Writing from the Heart: Aging is a full-time job

When the aches and pains make themselves known, don’t let them steal your joy.


Aging is a full-time job.

I thought of that as a title while trudging through the woods yesterday. I say trudging because hiking is a thing, a word, an activity of the past. I have to literally make myself move out of my seat, and make each individual leg move, and straighten out my bent-over back, and force myself to go … anywhere.

The couch is begging me to stay, the cozy fire has abandonment issues, the book du jour is flipped over on its side, feeling rejected.

Only the cats, my own highly evolved resident spiritual beings, are pushing me. Use it or lose it, their eyes accuse. And oh, how right you are, you little extreme sports coaches, you!

Three days ago, out of absolutely nowhere, both hips hurt as if I had been hit by a truck. I hadn’t been hit by anything. There was no logical reason why my hips were, on a scale from one to 10, at 11.

My upper arms are a bag of hanging flesh. When I complain, which is often, the response I get is, “Lift weights.” I can’t lift weights; I have a shoulder. My husband, who still manages to get out onto the tennis court, almost daily, is my age. He has a knee.

We laugh (because it’s better than crying) about when we get together with friends, we call it (not original) the Organ Recital.

Of course I know my aching shoulder is nothing, compared with what lots of folks are going through. But it doesn’t make my pain go away. Yes, it puts it in perspective, but if I’m at 11, does someone else’s real health issue drop me down to a two? It’s like when our parents told us to eat everything on our plate because there were starving children in China. It didn’t help the kids in China any more than my compassion helps alleviate my suffering.

Besides, I don’t have that kind of discipline.

When I learned that the root word of discipline was disciple, I decided I would try to be the disciple of my soul’s growth. And it works, when nothing hurts. But as soon as the pain beats everything else out for my attention, I don’t want to grow my soul. I want to take an Advil. Or three. And lie down.

So when I say aging is a full-time job, I’m thinking doctors’ appointments, buying new ointments, reading ingredients (sucrose and dextrose and fructose! Why not just admit it, you creeps, it’s sugar, and stop trying to fool me!)

Let me make my bad decisions knowingly. Doing the stretches, the sound baths, the CBD oils, planning on doing all the physical jobs in the morning so you don’t peter out by afternoon, making food that supposedly helps with inflammation. It’s time-consuming and energy-zapping.

Last night we watched “Nyad,” the movie about the woman who swam 102 miles from Cuba to Key West, after five failures. She was stung by man-of-wars, she swam through frenzies of sharks, had allergic reactions to NSAIDs, threw up, and hallucinated, but kept swimming. At age 64, she finally made it. It’s one of those inspirational movies where you pull for her, you suffer with her, and you cry at her success in the end. (Of course, from my vantage point at almost 83, she was a kid!) But she knew she would die if she didn’t try and push herself. She knew that life wouldn’t be worth living if she couldn’t have that adventure.

When my sister was dying, she said, with a smile on her radiant face, “I’m ready for the next adventure.”

So now here I am with a little arthritis, and a lot of poor me. Am I really going to let these small (and they really are small) problems stop my joy?

Plus, for a full-time job, it’s not that bad. I have no boss, I make my own hours; if I don’t feel like going to work, I don’t go (unless the cats give me the side-eye).

If my sister, in the act of dying, and Diana Nyad, in the middle of a swarm of stinging box jellyfish, can think adventure, then for me with my aging body, with the choice to trudge or not to trudge, I will trudge on.