WAY BACK WHEN

One of the hardest parts of getting older being unable to do the stuff you used to do. This might not sound like a big deal. After all, if you were athletic, those abilities will typically pass, sometimes, quite early. A few things go on longer. Horseback riding, until your back gives out. How long that takes depends on your back and how many falls you’ve taken.

You don’t realize how many things will pass out of your life because often, you didn’t realize how many things were in your life. We don’t count them when they are all there. We took a lot for granted.

Performing music is one of the things that can become difficult. Pianists develop arthritis in their hands and it can be get bad enough to make practicing and performing impossible.

Our hands take a lot of abuse. I started playing piano when I was four and began touch-typing when I was ten. Between those two things, my hands were in constant use, pounding on a typewriter and a piano keyboard — with some guitar in between. Then computers.

I was still playing piano a lot when Owen was born, but I had to stop playing when he slept because my big piano — a medium grand Steinway — woke him up. By the time naptime passed, I was working full-time. At end of day, there was shopping, dinner, laundry and a family and social life. I gave up all my little art projects because toddlers are no respecters of art. Who knew it would take another 50 years to revive them?

I was just about to turn 50 when I finally had to give up horses and that really hurt. Later, having sold my grand piano (it was too big for most places I lived) and gotten an electronic piano — I began practicing again. I was surprising myself. A little practice and I could perform at least half the pieces I had known well plus many new ones.

About a week into serious practicing, both my hand lit up with a pain so intense it felt like a nail had been driven through them. I shook them out and tried again. That hurt! Heat and ice — ten minutes of each — after which I could practice for as long as 15 minutes. After that, the pain won. Even though my brain and hands remembered how to play, I couldn’t.

I eventually sold the piano. Keeping it wasn’t doing me or it any good. I’d given up the only sport — horseback riding — at which I was pretty good, and piano at which I was almost really good.

The arthritis wasn’t done with me. The heart problems and the cancer didn’t help either. After a while, walking was difficult. Giving up riding and playing was tough, but walking? I needed something more and so, I went back to drawing. Now, when my hand tells me it’s time to stop, I stop. It’s easier than I a week in a brace.

Is it terrible to have to give up things I loved doing? Yes — and no. I miss 🐴 horses, but I’d probably have stopped riding by now anyway. Piano? I think I miss the idea of playing more than playing. There were a lot of years where I played very little because between work, family, and friends, I had no time to practice. I think I became what I was supposed to be.

If we are lucky, there is a niche in our life and it’s the right place. Right profession, right hobby. I don’t think I could give up writing or photography. Getting back to drawing feels especially good because I’d given it up when Owen was born 53 years ago. I was surprised how much of it has come back.

A square musical treat!

On the whole, I’m glad I’m alive. There are days when I’m not as glad as other days. Sometimes I want to believe my spine has gotten as bad as it will, but it’s wishful thinking. Still, being alive (as far as I know) is more interesting than the other choice.

I’m pretty sure for most of us aging means giving up pieces of ourselves. We can do it gracefully, begrudgingly, or with a lot of howling and wailing. I fall into a slot between graceful and begrudging with occasional howls and wails.

It’s still better than the alternative.



Categories: Anecdote, Arthritis, Drawings, Getting old, Life, Music, Musical Instruments, Photography, senior citizens

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. HI Marilyn, I hear you. I have just turned 50 and I am finding that I do have take a bit of time out now. I can’t sit and work all day and write all night or I get very bad back pain. I have to ensure I exercise and stretch. I was thinking just yesterday that it’s a pity we are forced to fit so many things we don’t care about into our lives. Everything I like doing, writing, cake art, blogging require sitting for long periods. Cooking is at least something were I stand and rush about.

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  2. Yes, it IS hard to give up things or to realize, suddenly, that we’ve evidently given them up without realizing because we no longer can do that! As you say, much better than the alternative.

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    • What has been the most strange for me is realizing how many things I used to do and never thought about them at all. You don’t know all the things you do until you can’t do them. On the up side, I got some stuff back I thought I’d lost. It isn’t entirely downhill and some things inevitably slide away over the years as interests change and with the pressures of work and family.

      I deal with change pretty well and I’m grateful. People who don’t deal well with change have a harder time with aging.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. At the moment, I have a pinched nerve somewhere and can’t move my right arm and I’m in agony. I too have suffered with arthritis, badly. Still, there are things I miss. Walking…anywhere, anytime. I have become an armchair traveler and beg my family to take copious photos of their journeys (some of which I’ve seen and witnessed in years gone by) and some are new to me. I’m glad I’m alive because the alternative is unbearable. Especially as I have great news I am unable to share at the moment. Love reading your thoughts |Marilyn. always on point.

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    • We have some lidocaine patches that help with pinched nerves. They sell them on Amazon and in almost every drug store. They might help.

      I haven’t gone anywhere in years now, but I’m going to have to do some of it soon, like it or not. I’m not as thrilled about it as I know I ought to be, but the idea of flying scares me half to death because I’m sure it’ll kill me. Oh well.

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      • Thank you for the tip. I’ll see if my daughter can get me some. The pain is horrific and I don’t have a problem with pain. I rarely feel it but this is wicked. Where would you be flying to? I will have to tell you my flying story one day. That did nearly kill me. But not now, not if your thinking of flying. Suffice it to say I was white as a ghost.

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  4. Once again, a wonderfully thought-provoking post, Marilyn. I’m in more-or-less the same boat and physical shape. This sentence of yours rings true: “I think I became what I was supposed to be.” We become what we are supposed to be. Yes. Why fight it?

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    • When we are gifted with more than one gift, it can be interesting to realize that one of them supersedes the rest. I could draw. I could make music. I became a pretty competent photographer very early on, though my granddaughter beat me to it by 10 years, I’m guessing because I bought her a camera when she was just 9. I majored in music, but realistically, I knew I would never be concert quality — not on the piano, anyway and I never picked up a second instrument except some singalong strumming. When my first husband came down with cancer (kidney) at age 34, I suddenly realized that the time for at home motherhood had abruptly ended and it was time to figure out what I was good at and sell it to whoever was buying.

      Writing. I could write. Better than anything else I could do and certainly closer to professional level than anything else though I almost got there with photography. But photography was, even in the 1960s, a struggle. Everyone who owned a Brownie camera was sure they had the seeds of greatness in that little plastic box, so unless I wanted to go into commercial photography, the stuff I like doing — artsy stuff — was right up there with becoming a concert pianist. Potentially do-able, but highly unlikely.

      I never regretted the choice. It always felt like the right place, even when I was just starting out. I got better with time and practice, but even my early efforts were acceptable. I don’t feel I missed out because I didn’t decide to become an artist. I figured I’d be a mediocre artist, but I was a good writer. Sometimes, a very good writer — and I was never a bad writer. My photography went up and down depending on the camera and location and what I was trying to do, but writing was just there.

      So yes. The right place. And I think Garry found the right place too. He wanted to be an actor and he wanted to be a writer — and when he fell into reporting, it was both. Neither of us became the greatest in our fields, but we were both content with what we did — crappy bosses notwithstaninding.

      I don’t know anything about you. tell me something. I don’t even think I’m connected to your blog — if you have one. I think maybe we have a few things in common.

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