On Getting Older: Betrayal of Mind and Body a.k.a., Life in my 50’s
It seems that I turned 52 last week.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. It just sort of . . . did.
I’ve never been one to resent aging. After all, we all get older. It’s unavoidable. And unless we want to go all “Joan Rivers” and have our faces pulled back tightly enough to look like aliens, we can’t even hide the fact that we’re maturing.
“Can we talk?”
Turning 30 was no big deal.
Turning 40 was a breeze.
Even turning 50 didn’t faze me. I actually have found aging to be rather freeing.
However, I’ve just recently begun having a hard time reconciling my actual age and abilities with that of the perpetual 24-year-old that lives in my head.
She hangs out up there, as fit as can be, in short shorts, and a tube top.
She also is able to see, hear, and do a perfect cartwheel without fearing she’ll shatter both of her wrists.
(I’m on the left, my sis is on the right.)
At times, I feel as if I have betrayed my body. But maybe, just maybe, it has betrayed me as well.
Over the last few years, my eyebrows have almost completely disappeared, apparently having migrated south to vacation just above my top lip. What’s up with that? Any brows on my face these days, pretty much owe their existence to a makeup pencil.
And then there’s my aging skin.
Some of it, such as on my legs and feet, is drier than the Sahara, while OPEC nations continue to fight over the rights to the oil production from my forehead. Am I a teen or a geriatric? No one knows for certain. I guess I’ll consider myself in an awkward transitional mode.
I can’t hear.
The kitchen timer will go off, and, sitting in my office down the hall, I will have no clue. My cellphone can be ringing in my purse, and I’m oblivious. I find myself constantly leaning more and more forward while trying to hear people speak, like a giraffe craning its neck for a leaf on a tree just out of reach. One day I may topple right over. Please don’t be alarmed if it happens.
Then again, I can always resort to my grandfather’s DIY solution of cutting a margarine dish in half and taping the two halves to either side of a headband so that the cups fit behind his ears to ‘catch the sound’. It was quite the fashion statement, let me tell you: a somewhat more contemporary version of those “horns of plenty” cones people used to stick in their ear to hear better. Please try not to laugh at me if you see me at the local PTO meeting with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter tubs plastered to my ears. I will not be channeling Mickey Mouse. I will merely be trying to hear the topic that’s on the docket.
There is an up side to this auditory dilemma, however. I have become a master at lip reading, which is especially critical when my boys talk in their muddled, mumbo jumbo, teen-speak. If they happen to put their hands in front of their mouths, though, I’m screwed.
I can’t see.
My vision was one of the first things to go. For years I knew that progressive glasses were a necessary evil, but I fought the good fight for as long as possible. I don’t like the pressure of glasses on my nose and behind my ears. And I don’t like sacrificing a good chunk of my peripheral vision to the armbands. On the other hand, I do like actually knowing who I’m waving to from across a store, and I like giving my son, Spencer, the right amount of medicine, when he needs it, based on instructions typed in a microscopic font apparently designed for garden sprites or people with freakishly long arms. Before glasses, his medicinal dosage was highly suspect. Now, it’s legit. I guess it’s all about give and take.
More often than not, I can’t locate my real glasses, so I buy Costco reading glasses left and right like I own stock in the company. I’ve been known to wear two pairs of ‘cheaters’ simultaneously: one pair like an all-seeing headband, and another on my eyes. I’ve also been known to try to absentmindedly force another pair on over the one that’s already assisting my eyes to attempt to make things look as “crystal clear” as they used to be. The other day I asked Spence to grab my sunglasses out of my purse while I was driving. He pulled out four separate pairs of cheaters before he landed on my sunglasses. No wonder I couldn’t find a pair anywhere in the house. Or maybe they’re hanging around somewhere, and I simply needed my glasses on to see them.
And, did we already talk about my failing memory?
I don’t recall.
Much of the time, I convincingly play the role of an amnesiac, lost in a menopausal fog. If you ask me a question and I reply with only a blank stare, please don’t take it personally. Merely realize that I’m in the middle of a severe hormonal memory blank-out, a huge estrogen-induced brain fart, if you will, and will return to you shortly.
I’ll start a sentence with convincing gusto, yet, after uttering the first few words, will come to a dead halt without a clue as to what I was so hepped up about in the first place. “Hey! Wait till you hear this . . .” and then, suddenly, I’ve got nothing. There are just white, fluffy clouds and rainbows floatin’ around in my skull, and the more I try to force my mind to recall what I was going to say, the more stubborn it becomes, tucking the thought deeper within the inaccessible crevasses of my brain.
Out of sheer embarrassment, I’ll often just complete my sentence with the next thought that pops into my head so I don’t look like the total airhead that I really am. I’ll finish the “Wait till you hear this . . .” sentence with a completely irrelevant conclusion based on the first visual clue I pick up around me like, “Wait till you hear this . . . the Scotch tape is on the counter!” Folks get an odd look on their faces wondering why we’re celebrating visible invisible tape, but I figure it’s better than just leaving the listener waiting with baited breath for an urgent thought that will never ever come to fruition.
Here’s another memory challenge I navigate daily.
Our pantry in our home is ridiculously far from the kitchen. I’ve always thought so, even before my menopausal mental handicaps set in.
While cooking, I’ll realize I need something from the pantry, but on the way there, I evidently pass through a mind-sucking vortex. I set off on my journey, walking from the kitchen, around the corner, through the mudroom, on the way to the pantry all the while mentally chanting, “Paper towels, paper towels, paper towels.” Then the vortex consumes me. “Oh look, there’s a sock on the ground next to the dryer. I’d better pick it up.” Which I do, which apparently causes what little sense I have left to leak out of my right ear and take up with the sock. I finally make it to the pantry, and, once again . . . I’ve got nothing. My first thought when I enter the pantry is almost always, “Wait, why am I here?” I ask myself that a few dozen times as I search the shelves in vain. Then I have to retrace my steps back to the kitchen, stand exactly where I was before my journey began, and do a 360º scan of the scene, in order to realize once more that I need a roll of paper towels. This amusing “Paper Towels in the Pantry” game can go on all afternoon if I let it. Typically, I just grab a stack of napkins from the table nearby and consider myself the victor.
I guess, when it boils down to it, your age and even mental and bodily abilities are irrelevant. They’re going to decline. It’s simply a fact of life. Your attitude about aging, however, is what counts the most. So, as I age, I hope I continue to think of myself internally as that young cartwheeling chick, and choose to keep company with others who, while perhaps not physically or mentally young, remain young at heart as well.
Tea time under a table fort, anyone?