BECOMING MYSELF (AGAIN)

I used to be me. By the time I rounded the corner to 50, I was sure who I was, give or take a lie or two. I knew what I looked like and believed.

That was when everything started to go south. A surgery went bad and I needed a lot more surgery to repair the surgery. Then I learned I had a genetic heart condition — more major surgery just a couple of years after having a bilateral mastectomy (cancer) which was just a couple of years after…

Never mind.

I had to rethink pretty much everything I thought I knew about me. I didn’t look like I used to. I lost 150 pounds and was so skeletal I had to go on a special weight-gaining diet, but then the cancer medication, so I gained an extra 40 pounds, most of which is gone (finally). My hair turned white. My arthritis went into hyperdrive. I couldn’t ride horse anymore and on a bad day, could barely walk

I had been strong, but now I wasn’t. Almost all the things I did I couldn’t anymore. That was bad enough, but along came Trump and my brain melted. I couldn’t believe so many of my fellow citizens could be so stupid — but after a few more years of seeing just how bad things can get, nothing surprises me. I spent too many years with smart people and failed to realize how many dummies are walking the streets — and might one day decide to vote. I guess they were all waiting for just the right candidate.

Next, everyone was dying of COVID. We were in lockdown. Given the way the previous 15 years had gone, lockdown wasn’t very different than whatever life was before.

Four years of Trump with the trauma of learning how treacherous a democracy can be when an evil man leads it, then having a near coup and the full rodeo of COVID. More than a year of not seeing anyone who wasn’t my husband, son, or granddaughter, while realizing Garry is 79 and knowing I’m not far behind? Knowing, finally, no matter what we did or will do, we are never going be young or even younger than we are right this minute? We can eat right, exercise, lose weight, get a terrific haircut, but youth isn’t on the menu.

We could eat well, be fit as fiddles (are fiddles really fit?), but age shadows you. It will have its way now or later, but no one gets out of this life alive. Heavy thoughts, but lucky for me, I am easily distracted and thus forget to worry. Even bad stuff has an up side.

Last night, I realized I was beginning to be me again. What does that mean? That I felt sort of me-ish. Okay, I can’t remember anything for more than 30 seconds and given any distraction, I might not make it for a full 30 seconds. I spend a lot more time getting and taking medications, worrying less about unimportant stuff and trying not to live in terror of the future — our personal and national future — both of which look totally bizarre.

For all that, I’m pretty sure I’m me. It’s just a sense I’ve slunk back from elsewhere. Being ill for so many years — not just sick, but nearly dead — and going through the changes major illness brings turns you into someone else. I think complete healing of your physical self, plus healing your emotional self takes much longer than we imagined. It has taken me a decade to get past losing both breasts. Seven years to reconcile to two replacement heart valves and a Pacemaker. I’ve had to get to a point where I’m not permanently yearning to go riding in an Autumn woods.

I think I’m over it — mostly.

I’ve solved the problem of belief by believing everything and nothing. You’d be surprised how well that works.

There are other things on my mind. Many are medical. As you age, you spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with health. Your own and of loved one. Never forget — you aren’t growing old alone. Your generation including all your friends and family are traveling the same path with equal reluctance.

Maybe that’s where the benefits of distraction come in. I don’t worry nearly as much as I could because I forget what I was worrying about. That may be why I feel more like me.

I can’t remember how else to feel.



Categories: Anecdote, Life, Photography, Relationships

Tags: , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. I’m probably about ten years behind you and just starting to get my head around the idea that neither I nor my husband is young any more, however much we might wish to be (and occasionally pretend to be). We’ve not (yet) had to endure what you have in terms of illness – he really is as fit as a fiddle and I have relatively mild arthritis and a few related aches and pains. But it’s hard to accept that it will be downhill, to a greater or lesser extent, from here. I want to remember your words and try to continue to feel like me, even if that me is not what she once was. Thank you for a very thought-provoking post. Stay strong and safe!

