Aging Still Sucks

Disclaimer: Reading this essay may cause mild to severe panic in individuals approaching middle age.

Maybe it started when your arms got shorter. Suddenly they weren’t long enough to read the small print on your pill bottles. So you bought your first pair of reading glasses. Or maybe it was that first pill case you bought with compartments for each day of the week to remind you to take your “meds.” These are all signs that you have reached your biologically-predetermined peak in life and are now making your descent toward your “silver years.” It really is all downhill from here. The only question now is, will you remain intact enough to enjoy the trip, or will you get caught up in an avalanche and be swept away in a crushing tumbler of metaphorical ice, snow and stone?

The first signs of impending catastrophic aging are gradual and sneaky. You can get used to anything – even the ground shivering occasionally beneath your feet. If it doesn’t go away, it becomes your new normal. For instance, I’ve recently invested in stronger reading glasses, and if I get caught without them, I have to have one of the children read labels for me. I’ve also graduated from a simple 7-cell pill case to a pill condo with 28 individual compartments, four for each day – a reward for scoring badly on my last blood test.

I’ve noticed many other signs of aging escalation that I’m sure many of you share. If you’re over 40, chances are you grunt or groan when you sit down or stand up. It may be subtle. You may not even notice you’re doing it. Ask your husband/wife/partner. They’ll tell you. He or she will also probably tell you that you snore. It’s also likely that you have trouble sleeping, that you feel like absolute crap first thing in the morning, that you suffer from some kind of chronic anxiety or depression, that you have frequent headaches or acid reflux or both, that various joints are showing signs of irreparable damage, that you are overweight, that you have to exercise twice as hard or long as you did 10 years ago to achieve the same effect, and that there are foods you can no longer eat without extreme discomfort (or without clearing a room). And if you’re a woman, your reproductive system is preparing to shut down spurring a whole host of fun symptoms (which deserves a whole essay of its own, so I won’t elaborate here).

Don’t despair. There’s a bright side to aging. Or so I’m told.  You get to develop character. “That which does not kill us…” and all that, right? Yes, I know. What a crock of shit. See, now we’re finally old enough to really understand what a nutcase Nietzsche was. Pain is just pain and it sucks. It doesn’t make you stronger. It just is and most of the time, we endure it because we have no choice. So no, aging isn’t for wimps but even the wimps will do it. They’ll just whine more.

But the good part is, if you can learn to live with the change without whining, you start noticing things. Maybe you stop taking so much for granted. You appreciate little things like you never have before – a good night’s sleep, not passing gas during a meal in public, or just the time you get to read a book while you’re in the waiting room at your doctor’s office.

Or maybe you notice just how amazing being alive really is, breathing out and breathing in, and thinking about every living thing that ever breathed that same air, or where the water in your glass was a million years ago or the exploded star your molecules came from. Just being able to think about all that while feeling the sun on your face, well, that’s a lot.

But it’s not everything. C’mon. There are going to be times when you can’t manage that isn’t-life-amazing-I’m just-happy-to-be-here mojo. So here’s my advice, just a few things I do when I’ve had a rough day of living:

1-      Watch a monster movie.Nothing will make you appreciate being alive more than watching other people being eaten alive by a giant, angry shark. Or an alien with acid for blood. Or a pack of zombies, pirate ghosts, guild-ridden werewolves, pissed-off angels, vampires with a conscience, wise-cracking demons who want to be human, giant desert worms, or 3,000-year-old reanimated mummies of ancient aliens. Fill in your monster(s) here.

Funny monster movies are even better.

2-      Read a funny book. It’s hard to complain while you’re laughing. I can personally attest that any of the following authors will make you snort your coffee:  Terry Pratchett, Christopher Moore, Tom Holt, Bill Bryson, David Sedaris, and Janet Evanovich. And special kudos to Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett for Good Omens.

