Growing Older Is a Full-Time Job

 

Over the years I’ve heard the tiresome phrase, “Growing old ain’t for sissies.” I never liked the phrase; maybe it sounded too ominous or cynical. Still, I’ve been moved lately to reflect on getting older—I refuse to use the word “old!” But the years are ticking off, and with my birthday a few days away, I thought some reflection after nearly 73 years was overdue.

So, what do I mean when I say that getting older is a “full-time job?” In many ways (depending on the day), living this life demands a great deal of my attention! I realized the changes that I have experienced in just the last couple of years have been a lot to absorb into my adjusted reality. In most respects, the “job” has become more demanding, and with little to no choice about what I want to take on or not.

For example, the physical changes are the most obvious. My legs swell because the little vents in my legs are not working as well as they used to; I can wear compression socks, but those are for old people (!) Plus, they don’t cure the problem. There are the bruises that show up on my arms, my little “beauty marks” that were especially bad with the high dose of prednisone I was taking; fortunately, I’ve been able to reduce the dose, so I don’t look like I was in a boxing match, and I only have my “maturity” to blame. My hair, which has always been such fun to work with, has become much thinner and less curly; it’s hard to know if those are the after-effects of chemotherapy or age. My hairdresser pointed out two new little strands of hair that were starting to grow on my temple. I know she was trying to encourage me, but, well…. And my stamina does not seem as strong, but I’m learning to pace myself and feel stronger every day.

Mentally, I’m going through the usual losses: forgetting words, names, and tasks. I’ve got a well-worn path from my office to the kitchen (and we have tile floors), trying to resuscitate an idea that had been so vibrant only moments before.

And then there are the routines. I used to roll my eyes at friends who seemed to have umpteen visits to various doctors. No more. Once I realized the number of visits I had planned to my internist, my oncologist, my breast surgeon, eye doctor, dermatologist, never mind the ongoing blood draws for my PMR, my arrogance vanished. I’m on a first-name basis with the tech at Quest Diagnostics.

*     *     *     *

With all the new adjustments, I’m incredibly blessed to continue some of the most rewarding work of my life. I continue to work with @iwe and our team to more deeply explore Torah, and I love the opportunity to be stretched in my thinking. I’m also grateful for the conversations I have as a hospice volunteer with people who have lost loved ones; I am constantly learning how to be present, how to open to the grieving of others, and how to best support them in just a few words. And I’m very grateful to be able to maintain my physical activity to allow me to do the rewarding work I pursue.

*     *     *     *

And I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this job has no “bonuses!” There are the deep friendships that become more intimate all the time. There is giving myself permission to take risks, whether I’m trying something new, saying something I might not have said aloud in the past, and speaking up when I feel I have something important to say. There are also the moments when it makes more sense to let things go than to grumble about them. There is stretching myself spiritually, not only in Judaism and reaching out more passionately to G-d, but trying to better understand the religious paths of those people in my life and their experiences. There is exploring new themes in my writing and being surprised sometimes about where they take me. And then there is the intangible relief of having nothing to prove, nothing over which to stress myself, no great milestones to attain or projects to complete for anyone but me or those I love.

This “full-time job,” my life, is quite enough for me.

And the journey continues!

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  1. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Getting older may be have its challenges, but it is better than the alternative.

    • #1
  2. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53. 

    • #2
  3. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Tell me about those physical changes.  I try to roll out of my bed in the morning and sometimes it’s agony.  I wonder what happened to the jock who could take on almost every challenge.

    Then, when I make it to the kitchen and while I’m drinking my coffee, it comes back to me.  Dragging my derriere around III Corps Vietnam, many times in full battle rattle and all the training that helped me to survive it.  All those 10K runs and time in the gym that kept me in shape for my final 24 years in the military.  The karate, jumping out of aircraft “in fright”, and all the other things needed to keep an aging body ready for deployment.

    Then the price paid for it; joint replacements, blood clots, osteoarthritis in my hands, shoulders, knees and other places where I didn’t even think I had places.  Yeah, I have to wear those funny white compression socks that I used to laugh at.  I used to wear shorts all the time to show off muscular legs.  No more; it’s sweat pants and “daddy jeans” until they put my dress blues on me for the last time.  For my final inspection.

