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.
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.