Time is flying.
It seems like it was only yesterday that I was 39. That was nineteen years ago! It was a year marked by a painful divorce and returning to the work force full-time. A year later, in an effort to not let my milestone year be defined by failure on all fronts, I ran my first 50-mile race. At work, my colleagues surprised with me with birthday cake the day I turned 40 (chocolate, I recall). On it were 40 candles…all aglow! When I blew them all out smoke-filled the small conference room. We joked that surely the smoke detectors were defective since they didn’t sound off. It was a year of feeling strong—almost invincible— physically and mentally despite (or, in spite of) the storm and immense sadness of divorce.
At 58, I certainly don’t feel invincible. Vulnerable seems a better word.
So, I’m officially two years, minus two days, from another big milestone. I’m already stressing about it. In fact, I’m keenly aware I’m on the downward slide. It’s not news that I’ve been preoccupied with aging for a while and that I’m not taking it very well. Nearly every day growing older (and the obvious implications of it all) is uppermost in my thoughts. I keep paring down my personal items as if I’m leaving the planet tomorrow. Ridiculous I know. With the exception of my knees, I’m in great health. My rationale is that I don’t want to make things difficult for my children (the trauma of last year with my mother is still fresh in my mind). Still, it is getting more difficult to escape the daily reminders; no longer can I be an ostrich with my head in the sand. Reality bites. Each morning I look into the mirror and discover new lines and wrinkles that seemingly appeared overnight…not to mention little hairs that spring up and park themselves where they don’t belong. This would likely escape me if it weren’t for the 10x magnifying mirror I use for applying my eye-makeup. It’s an item in the bathroom that I have a love-hate relationship with (the other being the bathroom scales). I’m most distressed by fat folds that were non-existent when I moved to middle earth three years ago! I’m fighting this weight gain, kicking and screaming, but I seem to be losing the battle. Some days I’m okay with my changing body, accepting the loss of my once youthful appearance and physical limitations with the wisdom and grace that comes with age. Other days, I’m a two-year-old having a tantrum about it all. It certainly doesn’t help when social and print media all but slaps you in the face on a hourly basis with images of youth and beauty. Okay, so most of those photos of bikini-clad beauties are airbrushed. I just thank God they don’t make floor length 10x magnifying mirrors!
The other day Rocket-man and I went to a matinée showing at the local theater. He was keenly aware that I was in danger of wallowing in my own little pity party so an afternoon outing after household chores would surely lift my spirits. I looked out over a sea of gray heads as we munched on popcorn waiting for the feature film to start. There were so many folks with various walking aids still making their way to seats. I counted three wheelchairs too.
“Aren’t there any young people in the theater,” I whispered to Rocket-man in a low grumble.
“We are the young people,” Rocket-man replied with wink. Harrumph! He seems to be taking the whole aging thing a lot better. But of course he can; he doesn’t have to look into a 10X magnifying mirror every day.
With everything that happened last year with my mother and currently what’s going on with Rocket-man’s mother, my head is just not into the “grow old gracefully” concept. If you ask me there isn’t anything graceful about aging. I certainly cannot bounce out of bed in the morning and hit the ground running anymore. Now it takes a good five minutes to get the synovial fluid to wake up and start lubricating the joints. I sit on the edge of the bed-trying not to slide off of the Tempur-Pedic mattress in the process–doing leg extensions and ankle circles. The snap, crackle, pops—like an out-of-sync orchestra tuning-up —the sounds are loud enough to rouse the sleeping poodle. The knees in particular continue to be exceedingly cranky and yes… I am still being stubborn about scheduling the surgeries. I read an article just the other day that chronicled a year in the life of a woman who had total knee replacement surgery. Let’s just say it definitely did not make me want to run right out and get it done tomorrow. On the bright side, I’m pleased as punch to have made it yet another year with my original knees. They don’t look very pretty—with swelling, bone spurs and cysts— but at least I don’t have 8 to 12-inch incision scars (yet.). I’ll happily continue to buy as much time as possible while I down as much fish oil as I can stomach to fight inflammation (burp). Yes, it’s one day at a time. And, while I’m on the subject of legs—despite the fact that they are not the thin, lovely gams that carried me through 26-plus years of distance running, this week I was able to pull off five reps of a 155- pound dead lift. Not bad for pushing 60, eh?
While I’m hanging on to my original knees by a shear thread I’m losing my grip strength. It’s just another minor annoyance to add to my growing list. I know that I can address the issue to some degree by using a hand grip strengthener. However, in this too, I have found a silver lining; it is infinitely more difficult to open a bag of tortilla chips! Now, I have to hunt down scissors when I want to satisfy my salt cravings. And while we’re on that subject, why can’t the packaging industry come up with (dare I say) “senior” friendly packaging? I broke out into a drenching sweat the other day just trying to open an item I had purchased at Costco. I nearly threw the damn thing in the trash because I was having a devil of a time extricating it from its packaging. Took me a good five minutes, along with scissors and a box cutter. Seriously, at this point, I could give a flip about Eco-friendly packaging folks. I just want to be able to open a package without breaking into a sweat, tearing up my nails, or needing an arsenal of devices to get the job done. Once opened, I rewarded myself with a lovely glass of Malbec as I wiped the dripping sweat from my forehead. Sigh.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful that I’ve been on this planet for 58 years. It is far better than the alternative of course. I am working on getting this downward slide notion out of my uppermost thoughts. After all, negativity is not attractive. I’ll admit It’s a struggle to keep my mind geared towards the glass half full approach to life. Negativity seems to be woven into the very fabric of my entire family.
I don’t know much for all of my 58 years. But I do know that I have far fewer years ahead of me.
So here goes: let’s keep marking things off–and adding things to–the bucket list.
Let’s show a little more self-love because the best flows from that. And, let’s get busy with less sitting and more being…seeing…and doing.
Not a moment to waste.
Cheers to that, I say.