May 11, 2011

CHINA: “If you don’t use it you lose it”.

PORTLAND, Maine / The Elder Storytelling Place / Time Goes By / May 11, 2011

By Johna Ferguson

Being under stress puts a terrible burden on each us, not only our physical health but also our mental health. How to cope with it also poses problems.

Sex, as proven by many studies, helps relieve stress by its reaction responses which are mainly chemical changes. These changes promote a relaxation and satiation response due to the rush of hormones.

But what if having sex isn’t an option?

After my husband left me, I was so devastated that the thought of sex with any man completely turned my mind and body off. But that didn’t last forever; I dated men after that time. Eventually I wondered how would I get along without it as my former husband and I had had an active sex life, so now what?

My mother suggested two things: 1. Take a long cold shower or, 2. Get busy and wear your body out so you don’t think about it so instead of sex in bed, sleep would come quickly.

I didn’t think a cold shower sounded very good, what with no heat in the bathrooms in China and with the long cold winters there. Therefore, I decided to try the second.

First I tried biking long distances in China on the touring groups. That certainly wore me out and sex never entered my mind either time. But then I began teaching in China and that certainly wasn’t body tiring. I decided then and there to become a jogger.

I know I was a little old, 56, to be starting that vigorous an activity, but I knew I must do something to save my sanity.

I started out slowly, just walking fast for three or four blocks, then doubling that and on and on. I worked up to where I was jogging four blocks and walking four blocks, jogging four blocks, etc.

I stretched it further and further until six months later I was jogging, in the early evening, for an hour every night on Beijing’s sidewalks. That plus my bike riding during the day in was enough to completely wear me out by bedtime so sleep came easily.

When I moved to Qingdao to teach it became more difficult to jog for that is a city like Seattle with many steep hills. I had to cut back on the distance and adjust myself to jogging up the hills, but the flip side was I could almost coast down them on the return trip.

I received lots of stares for by then I was 65 years old and with many more gray hairs. Also in warm weather, I ran in a tank top and shorts, something older Chinese women would never, ever do. But I kept at it for when my head hit the pillow I slept like a baby.

But all that jogging was finally taking its toll on my body. My legs were so sore some mornings I wondered if I could climb the long two flights of stairs to my classroom.

Luckily at 68 I met my future husband and again I sleep like a baby. As the saying goes, “if you don’t use it you lose it”. Enough said.

© 2011 Ronni Bennett