Worrywart

I was born without a sense of humor. I am, however, very high-strung. Not a good combination. A few years ago, I decided that the key to managing stress in my life was humor. I just had to learn how to find the funny in life. It was helpful that my partner has a hair-triggered wit. Funny, clever things just fly out of her mouth. But there are different kinds of funny and hers is sometimes a little dark. So I starting reading every book by every funny writer I could get my hands on – the idea being that complete immersion might help even a hard case like me. It did. I grew a sense of humor. Not only can I laugh more often, sometimes, I can even make people laugh. Happy day.

My next t-shirt (via zazzle.com)

But I have to practice pretty regularly or it goes away. The following is part of an exercise I try sometimes as a tool for managing stress. I made a list of all the things I was worried about and then tried to write a funny version. Some of the tougher items never made the funny list but a few did. And if you’re honest, a few pretty stupid things will appear too, which is always fun. Anyway, it helped to change my mood.

Some of the things I worry about:

…that my partner sometimes talks about herself in the third person (and I can’t always tell if she’s joking).

…that #2 son seems to be experiencing a kind of school-induced narcolepsy which may someday lead to a permanent position at Burger King.

…that #3 son can play Minecraft for 6 hours straight without stopping to eat or to go to the bathroom.

…that #1 son might decide to get another enormous skull tattoo.

….that menopausal is my new normal.

…that global warming will flood my favorite vacation spot.

…that I won’t be able to stand the winters in Canada when we move there to escape the climate of intolerance in the US.

…that nobody will notice that pun.

…that Nintendo is putting out a new damn expensive game system.

…that our sons will decide not to have a Halloween party and I won’t get to decorate the house. (No fun without an audience.)

…that my computer might crash leaving me to deal with the real world without Facebook, email, Photoshop, or my blog.

…that my dogs get bored.

…that unless he learns to do his homework, #2 son will be living in our basement when he’s thirty spending all his time off from Burger King playing Dungeons & Dragons or video games with Friday-night interludes to watch movie classics like Jackass 2 with his big brother.

…that #3 son will be living in the basement with him.

…that they’ve already seen Jackass 2.

…that it made them laugh.

…that whether I’ll get skin cancer was probably determined by a sunburn I got in Ft. Lauderdale in 1977.

…that I really am a hoarder.

…that my IQ is inversely proportional to my age.

…that God is real and she’s pissed.

…that hip hop won’t die.

…that I’ll never own my own bookstore or little beach motel.

…that when I clean out my email inbox, I will find messages that I really should have responded to weeks ago (Happened this morning. My apologies to Catherine, Jennifer, my brother, Scott, and Daddy.)

…that one day, instead of washing the dishes, I will take them out in the driveway and smash them one by one against the concrete.

…that I am forgetting something important (often true).

…that if my short term memory and attention span keep deteriorating at the present rate, I’ll need a full-time keeper by the time I’m 50.

…that I’m going to think of something super-clever to put on this list after I’ve published it on my blog.

So what do you worry about? What would be on your list? How do you deal with stress?

The Hesitant Herbivore, Part 3

In which I examine the pros and cons of cutting almost everything I like to eat out of my diet.

When we left off, I was on the precipice of making the decision that might fundamentally change my life:  Leap into the scary abyss of a plant-based diet or stay safely on the cliff of selective compassion, constant fatigue, and general digestive distress

In the cons column, I had: “I might starve” and “Is life worth living without the cheese and ice cream?”

On the pros side, I had “It might be worth it if I could fit into size 8 jeans again.” Yes, I am that vain. But amazingly, vanity wasn’t the factor at work here. Sure, I want to lose weight and I was hoping a new lower-fat diet would help me do that. But mostly, I wanted very badly to feel better. My forties have not been kind, and I’m still trying to learn how to live in my changing body.

Wouldn’t it be great if all cows, and people, got to feel as good as this one?

And that’s why, after all these years, I was willing to take the leap. Though I’d love to be able to say it was my compassion for farm animals that finally won out, in reality it was a completely selfish motive that finally gave me the edge I needed.  I have come to believe that the human body is not designed to process dairy products as an adult and that amount and nature of the meat we eat is not necessarily a healthy thing, either.