    It’s been great living here in the retirement community; not only because my wife and I are around people our age but because I have learned so much from other senior citizens.  In a sense it has made the “full-time job” of growing old a bit easier.  Yes, it’s still difficult but hey, “the only easy day was yesterday”, right?

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    Bummer 😞

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    It’s been great living here in the retirement community; not only because my wife and I are around people our age but because I have learned so much from other senior citizens.  In a sense it has made the “full-time job” of growing old a bit easier.  Yes, it’s still difficult but hey, “the only easy day was yesterday”, right?

    We live in one, too. Some have taken good care of themselves and they motivate me to keep working at it. Others are in pretty bad shape and remind me, too! I particularly try to maintain good posture, because I just feel better and stronger.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hey, I resemble that remark!

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hey, I resemble that remark!

    So do I.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    One thing I notice when I’m at the work-out facility is how people present themselves. Those who are in decent shape carry themselves with a self-assurance that I admire. Then there are those who shuffle their feet and are bent over. I know that sometimes life deals out those outcomes to us, but I will do my darndest to do the best I can.

    My husband and I were talking over lunch about how hard he works to take care of himself, since he basically has a “broken bronchial system.” I try to remind myself that by his ongoing coughing, which is not steady but frequent, he keeps his lungs clear and therefore free from infection. He also works out three time a week. He would not be able to keep pace when I go on a fast walk, but sure and steady is still possible.

    I think that we not only benefit ourselves but also our spouses by trying to be healthy and well.

    • #9
  10. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    • #10
  11. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    If you’re having the anterior hip replacement, you’ll be up and walking four hours after the surgery and walking with the aid of a walker the next day.

     

    • #11
  12. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    The physical doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the mental.  I’ve discovered that an actual conversation about any serious topic is just about impossible to continue, and remembering things is not quite so easy as it used to be.  

    • #12
  13. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Tell me about those physical changes. I try to roll out of my bed in the morning and sometimes it’s agony. I wonder what happened to the jock who could take on almost every challenge.

    Then, when I make it to the kitchen and while I’m drinking my coffee, it comes back to me. Dragging my derriere around III Corps Vietnam, many times in full battle rattle and all the training that helped me to survive it. All those 10K runs and time in the gym that kept me in shape for my final 24 years in the military. The karate, jumping out of aircraft “in fright”, and all the other things needed to keep an aging body ready for deployment.

    Then the price paid for it; joint replacements, blood clots, osteoarthritis in my hands, shoulders, knees and other places where I didn’t even think I had places. Yeah, I have to wear those funny white compression socks that I used to laugh at. I used to wear shorts all the time to show off muscular legs. No more; it’s sweat pants and “daddy jeans” until they put my dress blues on me for the last time. For my final inspection.

    It’s been great living here in the retirement community; not only because my wife and I are around people our age but because I have learned so much from other senior citizens. In a sense it has made the “full-time job” of growing old a bit easier. Yes, it’s still difficult but hey, “the only easy day was yesterday”, right?

    Good one Crab. One more reason I thank God at night he got me in the Navy.  Just had to run up and down ladders on the carrier.  But would prefer to live on a single story house now. 

    • #13
  14. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    I had a shoulder replacement this year. Recovery was pretty smooth. I hope your hip replacement goes well. 

    • #14
  15. MargaretJ Coolidge
    MargaretJ
    @ElizabethJ

    Nearing 60 and with multiple health problems (not caused by poor lifestyle choices, btw), I can say that getting older is definitely not for sissies. But it’s better than the alternative! 

    Seriously, despite the breakdowns of the body, each day we have left here on earth is a gift to be treasured.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MargaretJ (View Comment):
    Seriously, despite the breakdowns of the body, each day we have left here on earth is a gift to be treasured.

    Exactly! Hang in there, Margaret!

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    I hope all goes well, OldPhil!

    • #17
  18. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    If you’re having the anterior hip replacement, you’ll be up and walking four hours after the surgery and walking with the aid of a walker the next day.

     

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    If you’re having the anterior hip replacement, you’ll be up and walking four hours after the surgery and walking with the aid of a walker the next day.

