Aging ain't for sissies. Neither is chronic pain.

Posts tagged ‘aging’

Portable Magic

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”  -Stephen King

As a kid, learning to read was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  A good book became an immediate best friend, making it easier to deal with a difficult childhood.  Books offered an escape when real life became too much and they offered friends when I struggled to make any on my own.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  – Charles William Eliot

One of my fondest memories of books is when we moved to Kentucky.  I was in the fourth grade, new and afraid, and I didn’t know anyone. Then one day a vehicle rolled into the neighborhood that changed my world.  It was a bookmobile. I had no idea such a thing existed and I was over the moon!

I can recall the feeling of walking into that incredible rolling library and seeing nothing but books from stem to stern!  Stories of all kinds waited for me, ready to take me to places I’ve never been.  I remember how it made me feel to know my summer would not be as lonely as I’d first expected.

As I entered the bookmobile little did I know the best was yet to come.  I was told I could check out as many books as I wanted, or more accurately as many as I could carry, and keep them for three weeks.  Jackpot!  It was like Christmas in July!  It only took my first experience on the bookmobile for me to realize I needed to bring a BIG bag next time so I could fill it to the brim with books.


One of the first books I read from the bookmobile was Charlotte’s Web and it still holds a special place in my heart.  So many books followed and each one brought a new world with new adventures, new characters and the kind of excitement a little girl couldn’t find in the real world.

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”  – Jane Smiley

It is now a few decades later and even though technology has given us apps to read from, I still love the feel of a book in my hands.  I’m one of those readers that feels a slight panic if I don’t have several books waiting in the wings for when I’m finished consuming whatever book I currently have my nose stuck in.

You kindred spirit readers out there know what I mean when I say that books are thieves.  They steal time.  You sit down for a chapter or two and the next thing you know an hour or three has disappeared.  And let’s not forget the lack of sleep caused by books.  It’s not unusual for me to stay up at night to “read for a few minutes” only to look up and realize it’s 1:00 am.  But it is so worth it.

In a world full of noise, books offer a quiet refuge.  Words on a page act as shade from the glare of a life that can be far too loud and overwhelming.  For many, many of us, reading isn’t just fundamental, it’s as necessary as the air we breathe.

Read on.

Weight a Minute

As a woman of a certain age I struggle with my weight. In the interest of full disclosure I don’t go overboard trying to control it but I’m not a total slacker either. In my attempt to juggle middle age and fibromyalgia I now juggle a third ball and that is weight management or better yet, mismanagement.

In my quest to control my weight without actually having to make an effort I stumbled upon the perfect routine. It’s called “I Forgot What I came In Here for” and it’s the best exercise you will ever get.  All you need to get started are middle age brain cells.  (In my case I have the proper aging cells in addition to fibro fog, a byproduct of fibromyalgia.  It offers a wide array of cognitive difficulties such as short term memory loss, difficulty carrying on conversations, attention problems, misplacing objects (and people and dogs if one is not careful), mental confusion and more.)


The exercise routine works like this: let’s say you’re in the kitchen and realize you need a paper clip from the office which is at the other end of the house. (Why you need a paper clip in the kitchen is beyond me but who am I to judge?)  So off you go and as you enter the office you suddenly realize you can’t remember why you are there in the first place and that your need for something from that room has been replaced with a sizable but empty thought bubble.  Sighing loudly, you go back to the kitchen but upon your return you remember what it was you forgot (aha!) so you head back to the office only to arrive utterly clueless as to why you are there instead of in the kitchen where the spaghetti sauce is boiling over.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  Several times every_single_day.

If you really want to get your heart rate up and burn some carbs try this same exercise when you are upstairs but what you need is actually in the basement.  Thirteen steps and a landing later you cannot remember why you are in the basement.  Try as you might, the something you needed from this little corner of your world is not coming to mind.  Back up you go!  And then back down again because finally you remember what you went down there for in the first place.