So with my odds of fully-functional longevity in mind, I started compiling my “pros” list.  Here are the basics.

Health:

–          Weight – I gained 50 pounds after I quit smoking 6 years ago, and it’s caused a whole host of problems for me from my aching feet to how I breathe when I sleep. And I’ve had no success at losing weight and keeping it off. According to the Mayo Clinic, vegetarians (especially vegans) usually consume less fat and fewer calories and have lower body weights that their meat-eating counterparts. No guarantees of course since there are still plenty of fatty, sugary foods I can eat but if I avoid those too, my chances are looking good.

–          Cholesterol – Mine is borderline high and I would really like to stop it there. Now the jury seems to still be out by how much this is controlled by diet and how much by genes, but the consensus seems to be, it’s a combination of both. So doesn’t it seem slightly insane to end up taking medication to control the adverse effects of your food when you can just change your food instead?

–          Type 2 diabetes – This is very possibly looming in my future if I don’t take extreme measures. See “weight.”

–          Your colon will thank you, said a vegan friend of mine who maintains that colon cancer is a big danger for dedicated carnivores. From what I’ve read, there does seem to be a positive correlation,

–          Recently, a long-term study by some Harvard folks that tracked the eating habits of 110,000 people over 20 years claims a high correlation between red meat consumption and early death.

–          Society – Can you imagine how much the cost of health care would drop if the population switched to a vegetarian/vegan diet and the numbers of people suffering from high cholesterol, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and a whole host of other diet or weight related maladies suddenly plummeted?

Humane reasons:

via Humane Society

–          Living conditions for domestic animals are appalling.  Meat and dairy are big businesses and everything is secondary to the profit margin. To produce meat, milk and eggs quickly and cheaply many animals are confined for their entire lives– in barns, in gestation crates, in veal crates, in stacked cages. The animals often have little room to move, aren’t allowed to forage or graze or go outside at all.

–          Conditions in slaughterhouses are often horrifying.  Again, the profit margin seems to demand speed over humanity. The animals are “processed” with little regard for the terror or pain that they feel.

Years ago, I read a book by Dr. Temple Grandin called Thinking in Pictures in which she describes her experience as a person with high-functioning autism as motivation and fodder for her work in developing humane livestock handling processes. If every slaughterhouse in the US was designed (and managed) by Temple Grandin, a woman who has championed the ethical treatment of animals I think I would feel much better about the method, if not the need, of putting food animals to death.

–          People insist on eating things which call for brutal practices. Ever heard of foie gras, for instance? It’s the liver of a duck or goose fattened to unnatural proportions by force feeding the birds by stuffing a tube down their throats into their stomachs. The French, the largest (though certainly not the only) producers and consumers of foie gras, even have a term for this barbaric practice. It’s called gavage. According to French law, “Foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.” I think that’s a fancy way of saying, we’ve been doing it for a long time, so it’s okay.

–          And finally, if all this cruelty is practiced in the name of feeding people, consider this: The grain used to feed animals could feed hungry people. And the water used for raising food animals could be used for raising crops and for human consumption.

The issue of farm animal welfare is pretty huge and I only touch on a few things here. For more information about the treatment of farm animals and about health issues related to a meat-based diet, you can follow the links below.

 

For the scoop on lactose intolerance, see this article in USA Today based on a peer-reviewed paper recently published in PLOS Computational Biology: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2009-08-30-lactose-intolerance_N.htm)

For info on red meat and colon cancer see http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Red-meat-and-colon-cancer.shtml

For the link between read meat and early death see this article in the LA Times:  http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/13/health/la-he-red-meat-20120313

For the information on farm animal welfare go to:  http://www.humanesociety.org/news/publications/whitepapers/farm_animal_welfare.html

For A Report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production:  http://www.ncifap.org/_images/PCIFAPFin.pdf

For PETA’s reasons to go vegetarian see:  http://features.peta.org/ChewOnThis/chewsheet.pdf

The Hesitant Herbivore

via National Geographic

I am a creature of habit, entrenched in my routines, glacially slow to alter my course. I cling to the familiar with the powerful grip of a 3 toed sloth and move toward any new direction with such incremental velocity that algae grows on my furry metaphorical coat. I don’t like change.

