The Third Third

Betrayed (by my body). And dismayed.

I’m not sure there is enough Advil in the world. My body is aching. Everywhere. And for no other reason than that I am – I mean, *it* is – aging. I may not be old, but by golly, my body is making it patently clear that **it** is getting that way. It’s not that I cannot physically do what I used to do and want to do; it’s that the day-after cost in terms of aches and pains is becoming extravagant. I am on vacation in the mountains of Idaho where I like to bike, hike, and play golf in lieu of working out at the gym. I figured it would be a fairly even exchange if I burned my calories and kept my muscles in line on the bike and hiking trails or on the golf course. And until this year, it has been. Somehow, however, we (my body and I) were used to 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer and 30 minutes with weights and working the abs. There was rarely hell to pay for my workout at the Y. I figured I was in great shape. Wrong. A merely “moderate” hike of an hour and 20 minutes, with an 800-1200 feet vertical climb is truly testing me this year: On the way up I huff and puff; I stop to catch my breath and ease the exhaustion from my legs; and even when I can rejoice that I’m on the way back down – Mission Accomplished – I find my balance unsteady, my legs feeling weak. Under the guise of cleaning off the dust, I soak in a hot tub and take two Advil when I get home. Then I lay down to rest “a moment,” but I don’t wake up until after 90 minutes of deep sleep. I’m relaxed and feeling pretty good, but the wine of the cocktail hour still provides welcome respite. And I need two Tylenol PM to go to sleep at night. Unfortunately, that’s not all. The next day, while everything has shifted, I remain keenly aware that the hike has (literally) kicked my butt. The knees aren’t feeling too great, either, and there’s a creaking kind of pain in my right shoulder, left over, I think, from golf two days ago. Egods! I am a wreck! Betrayed (by my body). And dismayed. What’s going on? I’m not a whiner or a complainer. I have a decently high pain threshold, I think. (Childbirth times four!) Clearly, I believed if I stayed active I could stay active *ad infinitum*, or at least for a very long while. I thought I was in control – and obviously I am not. Instead, I may have been in denial. Even in shape, the body wears down, if not out. Like the inexorable slide of body fat, unbidden, to my 61 year-old waistline just this year, no matter my weight or the number of crunches completed, normal exercise is now extracting a greater toll. I’d like to say it is an “abnormal” toll, but that’s not the case. It is the normal toll of use and time. It is, my husband suggests gently when I say I can’t understand how a simple hike can take so much out of me, most likely a symptom of chronic aging. Sweetly he confesses he feels it, too. Symptom. Chronic Aging. These are the depressing, negative connotations of chronology I set out to avoid with my research and writing on this site. They are, however, real, and, if I am to continue to enjoy the great golf shots, superb views, and glorious wildflowers of my time on vacation, I can no longer ignore them, but must learn to deal with this wear-and-tear on my body in a more life-affirming way. I am not atypical. Half a million knee replacements were performed in 2005, many to provide basic mobility to much older and/or obese patients, but increasing numbers to help men and women our age maintain their higher levels of activity. These are quality of life decisions and, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine, they make a difference – in the case of a knee replacement, a $20,000 a year difference. My knees are holding steady, so perhaps this isn’t a great example. Still, it speaks to a generational resistance to limits on our lives, to my heartfelt fear of accepting an ever-narrowing vision of what is possible. I will adjust to my body’s will and ways, even, perhaps, to its weaknesses, but I won’t give in to them. After all, it hurts almost as much to sit at my computer to write this, so I am going to sign off now, hike downstairs, and pop a couple more Advil. *How are you adjusting to your aging body? What’s the most positive approach you have taken, or seen others take? Please add your perspectives in a comment below.*
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