    Like

    • If you are lucky and able and you keep moving, you will do better. But yes, it slows down and arthritis tends to get worse. Garry has no real issues, but at 79, he’s moving a lot slower and it’s a lot achier and he’s a lot more tired. Not exactly what we planned.

      Some people so better than others. Garry is serious about exercise. He’s surprisingly fit. But he’s getting up there. I worry about him more than I worry about me!

      Like

  2. I think part of it is just what you said earlier. We are never going to be younger or possibly better than we are now…so we need to enjoy what we have.

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    • It has taken a long, long time to get here. I spent almost 15 years recovering from one major surgery or another. I’ll never be the person I was before all of that slashing and stitching, but my head has come around, even if my body has its own agenda. It just took a LOT more time that I thought it should. Doctors tell you six months. But that’s for the healing of your body. The healing of your mind and soul can be very slow.

      Like

  3. I must tell you that after reading the most honest confession on aging I am sad, scared and concerned at the same time. I don’t know what should I say to you except that each and every word of yours touched the cord somewhere and especially the lines, “you are not alone”. I think the same when I look at my parents now. They both are above 75 and looking after themselves and each other as well. I get the same vibes from them what I got from this post. I at times get so worried about the one who will be left behind to deal with the loneliness. Hugs to you for being so brave and writing, clicking, cooking, inspiring, spreading happiness all along. Lots of love from soul.

    Like

    • I have a simple motto for my younger friends who seem appalled that I’m getting old and older.

      If you don’t die young, you get old. Getting old is the GOOD part since the alternative would be dying before you get old.

      What IS important is having things to do that you can do no matter how old you are. Writing and photography, my profession and my hobby, have made retirement not only better, but sometimes actually interesting. If the internet has given us one really important thing, it’s if we can’t do a lot of physical stuff, we can still communicate and be productive and creative. I this were 100 years ago, it would be ever so much worse.

      Actually, if it were 100 years ago, I’d quite likely not have lived to BE this old. One of the other issues would have long since killed me.

      Having so many old people is a modern problem. In earlier centuries, most people never got much past their late 40s, IF that. As medicine improves, there will be more and more of us old folks lingering around.

      I can’t deal with either of us going before the other, so it’s one of the things I do not think about. Or, at least, I try NOT to think about it. What will be will be. Ruining the time we have worrying about the future is stupid and pointless. It won’t change anything. If ever there was a time to live in the moment, this is it!

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  4. SO SORRY YOU HAVE TO ENDURE DAILY PAIN. MY DAUGHTER DOES, TOO, SO I KNOW HOW DEBILITATING IT CAN BE. FINDING THE RIGHT MEDIATION SEEMS ENDLESS AT TIMES. I HOPE YOU HAVE FOUND THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOU. SENDING HEALING THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS. AT LEAST THEY CAN’T HURT.

    Like

    • As long as I don’t push myself past what I can reasonably do, pain is more a constant buzz than terrible. It’s not that it doesn’t hurt. It’s just that you get more or less used to it. You know how you’ll feel straightening up after sitting for a while and how your legs will look and feel after hours on them. Cooking is often what does me in because while walking can be uncomfortable, STANDING is much worse. Especially if I forget to unlock my knees. Ouch.

      I suppose what mostly hurts is realizing that this isn’t going to get better. It is what it is and no medication, surgery, or anything else will change it more than slightly. Part of moving along is accepting that you are where you are and planning on “fixing” it is pointless. That’s hard. IF you think about it, that is — and that is why I try not to think about it.

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  5. I’m slowly racing you to the ultimate conclusion. Maybe a few lanes behind, but on the same track. I’ve definitely felt a certain nostalgia for not being in pain on most days. And I’m only in my mid-fifties. My mother loves to say, “Wait until you’re my age!” I will have to hope I manage at least half as well as she does. (Though, maybe with a little more sympathy for other people’s pain.)

    It’s not always a bad thing to revisit memories of a stronger fitter you. But you are also right that those days are not coming back entirely. Still, I can hope that I can still make good choices that improve the me of today–even if I can’t resurrect the me of 10 or 20 years ago.