So for me to alter something as fundamental to my life and being as the food I eat took nothing less than years of passive contemplation and a growing a mountain of evidence that grew so high it finally fell on me. And I suddenly realized that becoming a vegan was not only the ethical thing for someone with my beliefs to do but the healthiest choice for my body.

via dummies.com

Six weeks ago, I removed dairy from my diet – a heartbreaking task for me. I believe cheese to be the glorious result of the most inspired bit of culinary resourcefulness the human race has ever displayed, a brilliant example of biotechnology born long before that term was coined. What a delightful variety of food we’ve learned to coax from the curd of sour milk – sharp aged cheddar and smoked gouda and herb infused wonders like Havarti with dill. Cheese is, quite simply, culinary wizardry at its best. And it makes the majority of the humans who consume it poot. Whoopsy.

I read an article about a recent study that found that sixty percent of human beings are lactose intolerant. Yep. Six out of ten. And here I was thinking all this time that the inability to process lactose was abnormal, and that only a few physically delicate nerdy-types can’t manage it (like the loveable but nerdy TV sitcom character, Dr. Leonard Hoffstater of The Big Bang Theory). In reality, the majority of us stop producing lactase, the enzyme necessary for breaking down the sugar, lactose, when we’re somewhere between two and five years old – presumably because we generally stop drinking our mother’s milk after that and don’t need it anymore. So the “abnormal” ones are actually those 40% who retain the ability to break down lactose and so drink milk or eat cheese without worrying about clearing the room later. Scientists call it lactase persistence and it’s the result of a genetic mutation.

Most commercial milk cows don’t get pretty meadows to roam in.

The funny thing is, I have known for a long time that cow’s milk is not a particularly healthy or logical dietary choice for me, but my love of cheese and a few other dairy delights (like ice cream!) clouded my judgment. Okay, so we aren’t designed to eat stuff made from cow’s milk, so what? It’s so good! So it’s high in calories and has a lot of saturated fat. It has protein too! And calcium that the dairy lobby says I must get from milk! And it tastes good! Really good!

But once a person hits a certain point in life (the one I’m apparently at now), digesting foods that our bodies aren’t ideally designed to process finally becomes an issue. I’ve gained weight and am having a hard time losing it. The cholesterol numbers in my blood work say borderline high and are creeping upward. And I feel bad a lot after I eat. I was tired of being tired and feeling crummy.

So I gave up dairy. I got used to drinking my coffee without creamer and actually like it that way, now. I got used to pasta not smothered in butter and cheese and am experimenting with spices and oils. I’ve found a mint dark chocolate with no dairy that I like better than milk chocolate now. And I can live without ice cream. Whoops. No I can’t!

Ice cream is right up there with cheese. I love it too much to ever let it go. And so was born the Friday exception. On Fridays, I get dairy because life is too short to live forever without ice cream and cheese. And the cool thing is that if you go six days a week without these things, small amounts of them are more than satisfying by the time I get to Friday. So my days of stuffing big soup bowls full of frozen dairy goodness are over.

But this was just the first step in my dietary revolution. Come back soon for part two about the conversion of a lifelong carnivore to a plant-based diet and get the answers to questions I know you’ll be dying to ask. How hard is it to give up meat? Is it worth it? What are the benefits? Do you have to start making your own granola, hugging trees, and/or wearing Birkenstocks?

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.

46 and Fogged

via Zazzle.com

Lately I’ve been losing my mind. It’s been a gradual process, but one I can’t deny anymore.

Take yesterday. I was in the middle of a full-blown house-cleaning frenzy when I glanced at the clock. It said 12:30. I felt a flutter at the back of my mind, like I was forgetting something important. I scrunched up my eyebrows (because I think better that way) and looked at the clock again. 12:31. My brain fluttered again. I turned off the vacuum and stared. Then it hit me. I had forgotten to pick up our youngest son from school.