3-      Spend time with your kids. If yours are teenagers, this might be a little more difficult than it was when they were little. But even mine are willing to patronize the parents once in a while and have a family movie night or go out for snow cones. Even if you just get them talking while you drive the carpool to school, they can be quite entertaining and something about their enthusiasm is infectious.

That’s about all I have in my arsenal except for going hiking with my camera which you already know about if you’re a regular follower of this blog. So what do you do to combat the rigors of aging? I’d love to hear some suggestions.

For those of you who are interested, see my first post on this subject: Aging Sucks.

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  1. Heeeeeehhh!! That’s great. 🙂 For my part, ditto — I run out to Nature with my camera, which has definitely seemed heavier of late, and now after our longer hikes I find I’m moaning about not just the legs but the neck (= camera weight). But I do LOVE my monster movies, too — very clever idea / observation to combat that feeling of mortality. Besides that? Laugh a lot.

    • Monster movies make everything better! And laughter, most definitely. I’ve spent the last few years trying to cultivate a better sense of humor. And the camera does get a little heavy on the neck, doesn’t it? So last time I went hiking, I opted to leave my canvas rucksack (with the water in it) in the car. Not my best decision when it’s 95 degrees out.

  2. I think you hit it on the head with your suggestions. I watched Aliens for the bizillionth time last night for just that reason. And my bookshelves are stuffed with the authors you mentioned plus more. I might include funny and/or nostalgic (any of the old beach movies starring Annette and Frankie always put me in a good mood) movies to the mix. Thanks for a wonderful entry.

    • I love all the Alien movies! And Sigourney Weaver/Ripley is my favorite kick-ass heroine. Nostalic works well for me too. (That’s why I love Ray Bradbury so much.) I think I saw most of the beach party movies when I was a kid. And they were so goofy and light. Perfect mood lifter. (And I loved Frankie Avalon’s voice.)

    • Aww, Intractable. Do you need to watch a monster movie? With your sense of humor, I bet you’d like Shaun of the Dead.

      • I haven’t seen that! I’ve been into Lifetime lately–the more tawdry the better.

  3. I’m not suremy signs are subtle. I’m 42 and I use the handrail to haul myself up the stairs. My kids don’t believe that I was ever their age. I enjoy life, but hope w hen the day comes, that my chart is included among those labelled, “pleasantly demented”.

    • That sounds like a delightful goal. (And my kids’ eyes glaze over whenever I begin a sentence with, “When I was your age…” They don’t really believe it either.)

  4. HaHa! I just made this “Aging Sucks” comment to my sister last night. Poor Hubbie knew he’d hit the point when he had to decide which muscle pain to complain about. He finished PT on his foot but now his shoulder is flaring again. My favorite sign is memorizing which side of friends and family to sit on where they can still hear me. Thanks for a smile.

    • Poor hubby. My partner was at the orthopedist today for a pinched nerve in her neck. Very painful and no fun at all. The hearing thing is a good one. My father doesn’t have a good side anymore and I never can tell when he has his hearing aid turned on.

  5. Paul J. Stam

     /  July 23, 2012

    Ah, yes, it is the middle age that is scary. If you can get by that into old age (sometimes called silver, but it ain’t) things straighten out. Listening (not by choice) to a bunch of 30 to 40’s complaining about not being able to “fit in” and right then and there got a title for another book. “The Art of Not Belonging.” Oh well…. ;~}

  6. Amen to Sedaris and Bryson. I just finished “A Walk in the Woods.” (Again). Getting old blows, but it seems there’s still things to look forward to; you just have to stay alive long enough to experience them.

    • That is a seriously funny book. I read it when I first moved to the NC mountains. that was years ago. I should read it again. And I am certain the future holds things I can’t even imagine now and I’m looking forward to finding out what they are.

  7. Well kiddo, at your age I had to keep reminding my kids, I did not come this old. Like I never knew what it was to be a teenager……Being older is not so bad, its better than the alternative! Just think, I’m finely taking that Italian class, cause all I ever learned were the swear words. This will be my second year in Tap Dancing class, don’t laugh, its been a blast. So growing old has its benefits, you’ll see…..