In my attempt to not be an over achiever I’ve learned to use the reminder method to prevent too many extra trips in one day.  I repeat out loud exactly what I’m going into the other room for until I get there.  “Paper clip, paper clip, paper clip.”  As long as I go straight to the paper clips I’m fine.  If I deviate one iota of a second from my goal to retrieve what I came in there for I have to turn around, go back where I started and do another set of reps.  It’s all in the planning people.

So if you’re like me and need to let go of a few pounds this summer don’t use your body, use your middle age brain.  It will let you down every time.

Anxiety Doesn’t Age Gracefully

When I was younger I mistakenly believed life would somehow become easier as I got older. I could not have been more wrong.

Once I hit my 50s it seems anxiety has become more of a companion than I would prefer and I’ve struggled to figure out why. I’m older now and wiser too so I should feel more confident and less afraid, right? Perhaps finally accepting that I have more time behind me than in front of me has exacerbated anxiety I’ve carried for so long. I know this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be but I think the pressure I put on myself to “get over it” is a big part of the problem as well.

anxiety

I’ve been spending time lately identifying my anxieties and fears for what they truly are and trying to unearth their origins. I figured if I did this I might be able to work through some of them. I can’t say that I’m over them or they are gone but I’ve learned a few things that make my fears and my worries less monsoon-like.

storms

First I had to be honest with myself and admit I have issues with trust. It stems back to when I was very young and right or wrong, good or bad, I have carried them with me my entire life. This includes a lack of trust in God. I believe strongly in a higher Power but I don’t totally trust it. I think the problem lies in how I perceive the world around me. Because the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket it makes it hard for me to believe in a loving God. That is, until I take the time to be completely aware that I only see the world through a small lens and this is not enough to make a judgment call regarding trust toward a Power much more vast and mysterious than I can ever know.

mountain

I also have a thing about control…I want to control everything in my life. This has pushed me to live more rigidly than I need to. I think deep inside I believe that if I can control everything (EVERYTHING!!), down to the most miniscule speck of whatever is in my life, then I will be safe. This is so not true! But sometimes I can’t convince my head of it.

demons

In the context that I’m speaking, the opposite of controlling everything is letting go. I’m terrified to let go and just live. Why? I guess I’m afraid I’ll get hurt (umm, been there/done that), disappointed (yep, that too), let down (uh huh, it’s happened.) All of this has occurred even while I’ve tried to maintain total control. It makes no sense and the whole flippin’ deal is exhausting.

So…what if letting go signifies truly living? Letting go obviously doesn’t mean a lack of pain in life but releasing all the crap will open up room to let in an abundance of joy and fun and excited anticipation too. We have to look for it and trust that we are worthy. Because we are.

Control is prison. Letting go is freedom.

I don’t know what it will take to set all my fears free, to let go and really live, but I won’t give up. I won’t quit. Every move I make to release my demons, my need to control and my lack of trust is a step toward freedom. Life truly is too short not to be lived.

Taking Stock

So I’ve been doing a little personal inventory.  I’m amazed at how much I’ve changed over the years.  It’s funny how you don’t realize you’ve changed until…well…you’ve changed.  Things that used to matter so much to me in the past just don’t anymore.  Things that didn’t concern me back in the day now play a more prominent role in my life.

Am I happy with the changes?  Yes and no.  I’m happy that I don’t worry about certain things as much as I used to.  In the past I worried myself silly over what people might think of me.  I was very much a “yes” person; saying yes to just about any request for fear that someone would think badly of me if I said no.  Now?  Not so much.  If somebody is going to think badly of me simply because I choose to say no then it’s on them not me.  It’s not that I want people to go around thinking I’m an ogre or anything but I would like them to accept me for who I am.  Take it or leave it, like it or lump it…I yam what I yam.

I’m happy with the fact that I can let things go more easily, especially things I disagree with.  I don’t have as many hills to die on as I used to.  I have strong beliefs and I stand up for what I think is right but I don’t shove my beliefs down anyone’s throat.  I am better at agreeing to disagree than I’ve been in the past; in other words I don’t feel the need to have the last word in everything.  Go me.