There’s nothing worse than the feeling that you have forgotten your child. My stomach did a somersault, and I felt the weight of shame settle on me. Then I exploded into action. Dropping the vacuum hose, I descended the stairs like an avalanche of flailing middle-aged arms and legs (narrowly avoiding breaking one of them) and bounded down the hallway.

It was an early release day which meant that school let out 2 hours early. And in spite of the fact that my partner and my son had reminded me just that morning, it had still slipped my mind. The bell had rung 10 minutes ago. Now, our youngest son is not exactly a small child anymore. He’s fourteen, and not likely to be permanently damaged if I was a little late, but in my panic, I pictured him standing out in front of the school all alone, forlorn and forgotten, a sad little boy whose other-mom had abandoned him.

I snatched my keys and wallet from the kitchen table and dashed for the front door, sliding the last few feet – which really shouldn’t be possible in sneakers. I looked down. I wasn’t wearing my sneakers. I was wearing socks which of course explained the whole sliding down the tiled hallway thing. I quickly took stock of myself so as to ascertain if there were other problems I might want to correct before I went out in public. I was wearing ratty jeans and a bleach-stained t-shirt with no bra. I hadn’t yet showered. It would be generous to describe my hair as “tousled.”

Scrambling back up the stairs, I tripped over the vacuum cord, located shoes and a sweatshirt, tripped over the cord again, and lunged back down the stairs, wrestled open the front door, slammed it behind me, and ran for the car.

I was 25 minutes late. My son was not outside alone shivering in the chill as I imagined. He was standing in the sun, smiling, and talking with a friend. There was still a short car line and a surprising number of children still there. He smiled and waved when he saw me. I hugged him in front of his friends. Then I stopped at a gas station on the way home and bought him a soda and beef jerky.

“You should be late more often,” he said.

No, I really shouldn’t, I thought. The school is about 6 miles from our house. There are many traffic lights and the highest speed limit is 45, but I still made it there in about 12 minutes. My reflexes are getting to slow to drive like that. (And since I know you’re reading this, Mom, that was a joke.)

via pixar.wikia.com

My stuttering memory is no joke, though. I’ve always been a little absent-minded, but lately I’ve been a complete space cadet. My short-term memory is sputtering out like a neglected campfire. I feel like the forgetful little fish in Finding Nemo. (My favorite character until I became her.)

Lately, I have to proofread everything I write 14 times lately to avoid embarrassing myself by using the wrong words (like “half” instead of “have”). I mix up words when I’m talking, too, and often don’t realize until someone tells me. Like this typical exchange between my partner and me:

B:  “We used to live in Asheville, honey, not Austin.”

me:  “I know where we lived! You know I meant Austin.”

B:  “You mean Asheville?”

me:  “Shit.”

She’s really very patient, don’t you think?

And that’s not all. I have spent frantic minutes searching for my car keys only to discover them in my hand. My partner can text me to ask me to take some chicken out of the freezer to defrost for dinner, and if I don’t get up and do it right that minute, I will forget. I know it and she knows it. (That’s why she texts me again in five minutes. Did you take the chicken out of the freezer?) The other day, I almost ran out of gas because I forgot I was on empty. (Yes, I know the gas gauge was right in front of me. That’s kind of the point.)

As I’ve waded deeper into my forties, I’ve read more than a few articles on women’s health, and I know all the symptoms of my age.  But for some reason, I never really made the obvious connection with my mushrooming absent-mindedness. I just always thought I must be stressed or distracted, and then I jumped right to early onset Alzheimer’s in my imagination.

But not to worry. It’s just menopause. Yay. I’m not losing my mind. I’m just going to feel like it for the next few years.

 

note: Thanks to Mittens of Mittens and Boots and her excellent blog post on early menopause for the inspiration to write this and for cluing me in to the term “brain fog” which I just realized, I didn’t actually use except in the title, sort of. You can read her post at:

http://mittensandboots.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/mittens-menopause-forget-about-it/#comments

A Brief Glossary of Lies Women Tell Themselves When They Join a Gym

The   lie: What   they’re really thinking:
 

 

I’d love to go to the gym with you.>>> I’d rather have a root canal.
 