     

    That’s what he told me. Fingers crossed.

    • #18
  19. MargaretJ Coolidge
    MargaretJ
    @ElizabethJ

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MargaretJ (View Comment):
    Seriously, despite the breakdowns of the body, each day we have left here on earth is a gift to be treasured.

    Exactly! Hang in there, Margaret!

    Thank you, Susan! I appreciate the encouragement. 😊

    • #19
  20. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    As our vision fades, our eyes raise to the horizon. The long view is the only one that counts. Our minds connect the forms our eyes no longer see and our field of view lacks the distraction of details that do not add to understanding. 

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    If you’re having the anterior hip replacement, you’ll be up and walking four hours after the surgery and walking with the aid of a walker the next day.

     

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    If you’re having the anterior hip replacement, you’ll be up and walking four hours after the surgery and walking with the aid of a walker the next day.

     

    That’s what he told me. Fingers crossed.

    And toes, too!

    • #21
  22. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    If you’re having the anterior hip replacement, you’ll be up and walking four hours after the surgery and walking with the aid of a walker the next day.

     

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    I see too many doctors for being ‘only’ 53.

    I’ve been pretty lucky for many years, but last year had cataract surgery (maybe 70% successful) and in three weeks will be getting a hip replacement. My wife isn’t looking forward to it because I’ll be needy for while, but I keep telling her it’ll be easier on her than me.

    If you’re having the anterior hip replacement, you’ll be up and walking four hours after the surgery and walking with the aid of a walker the next day.

     

    That’s what he told me. Fingers crossed.

    You’ll do fine!

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’ve been so moved by the comments on this OP, that I wanted to add something special. Some of you may say it’s a bit over the top or off target, but there you are .  .  .

    • #23
  24. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    @susanquinn – I have a couple of  years head start and one thing that has taken me by surprise is how quickly I have lost my tolerance for the cold.  You may not have realized it, what with living in Florida and all, but cold is definitely harder to take.

    Mrs. Spring and I used to exclaim how hot either of our sets of parents kept their homes when we visited them.  No longer.

    Flannel has become a good friend.

     

     

    • #24
  25. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    @ susanquinn – I have a couple of years head start and one thing that has taken me by surprise is how quickly I have lost my tolerance for the cold. You may not have realized it, what with living in Florida and all, but cold is definitely harder to take.

    Mrs. Spring and I used to exclaim how hot either of our sets of parents kept their homes when we visited them. No longer.

    Flannel has become a good friend.

    It’s gotten cold this last week here in Western Virginia (40s in the day, 20s at night) and yesterday my wife said “I’m tired of winter already” (and it’s still only November).

    Me too.

    • #25
  26. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    One day a year, the skies above my small village in Palm Beach County are filled with swallows that swoop and swerve all day long with little notice. You have to be outside, walking down a particular road, to see them. They are there only one day but return again year after year.

    There is a reason you are here.

    Or at least it seems that way to me.

    • #26
  27. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    One day a year, the skies above my small village in Palm Beach County are filled with swallows that swoop and swerve all day long with little notice. You have to be outside, walking down a particular road, to see them. They are there only one day but return again year after year.

    There is a reason you are here.

    Or at least it seems that way to me.

    Probably en route to Capistrano.

    • #27
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WillowSpring (View Comment):
    I have a couple of  years head start and one thing that has taken me by surprise is how quickly I have lost my tolerance for the cold

    We have the same intolerance! Although my husband always hated the cold. (Living in CO and MA was tough on him.) We prefer the warmth, and I gauge my aging by how many degrees we are moved to change the indoor temp!

    • #28
  29. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    One day a year, the skies above my small village in Palm Beach County are filled with swallows that swoop and swerve all day long with little notice. You have to be outside, walking down a particular road, to see them. They are there only one day but return again year after year.

    There is a reason you are here.

    Or at least it seems that way to me.

    Probably en route to Capistrano.

    Every year, without fail, the turkey buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio.

     

    • #29
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I remember one time I was at a Zen retreat and we were invaded by vultures sitting in the trees–are they the same bird? What a noisy and intimidating group!

    • #30
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