I think I’m better at meeting people where they are as well.  It’s not my place to push people toward where I want them to be.  I’m certainly no expert in telling people where I think they should be at any given time in their lives.  Shame on me if I even try.

One thing that’s changed about me that I don’t like is that I focus more on my regrets than I used to.  I know it doesn’t do any good and it won’t fix anything but I do it anyway.  I also worry more about the end of my life.  I’m going to be 50 this year and I think my thoughts on these issues are part of the process of realizing just how limited my time here on earth really is.  It is disconcerting and something I have to fight in order not to get depressed.  I think a greater consumption of chocolate would help with this.

I pay more attention to the world more now than I did in the past.  I seem to absorb more of the…I don’t know…pain that’s around me.  Pain from people I don’t even know but whose stories touch me.  It causes me to pray more, that’s a fact.

As odd ball as this sounds I find I enjoy pretty things more than before.  I used to be all form and function; everything being black, white, brown and gray (such as my clothes, hair etc.)  If it didn’t have a function then it had no room in my life.  If it was too crazy with color then it wasn’t for me.  I’ve changed in this department.  More and more I like pretty things; not expensive things but pretty things.  (I’ve become quite enamored with the color yellow; the medium to pale shades.  I can’t quite bring myself to wear the I-am-a-screaming-yellow-school-bus hue though.)  Anyway, I want to feel pretty.  I think most women want to feel pretty and feminine.  Femininity does not equate weakness or submissiveness or any such nonsense.  It’s simply part of being a woman.  It may not be for every woman, and I say to each his own, but for many of us feeling pretty and feminine is fun.

I need more sleep than when I was younger.  I hate it but I need copious amounts of sleep to function.  Trying to tell my body differently results in a very crabby Terri.  Boooo.

I think I appreciate the people in my life in a deeper, more meaningful way than ever before.  Time goes by so fast and I’m at a point where I don’t want to miss a minute of time with those I love.  I don’t want to waste my time on trivial things.  I don’t have that much time to waste!

In taking stock of how I’ve changed I can see that most of the changes have been for the better.  I have a long way to go and a short time to get there (can you say Smokey and the Bandit?) but I’ll do what I can with what’s been given to me.  I am greatly blessed and I see it every day.  I know I’ll continue to change and evolve and I hope I can keep a positive outlook.  The way I look at it, if I get enough sleep I will not become a crabby old lady who hates change and the color yellow.

There Is No Cure For Clumsy

For as long as I can remember I’ve been clumsy.  I stumble, I trip, I fall, I poke myself with things, I spill drinks and drop food.  I can pick up something and it will fly out of my hand like a rocket.  Try to imagine a bologna sandwich as a deadly weapon.

In school I was terrible at physical education.  I can’t tell you how I cringed when I was faced with the pommel horse during gymnastics.  (Let’s not even talk about the gym uniforms or taking a shower after gym.  I break out in hives just thinking about it.)  I was afraid of all gym activities for fear of hurting myself and looking like a dork.

As an adult I found one sport I could participate in and that was bowling.  I was fairly good at it (could throw a 16 pound ball on a curve) but I was not without my defining moments in the world of ten pins.  I have, more than once, tripped and stumbled halfway down the lane in front of dozens of people.  The sad thing is there isn’t much to trip on when throwing a bowling ball except one’s own feet.

Years ago (and I cannot believe I’m going to tell this story) my husband was on the lawn tractor cutting grass.  I was inside having a bowl of cereal when something came on TV that got me really excited and I just had to tell him about it.  Any sane person would have put the bowl down and walked outside but not me.  No, instead I take off out the front door with said bowl of cereal in hand and run down the driveway (I’m sure that in itself was worth the price of admission.)

So, I’m halfway down the driveway when I trip over my feet and find myself airborne.  I land face first on the driveway while the bowl of cereal went flying.  Imagine my husbands shock when he saw his wife with her face planted firmly in the concrete while  Corn Flakes danced through the air.