 

I’m doing this to feel better, not to lose weight.>>> I just want to be skinny.
 

 

I had a great workout and I feel exhilarated.>>> I think I’m going to vomit.
 

 

The elliptical machine is a fun challenge.>>> The elliptical machine is a Satanic plot.
 

 

I enjoyed that Yoga class.>>> Please take me to the emergency room.
 

 

My aerobics instructor inspires me.>>> I hate that skinny b****.
 

 

Weight training is empowering.>>> Weight training f***g hurts.
 

 

My workout clothes are so comfortable and liberating.>>> I feel like a sofa in spandex.
 

 

I lost 4 lbs. last month and I’m proud of myself.>>> Please shoot me now. This is going to take forever.

The Starbucks cookie bag I composed this post on

Getting Healthy Hurts like Hell

Coat rack I bought last year.

You know how it is. You want to get fit? You want to firm up your body, become recognizable to yourself again? Great! It will improve the quality of your life. You’ll sleep better, you’ll have more energy. Exercise is the best natural antidepressant there it, so you’ll feel more positive and less anxious. You’ll get all this good stuff in return for just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times a week. So why have you put it off for so long? That’s likely because of the brief period (weeks and weeks) of mild discomfort (blinding pain) you may experience (will have to endure) when you begin your new exercise routine.

Let’s face it, you’re not a girl anymore. You’re a middle-aged, pre-menopausal mass of physical wear and tear, still expecting it to be like it was when you were thirty. But thirty was fifteen years ago. Today, your elbow is sore from trying to open a pickle jar – two months ago. Your left knee pops and groans and threatens to give out whenever you walk up the stairs carrying something heavy (like a cell phone).

And your diet! You’ve eaten primarily crap for so long, your body doesn’t know how to process fresh vegetables when it gets them and protests by trying to tie its own duodenum in a knot or sending acid bubbling up your esophagus like one of those volcanoes kids make for the science fair in fourth grade.  Because while you really enjoy a salad (when it’s drowned in Ranch), you mostly enjoy carbs, refined sugar and artificial flavoring. So your doctor sends you for blood work because you have the energy of a wombat (which has a metabolism like molasses), and you are then instructed to immediately begin taking megadoses of vitamins C, D and iron. But even if you’re careful to take these after a meal as instructed, they will likely make you nauseous. Until your body gets used to getting what it needs. Which may be never.

So here you are – sore, tired and nauseous. Sounds like a good time to join a gym, right? That’s what my partner and I did. In an effort to slow an aging process that appears to have escalated alarmingly the last couple of years, my partner and I have embarked on a new fitness program. We went to our new gym the other day and tried a few of the machines. Nothing too extreme. Twenty minutes on a treadmill. Another twenty on a stair thingy. Two minutes playing with a crunch machine.  Just getting used to the place. Taking it easy. Then we came home and took the dogs on a long(ish) walk. I had to take 4 ibuprofen that night just to make the bed soft enough to sleep on. Because everything hurt – the knee, the elbow, abdominal muscles I didn’t know I had. My toes. My hair. (Yes, my hair. I ran my hand through it and it wimpered.)

It’s not that I’ve never been active. From my twenties to early thirties I jogged pretty regularly and went hiking almost every weekend. And it’s not that I can’t take a little discomfort. I used to go hiking for 8 hours in August in central Texas with nothing but a granola bar and a canteen of blood-warm water to sustain me. And I loved it. Now, if the temperature gets above 60 degrees, I break into a sweat.

I know that when you start working out after laying off for a while (or several years), it takes time to get past the pain, before you get to the good effects of exercise. When I was thirty, it might take a couple of weeks before I could run a couple of miles again. So I know that theoretically, the pain will go away. Even now that I’m not thirty anymore. And it does. As soon as I stop exercising. Or a couple of days after anyway. That’s the problem with a fitness routine, though. A couple of days later, if not sooner, you’re supposed to do all the stuff that caused the pain again. At my age, that seems vaguely masochistic.