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    • Mostly, I think accepting that this is where you are and trying to make the best of it is as good as it is going to get actually helps. When you realize that PT, acupuncture, massage, medications, et al — won’t make any significant difference — you can begin to figure out what you CAN do.

      The best part of now is that I think I’ve gotten through the worst part — at least surgically. I’m figuring out what I can do, what I can’t do, and not spending a lot of time worrying about things that can’t be changed. That’s a real improvement!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is SO funny, truthful, sad and a few more things – but I’m sure terribly glad for you and your feeling of being you again.
    As per ‘being fit like a fiddle’ – I once got a card saying ‘How can I feel fit like a fiddle when I’m shaped like a cello’ – It’s one of my favourite cards of all times. And yes – I have the form of a cello and I play cello !!! Hope this gives you a giggle or three too.

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    • I have a friend who was a bass player and I’m SO glad I never got quite that big. I was definitely more cello than bass 😀 I asked a fiddle how it felt and it didn’t say anything. It was a non-conversational fiddle, I suppose. Don’t you wonder where these expressions came from? I always wonder if anyone knows.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is beautiful, and I needed to read it today. Dealing with pain each day, but I am also back in college working on a Master of Art in Religious Studies. At school, I feel myself, the one who loved learning. I wish I had learned how to make friends in my youth. Wonderful pictures and post. Thank you.

    Like

    • Finding at least ONE thing that makes you feel you haven’t lost your power to (fill in the blank) is essential to surviving. I feel sorry for people who never expanded in any direction but work. When they retire or just can’t work anymore, they have nothing to fall back on.

      I think my memory isn’t good enough for serious studying these days. My ability to focus for long periods has slipped away. I can focus when I block out everything. If I don’t do that, I lose track of what I was trying to say, write, or even think. I used to be able to work anywhere and my brain made all the background chatter disappear. Now, I notice everything. As a photographer, that’s good. As a writer, that’s just annoying 😀

      I’m glad you are back in school. One of the many things I realized wasn’t going to happen was my getting a masters. Not because of the expense, though that obviously matters but because I’m not working and never will, so a masters in what and to what purpose? Instead, I read. Constantly. The escape of childhood is back after all those years of never having time to read. That’s a huge plus.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Feeling more ‘me-ish’– I like that. It tells me all I need to know. Others? Hopefully, they feel the same.

    Like

    • It’s easy to lose yourself, especially when you first retire. Your schedule is gone. The “framework” is gone. I had to learn to sleep late after 45 years (give or take) of getting up before the sun and never getting more than four or five hours of sleep. Now, you have to PRY me out of the bed. I think I’m still sleeping lightly waiting for the baby (he’s 52) to cry!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful, true and very meaningful post, Marilyn. I especially like “Never forget — you aren’t growing old alone. Your generation including all your friends and family are traveling the same path with equal reluctance.”. Very, very true. Thank you. Adrian 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am sometimes reminded I am not growing old alone because a number of my high school classmates are still in touch. They call and now they visit again since we are all vaccinated. Since I am still working, and everything else takes me a lot longer, I am too busy to think about more than what’s next. On the other hand, it is alone. My young friend John moved on and it is just I. Too bad as he unknowingly prompted a number of articles and stories.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Watching our generation age can be a trifle traumatic. You see an ancient old guy on TV doing an interview and wonder who it is — until you say, “Hey, isn’t that (name that famous person).” and sure enough, that’s who it is. “He/she looks so OLD!” you mutter — and realize you look the same. Ouch.

      Then I look at me (with clothing ON, thank you!) and think, “Well, at least I look better than (fill in THAT blank).” And wonder if how they remember anything. Maybe they don’t?

      It’s funny when 4 or 5 of us get together and no one can remember names or anything. On the UP side, we are getting great at recognizing hand signals trying to describe whatever word we’ve lost. Then there’s Google, the forgetful old folks’ best friend. You know no one else remember either because before you type in the whole query, the answer pops up. HUGE help when I’m writing!

      Liked by 1 person

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