that Superego will be subdued long enough for me to get the wetsuit on. Then there would be no turning back. “It would be exciting, like the first time I jumped off the high dive. I didn’t chicken out and climb back down the stairs back then, did I?” “You were sixteen when you went off the high dive,” Superego responded. I sometimes forget that he can hear what I’m thinking inside of my own head.
“Maybe I’ll just go up there and see how much it costs. That won’t hurt anything.” I walk out on the dock and approach the ski boat as it drops off the wet-suited marine warrior. He emerges from the boat and stands looking out over the water, the scene of his recent triumph. “How was it?” I inquire. He turns, revealing a severely scraped nose and a smile. Blood trickles from his nose in red rivulets. It runs around his mouth and down his chin, where it drips onto the weathered grey wood. “I wouldn’t do it again. Too little time in the water for the price. I was just getting the hang of it when they dragged me back to the dock. Banged my nose on the bottom that last time.”
“Looks like fun,” I reply.
I turn and take the long slow walk back to shore. I hang my head a little, flush with humiliation.
“You’re not chickening out. You’re just acting your age.”
“Shut up,” I say aloud.

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