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…
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.