It’s obvious to me that age does not cure clumsiness.  Yesterday was a perfect example.  Cabin fever was getting the best of me so I went shopping.  I decided to go to McD’s for breakfast because no one wants to power shop on an empty stomach.  I should have known things weren’t going to go well when I ran over the concrete median thingy at the drive thru and then ran over it again getting to the window.  I get my food and park the truck so I can eat.  I’m happily munching on my biscuit when I go to take a drink of coffee.  Suffice to say my cup o’ joe ended up all over my white sweatshirt.  Not only did I look like I’d spilled coffee but I smelled like it for the duration of my shopping expedition.  It kind of took the fun out of shopping knowing I was walking around smelling like a pot of Folgers.

Last night was another prime example of my inability to do anything without a mishap.  I was taking a pizza out of the oven when it started to slide off the pizza pan.  I had an oven mitt on one hand but not the other.  Seriously, who needs two oven mitts to take a pizza out of the oven?  Apparently I do because when the pizza began to come off the pan I tried to catch it with my other hand, my bare hand, and that was all she wrote.  I can’t tell you what exactly transpired as I was too busy screaming like a girl but I somehow managed to get the pizza onto the stove top.  It had a big old hand print in it but it was edible.  Once I stopped cussing and got the pain under control, I asked my husband if the pizza was okay and he said, “Yeah, it tastes like hand.”  Smart ass.

For the most part my husband has learned to laugh at my lack of balance only when I can’t see him doing so.  I’m learning to be faster with comebacks too.  When I get up from the sofa and bump into the wall I’ll say, “Who moved that wall?” before he does.  We’re quite the pair, us two.

I don’t suppose I will ever get over being clumsy.  I’ll continue to trip, stumble, drop things and spill my coffee.  As long as I don’t end up in the emergency room I can live with it.  Although due to skyrocketing insurance premiums, I think it may be time to invest in a bib, a helmet and some shin guards to protect myself from me.  Who knows, maybe I can find a sale on full-body armor.

On an unrelated note I just had to include this photo of my little man Finn (although he's seen me fall more times than I can count.) It's a good thing dogs can't talk.

The Sound of Music (a bit long)

My favorite music comes from the decadent 70s.  Okay, so maybe I wasn’t into decadence but I love the music anyway.  The 80s brought with it some good tunes too even if there were copious amounts of big hair involved.  Even the 90s provided me with some great ear candy.  Such talent as Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Joe Walsh, Heart, Billy Joel and Crosby, Stills and Nash gave me audible pleasure in ways that Captain and Tennille never could.

Yesterday I decided to burn some of my favorite songs onto a CD and was a little surprised at how the lyrics to these songs not only still affect me but how I can relate to them in my life all these years later.

Eddie Money’s I Wanna Go Back is a song that speaks to my occasional desire to go back in time and change some things about my life (knowing I can’t.)  If I could hit rewind and go back I would tell all the bullies that plagued me in junior high that their opinions were just that, opinions, and they didn’t define me.  I also would have invested less of my hard-earned money on spandex and platform shoes.

 

The comforting feeling I get from Silent Lucidity by Queens Rysche reminds me that I can achieve my dreams, I just have to make an effort.  The spoken part of the song says, “Visualize your dream, record it in the present tense, put it into a permanent form; if you persist in your efforts, you can achieve a dream come true.”  A dream come true for me would be to back straight out of the garage and not veering off to the right thus running over the flower bed.  Once, just once, I would like to accomplish this.

Empty Garden by Elton John.  I love the song but there is one line that sticks out…”It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain.”  I’m reminded that I could very well be that insect if I’m not careful.  My words, my actions, my reactions, if not expressed with kindness and respect, could very well be damaging to others.  I don’t want to be that insect.  I’m not a big fan of bugs anyway so that’s an added incentive.

