What the Hell

What the Hell

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughts on Aging...

I have been busy helping my husband with his new Etsy online store, and also keeping my own things stocked at the co-op gallery.  But I've also been out of pocket because of the evil drug Evista.  While I am certain that the pharmaceutical is very beneficial to many women, I can't tolerate it.  I am osteoporitic.  I don't know if that's an actual word, but I like the sound of it.  I also have increased breast cancer risk because of calcifications, that when biopsied in 2011, showed abnormal cells.  Raloxifene (or Evista its brand-name) would have helped both.  I started taking it the first time in May this year, then suffered a horrendous case of the Shingles.  Since I was pretty young for the Shingles, I insisted the Evista must have lowered my immune system.  But that could not be proven; it could be coincidence, so I agreed to go back on the medication about 7 weeks ago.  

For those of us who are depressives, we must submit all prescription drugs (and for that matter "natural supplements") to the "does it make my depression worse?" test.  If the answer is yes, they are NOT an option.  The only exception would be if  the condition being treated is imminently life-threatening, and even then, caution should be exercised in proceeding forward.  It is a hard choice.  We all have to make them.  Let me put it this way.  I could choose between being a "knuckles-dragging the ground" miserable, angry, hopeless black blob with a death wish WITH HEALTHY BONES, or a slightly dowager-humped, rickety, curmudgeonly, eccentric mostly content human being you might occasionally even want to be around.   Some choice, but there it is.  So I'll give up ice-skating, sky-diving and break-dancing.  

Which brings me to the point of my post.  We live in a youth-obsessed culture, which coincides with amazing medical advances which have us living longer, and often looking and feeling younger, as well as cosmetic procedures which can erase years from one's appearance.  40 is the new 30!!  50 is the new 40!!  And so on.  And all the hubbub about people retiring later.  They want to work into their 70's!  They have so much energy they don't want to slow down!  Let me say that many who are working into what would have once been considered not just golden years, but DEAD, have to do so because their 401(K) savings have tanked with our economic crash of recent years.  But I digress.  I do so tire of hearing, when I say that I feel _______, or think that I look ________, that what I really need to do is:

1)   Change my diet.  Eat more_______.
2)   Supplement with ________.  I am deficient in __________.  
3)   Exercise more.  Do _________ or play __________.
4)   Get out and socialize more.
5)   If you looked better, you'd feel better about yourself.
6)   Have a more positive attitude.
7)   Learn a new hobby.
8)   Find meaningful work.
9)   Plug into my community.
10) Find something you believe in.

To the above I answer:

1) I eat fine.  I cannot eat certain foods I used to love when I was younger; i.e. fish and chips or fried chicken, lots of butter, spicy chili, cream sauces.  Some days fiber doesn't agree with me.  This is not because I am unhealthy or have a bad attitude, but because I am getting old.  It happens.  Deal with it.  I see no point in persisting in denial that will give me heartburn.

2) My osteoporosis requires that I take calcium, which I do.  And everyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest and endures our miserable dark gray, cold and wet winters lasting 6-7 months is Vitamin D deficient.  I take that too.  Beyond that too much or the wrong supplement or vitamin can be harmful.

3) I admit I could exercise more.  It would probably help me feel better, although it would hurt.  It would eventually hurt less, but a body does not act at 50 like it did at 25.  That is a fact, no matter how hard you push it.  I don't like sports and I never will.  That does not make me less of a person.  And by the way, there is a medical term known as sarcopenia.  Like osteopenia (the loss of bone with aging) it refers to the loss of muscle with aging.  For those who say you can do at 50 whatever you did at 25 I offer this:  
Although sarcopenia is mostly seen in people who are inactive, the fact that it also occurs in people who stay physically active throughout life suggests there are other factors involved in the development of sarcopenia.

Do I need to elaborate?  I am NOT making excuses for sitting around and getting grossly out of shape and unhealthy using our pain as an excuse.  Pain is part of life, and it gets worse with the passage of time.  We have to keep moving.  But neither do we have to be in denial of the stage of life in which we presently find ourselves.
4) I am an introvert.  It is extremely emotionally draining for us to socialize.  Many of us are quite adept at it, so much so you might never know that we hate it.  But it takes days for us to recover afterward.  So we need to take it in small doses, when we are feeling up to it, usually one on one.  And even then, SPARINGLY.  This is not a bad thing; it's just the way we are wired.  Let me also say that as we age, we naturally want to stay around home more.  That's just how it is.  That's why it is such a good idea to get your traveling done before you are too old.  It becomes harder to be unsettled and uncomfortable.  You can't go at the pace you used to, see and do everything you want to, and sometimes you just want your own bed in your own home.  Home becomes a bit of a sanctuary.

5) After a certain point, you can only look so good.  Even plastic surgery can only do so much.  I agree it is painful to realize that by the time you realize that when you were younger and felt so ugly and awkward you were really so beautiful and did not know it, you look in the mirror and don't recognize the person staring back at you.  But can't we learn to embrace ourselves at whatever stage of life we are in instead of trying to recapture something that we never can?

6) I am a depressive.  We don't do positive.  Unless we are bi-polar and in a manic phase.  I am not bi-polar.  I can sit here all day long and try to look at every situation from a positive viewpoint and it won't change the way I feel.  I promise.  We can't work it that way.  It is what it is.  It is much more effective to try to aim for contentment.  Sometimes that even feels like happiness.

7) I am learning to knit (AGAIN), and to do digital collage.  There is a high frustration level with learning something new when you are past middle age.  It is not pleasant.  Sometimes it's worth the pain, sometimes it isn't.  Only you can decide.  Sometimes the old familiar things comfort.  That's ok too.

8) Aaaah.  Meaningful work.  What color is your parachute and all that.  At the risk of sounding bitter, hogwash.  I found my meaningful work once.  It was in a highly specialized field in which people with PhD's were getting the entry-level positions, of which there were very, very few, and the few that existed paid absolutely pennies.  I found work in the sidelines, so to speak, by using the same skills in other industries.  It was fulfilling, but also frustrating.  I can't imagine having the position that I would love so much I would do it into my golden years.  But if it wants to come my way, I wouldn't say no.  However, I would say "part-time."  I do have things I want to do.  People who say they can't retire because they don't have any idea what they would do BAFFLE me.  Are you serious??  How about I give you some ideas....all those hobby projects you haven't had time for, travel, reading, collecting, shopping, volunteering, etc. etc...

9)  I'm sorry to admit this, but as I age, I seek less communal relationships, not more.  People are complicated beings, and the longer we have walked this road the more difficulties we have had with relationships.  The young are naive enough to believe that they can get together with others and change the world.  As we age we just hope that someone remembers something we did while we were here, and was positively changed by it, and that is enough.  My community is made up of individuals all over the world who have touched my life; they do not all reside in a geographical area.  I strive to stay in touch with them if I can, and even if I have not to make sure that I have let them know what they have meant to me.

10) There are things I believe in, passionately.  But there is only so much I can do, and I am tired of tilting at windmills.  That's ok, because there's a whole new group of younger people to do that for me now.  It is their turn.  There are also beliefs that I have had that have changed.  I did not used to think that this was possible, but it is part of the learning and growing process.  There are absolutes, but not as many as we think.  And the way we view them is sometimes as individual as we are.  We are in control of our own values and beliefs, but not those of others.  This is called respect.

May we learn to grow old with grace and dignity, and hope to find a little wisdom along the way...  now, back to my knitting.