Queen of denial

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Aug 04, 2017

Getting older is definitely better than the alternative, but it can certainly be a pain — literally. I have an increasing number of creaky parts that complain more and more often. My knees can be downright crabby some days.

One aspect of incipient decrepitude for which I was not prepared was needing different glasses for different activities. Used to be, I could do everything with one pair of glasses: reading, driving, walking around, working on the computer, whatever. And then I started tilting my head back to look through the lower part of my progressive lenses at the computer screen. At first, I thought it was just that our Mac at home has a giant screen and I was craning my neck to look up at what was literally over my head.

Then I realized I was doing it with my laptop at work, too. So much for that theory. “Well, it's not too bad,” I said to myself. But after a while it was. My neck hurt like heck after a day of being bent back so I could read what was on the screen in front of me. Ouch!

So, when I went to the eye doctor several weeks ago, I asked him to write down the prescription I would need for the computer, and I invested in some computer glasses. They have definitely helped the neck problem. Now I just have to switch glasses 20 times a day, depending on whether I'm working on the computer, taking notes on a phone call or whatever. Still, it's an improvement not to have my job be an actual pain in the neck.

Maureen has discovered something that helps achy, aging parts feel better, at least temporarily. Swimming — or just being in a swimming pool — takes the weight off creaky joints and makes the pain go away. She says knowing that when she gets into the pool at the Y she won't hurt provides a lot of motivation for her to go to the trouble of getting there.

We went together on a recent weekend and were pleasantly surprised to find that, because of the gorgeous weather that day, we had the pool almost to ourselves. We swam and lolled about in the water for 45 minutes or so, and enjoyed moving in the way we used to take for granted.

That, I think, is one of the most irritating things about getting older and having your body start to break down — and it does, even if you've kept fit. Time and gravity eventually have their way with every one of us. The annoying thing is that I can't take my body for granted anymore, can't just assume that, within reason (I've never engaged in extreme sports), I'll be physically able to do whatever I want to without thinking about it.

Nowadays, it's more likely that I will be able to do a certain amount of activity, but it may hurt either when I'm doing it, or later, or both. And thinking first about how to do it is usually wise. So far, I usually opt to pay the price, but I can see a day coming when the price for some things will be so high I will decide to pay someone else to do them for me.

The taking-for-granted thing is part of my denial of aging, a way of trying to slow my momentum toward death. It is both adaptive, in the sense that it keeps me going, doing things I think I should be able to do because I could once, and maladaptive, in that it keeps me from seeking help or going to the doctor as soon as I probably should. Living more consciously with my body offers me a chance to develop flexibility -- at least metaphorically -- find new ways to do things and learn to lose with grace.

Must be time for another dip in the pool.

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