- Aging & Longevity
Waking Up Old
© B. L. Bierley 2012
Ok, I woke up today, and I felt … old. I don’t know exactly when that happened to me. I think I can pinpoint it somewhere about the time I realized my daughter was getting ready to embark on her dating career. The words practically creased my face into wrinkles while my husband looked on.
Cap is much more objective about this subject than you might think. He’s a realist and a planner, so he sees the whole picture—that dating is just another thing that teenagers do as they get older(aging strikes again!). I, on the other hand, am grasping at straws, remembering when DaVelma was still little enough that I could manipulate the things she wore, did or ate without regard to some sweaty, hormonal ape with a truck and an agenda who might want to damage my delicate little budding flower. But anyhow, that’s getting us off topic.
The point is aging is an insipid creature that sneaks up on us when we’re not looking and wreaks havoc on our bodies, our social awareness and our overall outlook without us even realizing that it has happened. Below are a few case points that support my theory that aging is not only a cruel fact of life, it’s inevitable and surprising for many of us.
Wow, That’s New!
In our youth we pay attention to the changes in our bodies better than anyone. I can remember as a girl being excited when my shoes didn’t fit any more because it meant I’d get new ones. Unfortunately that excuse doesn’t work when you’re an adult, more’s the pity. Other anticipated body changes were put on 24-hour surveillance. I watched for things like breast development and my first period like a little kid watching for Santa Claus!
The day I realized I was getting body hair was both thrilling and traumatic. My friends were already developing the need for training bras and deodorant and shaving their legs and armpits with regularity, meanwhile I was a late bloomer. My mother was reluctant to give me anything sharp to scrape my skin with because I was still a petite, precocious eleven-year old with only the barest hint of peach fuzz. I was devastated by her refusal.
Nowadays, I look upon shaving as a traumatic chore because not only is my body more difficult to manage on slick, wet surfaces in the shower, my midsection makes reaching the tricky areas even more of a hazard. Now if I cut myself shaving it’s because of a slip trying to get to an area near my ankle or because I lose my balance trying to hold my leg so I can reach the hair I want to remove. It’s coming to a point now where I bargain with myself over the importance of being hairless for whatever is on my agenda for the day.
I dread changes to my body now. I’m not talking about just wrinkles, though. Wrinkles wouldn’t be so bad if that’s the worst of it. Now it’s the new freckle that might be cancer or those little broken blood vessels that pop up with the slightest pressure to my face. And my pores seem to have decided that they’re not going to work properly anymore. Instead they just get clogged up and harden into those little white spots that look like whiteheads but aren’t. I’m going to go broke on facial treatments and skin care, and I'll still probably lose that war!
Public Enemy Number One: The Pillow!
I used to laugh when my aunt or grandparents would wake up claiming to have slept wrong. I couldn’t imagine how you could be literally unconscious and still make mistakes. And then one morning I woke up with a crick in my neck, and suddenly I knew what they meant. It’s obviously a gift of youth when you can go to bed and wake up refreshed and eager to face the day. In our older years we wake up with a back spasm or hands that feel like you’ve let a truck run over them repeatedly. My problems with my neck and back got so bad I had to enlist the services of a chiropractor to work out kinks I’d apparently put myself into with a bad pillow and an old mattress.
Now I hear words bandied about like “therapeutic” and “ergonomic” related to the simple furnishings and bed pillows. Sleeping has become more of a ritual than a relaxation. I take ibuprofen nightly just so I can get comfortable enough with my forty-something bones and joints to be able to relax. My pillow looks like a BMX bike course with humps and slopes to better accommodate my neck while I’m lying down. And even with all my tricks and stratagems I still wake up feeling like I’ve been pummeled by a MMA fighter while I slept.
The sounds my body makes as I roll out of bed are at times alarming. The creaking, popping and snapping sounds are the music of my morning now. It’s like someone is stepping on sticks and branches or something. Old bones apparently separate in your sleep and then have to reassemble into their respective positions to function properly after rest. And let me tell you there is a fine, thin line between stretching and pulling something! It’s a hazard just reaching for a pair of jeans folded on a high shelf some mornings!
I Don’t Need Glasses, I Need Longer Arms
Fortunately the eyesight issue has yet to touch me fully yet. I will admit to needing reading glasses, recommended by my eye care specialist, when my eyes are fatigued after a long day of typing, reading and writing and proofing. But I notice my friends beginning to show the signs of this particular phenomenon. Aging is usually related to farsightedness, requiring them to hold things further and further away from their faces to be able to get proper focus. And until someone kindly (or jokingly-less-kindly) points out that they are doing so, they don’t notice it.