Hootie and the Blowfish!  Woot!  Love them.  Let Her Cry is one of my favorite songs.  Sometimes you’ve just got to let a person be; let them do what they need to do in order to feel better.  “Let her cry, if the tears roll down like rain.  Let her sing, if it eases all her pain.  Let her go, if she walks right out on me.  And if the sun comes up tomorrow, let her be, let her be.”  And if she’s having an especially bad hair day you need to bring her chocolate before getting the hell out of Dodge.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.  More introspection from Sir Elton.  “Although I search myself, it’s always someone else I see.”  Have you ever felt this way?  You look deep within yourself and see someone different from what others see?  Me too.  It makes me wonder who I really am sometimes.  Of course sometimes when I search myself it means I’ve lost something.  Again.

Poison’s Give Me Something to Believe In touches me in a lot of ways.  Bret Michaels and company sing of stark contrasts in life.  The TV preacher who tells his followers all about Jesus’ love while reaching out his hand for a monetary reward.  The Vietnam vet who fought for his country but his country didn’t want him back.  The poor living on the street while just a mile away the rich folks are living it up.  My favorite part of the lyrics are “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road.”  The low road is the road less traveled and the one I need to spend more time on.

Against the Wind by Bob Seger.  Did that man have some seriously thick hair or what?  I can surely relate to this song.  “Against the wind, I’m still runnin’ against the wind, I’m older now and still running against the wind.”  When I was a young whipper snapper I thought there would come a day when the wind would be against my back, pushing me along and making life easier.  Uh…no.  I’m 49 and still running against the wind but the difference now is I realize that life doesn’t get easier with age but things can be easier to handle with the experience age brings.

If I really want to get my sorry butt up and moving I put on REO Speedwagon’s Roll With the Changes.  “So if you’re tired of the same old story, oh baby, turn some pages.”  (Insert some seriously flawed dancing on my part.)  If I’m tired of things the way they are then I have to be the one to change them.  I might succeed or I might fail but if I don’t do anything then I have no one to blame but myself.  Roll with the changes baby!

These are just a few of the songs that have stood the test of time in my life; songs that have followed me through years of living and learning.  I appreciate these songs and the timelessness of their message.  There are other songs besides the ones I’ve mentioned here but if I told you it would incriminate me and strip me of my coolness.

Can you say ABBA?

Midlife Crisis or Something More?

On New Year’s Eve I turned 49.  The implications of this didn’t fully materialize until a day later when it hit me.  What the absolute hell happened to the past 49 years?  The day after my birthday I asked my husband if he knew what day it was.  He said New Year’s Day.  With a bit of panic I said, “No!   It is day 365 of the countdown to my fiftieth birthday!”  All he could do was put his head in his hands and tell me it’s going to be “a very long year.” 

The reality of turning 50 in less than a year from now (only 357 days to go) has left me with a myriad of emotions.  My initial feeling was one of panic when I realized my life is more than half over (unless by some miracle I live to be 100 which, if my eating habits are any indication, is not likely to happen.)  My question to myself is, “What now?”  Where do I go from here, what do I do, what do I hope to accomplish, what will be my legacy?

Looking past all the usual effects of aging like gray hair, wrinkles and hair that appears in places I didn’t know I had places, there is something more I need to look at; something deeper.

It’s taken some time but I’m beginning to recognize many of the ways I’ve sabotaged my own life.  The pain and experiences of my past have governed the way I live.  Fear, worry and less-than-stellar self-esteem has caused me to surround myself with that which I thought made me feel safe.  In reality I’ve simply been hiding…hiding from the things I need to face and the demons that need cast out.

I am blessed with a husband who has spent the past 19 years walking through periods of hell with me.  He is supportive, encouraging and patient.  He has, and continues to be a tremendous help to me but one thing I’ve come to realize is that there are some things I must do alone.  Only I can truly look deep inside myself and honestly assess what’s there and what I need to do to bring about a better me, a happier me, the real me.

This isn’t something I can do all at once and call it a day.  It will be a long process and a journey I would like to share.  Fear not!  I have no plans to turn my blog into a never-ending excursion through the recesses of my mind stamped with realizations, epiphanies and aha! moments.  I will share the things that stand out and grab my attention; things that I hope will help me find my way in this new phase of my life.  Maybe you too will see things you can relate to and share as well.

Agatha Christie once said, “I like living.  I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

I say, “Let the living begin!”

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