My partner has a sister who is almost 10 years older than us and insanely fit. Just standing near her makes me feel like a three-toed sloth with a slow thyroid. She practically vibrates with energy. And the older she gets, it seems, the more she works out. The last time I saw her, she was averaging 3 hours a day riding her bike and lifting weights.  When she has an injury, she wraps it and keeping on trucking. My partner spoke to her last night and mentioned her discomfort after 3 consecutive days at the gym. Big sister offered this comfort:

“Well, you know what the US Marine Corps says. Pain is the sensation of weakness leaving your body.” I’m pretty sure that’s not true for me. The day after my second visit to the gym, I worked in the yard for several hours. That night, a whole legion of muscles that had been quietly trying to atrophy the last few years, protested painfully. Most notably my posterior. But I’m pretty sure the weakness wasn’t leaving my body. Actually, my body seemed quite content to lie motionless on my bed with an ice pack on one part and a heating pad on another for the last 3 or 4 hours of the day while my brain watched stupid TV and tried not to think about how exhausting, nauseating, and painful getting healthy really is.

Aging Sucks

It’s clear to me that my body is not what it used to be. I’m like an abandoned house that people see and think, “Oh what a shame. Look at those sagging eaves, the rotting porch, the loose shingles. It was such a nice house once. Maybe it can be renovated.”  How lovely is that? I need to be renovated.

I like to think I’m still basically structurally sound. I’d just need a bit of work before anyone would want to live here again (and some rigorous maintenance to keep it that way). The problem is, of course, that I never moved out. So some caution is called for. You have to work harder to live in an aging house.

For instance, I can now, apparently, injure myself by just walking, sitting, standing or sleeping. I’ve been upright, bipedal and nocturnally unconscious for most of my life and never had much problem until fairly recently.  My mother says I mastered all of the above quite young, and I’ve practiced every day since. But apparently for all these years, I have not been doing these things in the most ergonomically ideal fashion and now the damage is starting to show.

So I’m just halfway through my fifth decade on the planet, and I have at least a half a dozen parts that no longer work as originally intended. My conversations with my doctors are starting to sound like that old joke. You know the one: A man says to the doctor, Doctor, it hurts when I do this.  And the doctor says, Well don’t do that. Seriously, it happens.

TMJ is an acronym for one of my unhappy body parts. It stands for the temporomandibular joint that connects the lower jaw with the skull. My jaw joints are unhappy because I clench my jaw muscles a lot and this causes frequent, annoying headaches and painful jaw popping when I yawn or eat. It gets a little worse every year. The solution? Don’t do that. Really. If you look up treatments, you’ll find things like Keep teeth slightly apart, Avoid extreme jaw movements like yawning and chewing, and Learn relaxation techniques – all just different ways of saying, Don’t do that. Or you can take pain killers and muscle relaxants. That’s about it.

A couple of years ago, I went to the doctor because the bottoms of my feet hurt every time I took a step. It felt like the soles were bruised. The doctor said I had something called plantar fasciitis which as far as I can tell means the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot is unhappy because it is tired of holding your arch up all these years. The solution? Buy good arch supports, stay off your feet as much as possible, and lose weight.

Have you ever tried to lose weight while staying off your feet? I suppose I could swim if we had a pool or could afford to join a gym. Or if I could swim. But my exercise of choice was always jogging which I can’t seem to manage since I quit smoking. I’m serious. Five years ago, I quit smoking. Since then, I have gained 50 pounds which caused me to develop plantar fasciitis which prevents me from jogging which means I can’t lose the weight.

I have tried adjusting my diet, but apparently I have the metabolism of a ground sloth now. I could eat a bowl of lettuce and a carrot stick for every meal and I still wouldn’t lose a pound. It was so much easier when I could eat what I wanted and just jog it off. Aging really sucks.

I could go on and on about the legion of fun new physical challenges late middle age brings, but for now I’m trying to focus on coming up with new ways of living in my old body that don’t hurt or take all the fun out of life. I have a recumbent stationary bike, a yoga cd, and a partner who used to be a chef who can make even healthy food taste good. And in the meantime, I suppose I’ll try to remember that approaching old age isn’t so bad if you consider the alternative.

For further brooding on this subject see my post, Aging Still Sucks.

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