Youth is wasted on the young. It was wasted on me at least. I had no idea how good I had it especially when it came to pain. That is physical pain.
Sure, I endured some crippling moments, giving birth (emergency C-section at 27 weeks to a 2 pound preemie now 23 years old), spraining an ankle, suffering for four years from lactose intolerance without knowing what is was, but hey, these ailments now seem like small potatoes when they run up against some of the more insidious pains of my middle age.
There’s this creaking in my left knee. That pinched nerve in my neck flairs up almost daily. And though the arthritis in my right hand was almost completely cured (for now) by surgery a couple of years ago, the left hand is on borrowed time waiting for its turn under the scalpel.
When you’re young and you have a headache or you’re sore after a particularly grueling kick boxing class, you have no idea how these pains are going to follow you as you age, like a venomous snake, creeping around the corner to attack when you least expect.
I consider myself lucky that I have not endured some of the more evil diseases and traumas suffered by friends and family. My encounters with the medical field have been blessedly few. I count these blessings and offer compassion and assistance to those less fortunate. But even the healthy among us can attest to the reality that your body just doesn’t feel the same in your 50’s as it did when you were young.
I’m not a yoga fanatic, but I have a consistent practice. I can twist my spine with great elasticity and stretch over my leg to rest my head on my knee or sit serenely in the lotus position. After a 30-minute routine I am refreshed, my lungs are open and my mind is clear. And yet, no amount of exercise, fresh air, eating right or appropriate sleeping routine allows me to escape the insidious aggression of random aches and pains.
Besides my love affair with a flax seed bag (heated in the microwave to ward off cold and pain) or my dependence on a tube of Arnica Gel (I like WF brand best), I have all types of remedies for the persistent naggers. My medicine cabinet is a miniature OTC drug store of offerings with everything from antacids to sleeping aids, pain killers to skin balms. My collection of prescribed drugs resulting from various hospital stays and travels abroad reads like Dr. Trash pulp fiction, sensational and scandalous but perniciously realistic.
Most trivial complaints get treated from this cornucopia, more often than not, since seeking medical care is a hobby I am not ready to embrace. Internet research provides much needed data in understanding my ailments as well. I sidestepped a potential visit to my internist while experiencing persistent abdominal distress, all types, use your imagination, by entering my symptoms in the ‘Q’ bar and objectively sifting through reasonable causes. The search turned up IBS, something my internist once mentioned in passing, and probable suspects including diet. I like to believe that dietary changes can cure almost anything, and have resisted statins for twenty years due to this predisposition. In this case, I recognized I had upped my intake of soy milk and agave opting for warm oatmeal many wintry mornings, and that these items could be real contributing factors. Turned out that eliminating these two foods has solved the problem thus avoiding wasted time in the doctor’s office, co-pays and irrelevant remedies. Better yet, I cured my ailments.
But what’s that shooting pain going down my legs when I stand in a funny position? Or why do I have a headache upon waking when the barometer is plummeting? More to the point, why am I so sensitive to these weather fluctuations, and can I avoid the pain while maintaining residence in the seasonally challenged northeast? It’s not even the aches and pains that get me but the reality that my body is so overly sensitive to any shift in conditions and that drives me nuts. Going to sleep an hour later than usual can throw off the entire next day. Travel abroad with big time zone gaps can mean a full week of weird sleep. Forget a red-eye flight. I’ll be paying for weeks just to savor some time on the ground.
If my eating habits vary, if the sun shines or doesn’t, if I use a new laundry soap, any and all of these can have disrupting effects on my skin, hair and digestive track or all three at once. Such is life in my late 50’s. And so it seems it will be going forward. Would I trade it to go backwards, as if that were an option? Probably not. Life keeps getting more interesting and in other ways easier. I’ll stick to my path, and keep a bathroom within range at all times. The vagaries of physical harmony won’t be solved, but I can attempt to keep them at bay.