    • Italian and tap dancing! That’s just awesome, Aunt Carol. And I would never laugh. I loved musicals when I was a kid and loved to watch Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor tap dance. I wonder what I would take if (when) I have time for a class. I will think on it.

  8. Yep, I have pretty much everything you describe in the getting-old department. It does suck. And funny books and movies do help. The television series Desperate Housewives regularly has me snorting my monster drink, and here are a few more funny books to add to your list: Side Effects by Woody Allen. This book had me in stitches. While everyone was waiting in the library to do their oral exams in library school, biting their fingernails, I was wiping my eyes and having the silly giggles. And Toad Rage and the sequel Toad Heaven by Morris Gleitzman had the same effect. Cane toads were introduced in Australia in the 1920s, from South America, to eat sugarcane-eating bugs. But the toads can’t reach the bugs. However, they do mate like crazy and are now a pest that everyone hates. So this one cane toad thinks that if he could just show up as the mascot for the Olympic Games in Sydney, everyone would suddenly love cane toads and stop deliberately running over his relatives, or “rellies” in Australian.

    • I’ve seen a lot of the first couple of season of Desperate Housewives and loved it. Really funny stuff. (I also love that the narrator is dead. Just outstanding.) Will check out the Woody Allen book and Toad Rage. Just read the first chapter on a website. I love it. And I bet number three son will love it too.

      My partner told me a similar story about Hawaii. In the nineteenth century sugar-cane farmers imported the Indian mongoose to help control the rat population. But the rats were nocturnal and the mongoose were diurnal and developed a taste for some native Hawaiian ground-nesting birds, so now they have a mongoose problem too. (But I don’t think anyone has written a funny book about it.)

  9. Well, I’m a bit nervous about the gas. I’m pushing 40 and I’ve realized this year that, even though I’ve always felt young in spirit, it doesn’t matter because my body suddenly doesn’t. Things just start cropping up. It stinks.

    • Ha ha! It does stink. It’s not all bad, though. We just have to pay more attention and work harder to feel good. But since I adjust to change more slowly than I am aging, I have to complain about it a lot first.

  10. God, it really does suck, doesn’t it? I recently turned 50, and it’s been bad ever since–or maybe I should say “worse.” Doesn’t bode well for my future, does it?

    • If anybody can wrestle the rigors of aging and win, I bet it would be you, Kathy! You have such a great attitude and creative methods. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much.

  11. “Pain is just pain and it sucks. It doesn’t make you stronger.” I don’t know, but I found these lines funny… hello and regards! 😉

    • Call a spade a spade, right? I thought it was funny too. Always good to hear from you!

      • It is… But then, it’s easier to do that on blogs, haha. It’s getting harder and more costly to be that honest in real life, I guess… ^^ Am always glad to take a peek and see what’s cookin’… 😉 Cheerio!

  12. Grandkids! Hugs, kisses and smiles make you forget EVERYTHING else!

    • That’s a great one! It’s a little early for us yet, though. Our oldest is 24 and swears he’s never going to have kids. (He’s going to make such a good dad but I think it will be a little while yet.) And our other 2 are still in high school. How many do you have and how old?

      • Well, we have one 5 1/2 year old grandson and a 3 1/2 year old granddaughter. Lucky for us, we have them with here for two weeks! Aches and pains are quickly forgotten when they say “Nana, I love you!” It’s the best & well worth the wait, too. 🙂

  13. I loved Tremors. What a riot.

  14. Here’s one for your arsenal from my husband who is almost 40 years older than me : “Any day above dirt is a good one.”

  15. spool2spool

     /  August 5, 2012

    This morning I confirmed to myself that my left arm is shorter than my right. I had no idea. No longer can I touch the ceiling with my left fingers. In the pool, I have slowed. I stretch out and lovingly enjoy my stroke. Now I feel lop-sided.


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