I think I caught a lucky break on this one. While I was expecting DaVelma my eyes suffered pregnancy-induced nearsightedness. I wore glasses for driving and seeing distance until after Ziggy came along. Then about five years later, I no longer needed my glasses to correct the nearsighted issues, which I found out was the direct result of my shift into age and farsightedness. UGH! So now I pay attention to the length I hold books and magazines from my face as I read (or I just cheat and get them electronically so I can adjust the text size so that no one can tell).
Cap is already wearing bifocals. This might not surprise anyone, but Cap is younger than me. I force myself to remain calm about this, but I’ll tell you it isn’t easy. I doubt we could train Velcro to fetch things for us or lead us around so we don’t bump into walls or anything, so it’s important that we maintain what eyesight we have left.
Where Did I Put That?
What’s even more alarming is the way age makes us cognitively blind to things that are right in front of us. I guess I should be glad that I am a mother on this one. I can still see things pretty clearly when Cap asks if I’ve seen them. Usually it’s stuff in the refrigerator that Cap can’t see—like a jar of mayonnaise that is eye-level as he peers myopically into the melee. I worry about my husband here because if he were to have to rely on Ziggy or DaVelma for this he’d never find anything.
It’s a lot easier to lose things as you get older too. Maybe it’s because we have more stuff to cloud the view, or maybe we become forgetful of our last encounter with the missing item. Who knows? I’m just thankful that I’m better at finding lost things than most people. I think being a writer, someone who’s keen on noting details or who’s a little ADD, I see things in scenes or pictures that jog my memory. Or maybe locating lost shoes, glasses, or mayonnaise is just a mom-thing. It’s a proven fact that if your mother can’t find a lost item, it’s gone forever.
Of course, as all mothers know, sometimes the loss of an item is a blessing in disguise. I recall several things that were “lost forever” from our household that were hardly missed by Cap and me. The bulb tips of every single one of Ziggy’s pacifiers mysteriously disappeared one night. It was only mildly disturbing for him to wake up and discover that his pacifiers no longer worked properly. We explained that one by telling him that the “Pacifier Fairy” visited one night and needed the tips of his pacifiers to make new ones for all the new babies that were being born. Another “lost” item we didn’t regret was a pair of sparkly, noisy dress-up shoes that DaVelma used to wear. She loved to clomp around on the hardwood floors in those plastic nightmares from breakfast to bedtime. Then one day she “misplaced” them. Ah, silence!
Perpetration of Youth
I have decided to battle my aging with a totally new approach these days. I am trying new things. I got DaVelma to help me set up a Twitter account! I have tweeted twice since its creation, but I intend to be more forthcoming as I learn more how that new-fangled social game works. I am also “following” more trends. I am still wary of the media, though. I try not to get on my soapbox about things I don’t agree with more than is prudent these days, but it’s also inspiring to read how bent out of shape other people get about the silliest things in the name of news!
I downloaded some challenging applications on my iPad to make my brain function at higher levels and give my recall memory a workout. “Jeopardy” and “Cut the Rope” are two of my favorites. I also get daily emails from sites like www.funtrivia.com to test my knowledge of random trivia I might not realize is lying dormant in my cerebral cortex just waiting for a moment to shine.
I’m still trying to exercise as often as I can and as diligently as I can convince myself to be. Nevertheless, I like to complain about it. That drives Cap crazy. But I think it’s in my DNA to worry and gripe about things I don’t understand or like. Mentally I think I’m becoming the stereotypical crotchety old woman, but when I look in the mirror I still see the girl I was twenty years ago.
I think that’s the best way to combat the guerilla forces of aging. We’ve got to be young like our mirror memories tell us we are and not give in to the defeatist attitudes of our conscious brains that tell us to give up when we see a new wrinkle or a grey hair. We’ve got to get those new pillows and make a practice of challenging our brains every day with something new to keep our neurons firing on all cylinders.
And as always: my favorite way to beat the doldrums of getting older is to take a little time out to find the funny things in everyday life. Sure, it might give you laugh-lines, but I think those are synonymous with character. And as a writer, character is right up my alley! If they could somehow make laughter into an exercise I’d be in fantastic shape for my age!