gaining perspective on my aging body

by kat

i wondered … where were all the heroines who were over the goddamn hill? why does no one write about them? why are they not the main character in novels? the subject of non-fiction?

just yesterday i was a young woman; today, middle-aged. the “new” middle-aged. i’ve discovered that, when i was a kid, i believed that sixty was the magic number. it meant ‘old’. i thought of my grandparents as old simply because they were at least sixty. the only exception was my dad’s father; he died at sixty. my dad once confided in me that, as he approached sixty, he had been just waiting to die as his father had. he made it to seventy-seven. even then, many friends expressed their thoughts that that was a young age at which to pass on.

sixty. as i approached that magic number, i had my first-ever feeling that i was old. it seemed to happen so fast! just past forty, i began to truly love my life and to deepen my understanding of all life. i experienced a wonderful new way of living, thinking, being.

i was happy, somehow feeling emotionally mature. i was becoming “wise”. perhaps i would even be respected for my newfound wisdom. by whom i didn’t know, nor did it matter. i felt wise, brave; ready for this new perspective on life. i began re-reading mythology (a subject i hadn’t thought about since my school days), gaining that new perspective on the world and about myself. HERE were those middle-aged heroines! they existed after all! and i could relate to them.

riding high on my newfound maturity and wisdom, i experienced a renewed sense of emotional and even physical strength. it is difficult to believe that was nearly twenty years ago. almost twelve years ago i became disabled. i learned to recognize the fear, dread, and even embarrassment of living with a deteriorating body. it is only in the last year that i have come to understand physical weakness. as one author put it, “beginning to lose things that had seemed part of me, essential to my life.”

i have always been physically strong, always the first to offer my help to friends who were moving for instance. i was the one who was taller than the other women in my family, reaching things for them that they were unable to reach. i had a (mostly false) feeling of safety, assuming that i could fight off unwanted touch or attention. i was also very clever with words, able to talk my way out of bad situations, assuage the anger of others, to soothe them before their anger turned to violence, even to calm violent behavior, rendering them non-threatening.

now, weak and forgetful, i couldn’t fight off a cold. i’ve lost three inches (!) in height, putting me almost at my mother and sister’s height. gone is my sense of safety. and sometimes i think i have forgotten more words than i ever knew. as for escaping bad situations by using my words, well…what words? the ones i can’t remember even in the simplest situations? in the grocery store i might need to ask for, let’s say, a peach, but when i begin to ask, the word eludes me as if it had never been a part of my vocabulary, as in, “do you have any, um, uh, um … oh … it’s round ……”

i attempt to visualize the item and am sometimes rewarded with the word for what i see. more often, it seems, the word hides from me, occasionally popping into my head much later, when i don’t need it.

i am learning to let go of the need to remember at that very moment. it saves a lot of frustration and annoyance. i am also attempting to accept myself as i am now, weakness and all. this i am finding more difficult. the losses are huge. things i had thought contributed to making me, ME.

i understand that those things were NOT me, but attributes, acquisitions like buying boardwalk and park place. the real ME, the internal me, is still in there. only the “wrapper,” the packaging is changed. i still feel the sadness associated with losing strength, balance, words. and i am also beginning to allow the ME in me to be more important than the things i cannot do.

it’s a work in progress, or in process, and i am gaining ground a little bit at a time …

April 2015

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