by Suni Lynn Lee, pictures provided by Myra Aronson
When I met Myra Aronson at a Venture Outdoors rock climbing event, something in her demeanor and attitude impressed me. As I watched her successfully tackle the challenge of scaling a sheer rock cliff, an activity I was too timid to attempt, I felt inspired. But it wasn’t just that she faced down whatever fear she may have been feeling that inspired me. I was also deeply affected by the fact that as a woman in her 50’s she was doing what she loved and most wanted to do. Clearly, she was not allowing her age to define who she is or dictate what she could or could not do.
I wanted to know more about Myra and asked if I could interview her. She agreed, and here, in part, are her answers to my questions.
What do you do to stay in shape?
Myra: Lots of yoga and other activities that address the whole person–mental/physical/spiritual, including deep breathing, meditation, drinking lots of water, eating super foods.
How long have you been doing yoga, and why is it important to you?
Myra: I took my first yoga class in the ‘90’s and became a teacher in 2005. Yoga is important because it allows us to access our ancient brain circuitry, connecting us more deeply to the world around us.
What role has being physically active played in your life?
Myra: I like being in motion. My happiest times include completing an end-to-end hike of the Long Trail (in Vermont) and a bicycle tour of the Rockies.
During the Venture Outdoors event, how did you feel as you were being rigged up for your first climb?
Myra: I was so excited! I love rocks. I had forgotten how much. When I saw where we would be climbing, I thought it was really rugged and beautiful. I was so glad to be out there. Also, the leader, Fred Gunter, is a legend around here and I was happy to get to know him. If we had a “national treasure” program here like they do in Japan, he would be one! He and his crew have tons of experience and were so well prepared with equipment.
When you’re climbing, what are you thinking/feeling?
Myra: It’s kind of a mind puzzle with an element of urgency. It requires full concentration. I like to test myself to see how calm I can remain when I’m on an overhang about to lose it. I guess it’s a form of meditation.
How did it feel to reach the top?
Myra: I was particularly thrilled because it was harder than it looked, and it has been a long time since I last climbed. Also, I’ve had some injuries that affected my grip strength on my left hand. About halfway up the first climb I thought the whole idea was misguided, but I didn’t give myself that choice. I just went for it. So, yeah, summiting was the best, but then I was already thinking about the next one!
Would you recommend rock climbing to other women?
Myra: Yes, it’s so empowering! Conquer the rock!
What do you like most about rock climbing?
Myra: I like the tactile experience of exploring the rock, looking for good handholds. It’s especially fun when you do more with less, as in sometimes less effort and more ingenuity are the perfect combination. I think we all tend to make things more difficult than they need to be, but when you get lost in what you’re doing you may be relaxed enough in any given moment to have a brilliant idea that works. Also, when you’re hanging on for dear life with three fingers of one hand, there’s no room for everyday, ordinary problems!
What advice would you give those of us who are scared to try rock climbing?
Myra: Try it with an organized group like Venture Outdoors. You get a lot of support and encouragement.
Who inspires or motivates you?
Myra: Anyone who really loves what they do inspires me. People who defy all odds through sheer determination are great. People who maintain a curiosity about life and are always willing to try new things.
After we completed the interview, I thought about Myra’s answers to my questions and why her attitude and active lifestyle inspired me so much. I realized that I have always equated getting old with becoming physically infirm. As I prepare myself for my 60th birthday next year, people like Myra are helping me see that the correlation between my age and my physical abilities is totally within my own control. She inspires me because by taking care of herself and staying active, she is able to climb those rocks and can continue to do the things she loves and most wants to do. She demonstrated to me that age is just a number between birth and death—it only matters if you allow it to define who you are or dictate what you can or can not do.