Out of Warranty

canstockphoto5050400There’s been a lot of whining lately here in The Green Study. My eyeballs are still apparently eroding and last night in taekwondo, I chipped my front tooth in a poorly-executed back roll. I feel like an old car groaning down the highway as various parts keep falling off. These are seemingly minor incidents in the big scheme of things (although exposed, burning eyeball nerves, not so minor), but it seems to be one thing after another. I have been feeling rather depressed and demoralized.

I found out over the weekend that a high school classmate who survived a car wreck at 16 that killed her best friend, died years later at the age of 41. She was beautiful and athletic and popular. She was everything that I was not. As a teenager I simmered with envy. So I’ve been walking around all weekend with this mantra in my head: “Well, at least I’m not dead.” I know – I’m missing the point, if there is one.

Since I value my beauty not, I got a haircut yesterday at one of those $11 franchise places. I wasn’t in the mood for chitchat and luckily the woman who cut my hair didn’t feel the need to make conversation. Apparently there was a contest for the surliest demeanor and surprisingly, I came in second place to the gentleman next to me.

Grumpy Gus had the misfortune of getting the perkiest hair cutter this side of the Mississippi, who grilled him with well-intentioned, but invasive questions. He wants to leave the state, since he’s retired. His kids live on both coasts and none of them want to come home. “They can do whatever they want. I’m not going to visit them. They chose their own lifestyles.” I’m guessing that it was any lifestyle that meant they didn’t have to be near Daddy Eeyore.

I walked out with a weird haircut but an inexplicable good mood. Hysterical people make me deadly calm. Grumpy people apparently make me happy.

There’s no way around this aging thing. I’ve been incredibly lucky thus far, but the chickens are coming home to roost. Taekwondo is getting to be too much of a contact sport. After a black eye last year from a misplaced head kick and various pulled muscles, I’m wondering how long I can continue. It’s not the injuries – it’s the recovery time that has changed. It takes me longer to recover and my desire to put myself in harm’s way is lessening.

So, there is a lot of sighing and pondering about the meaning of life and how I’d like to continue living it with as little pain as possible. I know that more things will happen – more medical events, more funerals, more disappointments. They will happen more frequently with fewer breaks between. How I react to them will determine my quality of life – the psychological war of being human is one that you can lose early on, like the man at the hair place.

Life is shifting gears. No longer can I waste time worrying if my butt is too big or my smile not white enough. Vanity is a luxury of youth. Now I must wonder how lifelong nutritional deficiencies will reveal themselves. I wonder if all that smoking in my twenties will eventually kill me. I need to pay attention to cholesterol and hormone levels. I need to recognize my limitations. Some limitations I’ve accepted graciously, but others aren’t going down without a fight.

There are friends fighting for their lives. There are friends with lifelong disabilities that make ordinary activities difficult for them to perform. There are friends who are gone too soon. Like most things in life, there are people in worse and better shape. I know, though, that it is spirit and perspective that determine quality of life. My spirit is struggling right now, but change is uncomfortable and it would be Pollyanna to suggest I would slip blithely into perkiness when things hurt that didn’t hurt before.

Perspective is understanding that the human experience is universal. None of us are getting out unscathed. We each have to decide how to deal with pain, both physical and emotional, and how much of our essence we will give over to it. I look at my daughter and know that someday, I want to be a mother she’ll want to visit. I want to know that no matter what trials and tribulations come my way, my spirit will triumph and my perspective won’t be a dark cloud that rains on everyone else.

I haven’t mastered graciousness in the face of troubles, but I’ve been getting a little more practice. It’s the warm up act, the opening band, the practice run.  I’m luckily still alive for the challenge. A purposeful life in the face of adversity is no meek endeavor.

33 Comments on “Out of Warranty

  1. They say old age isn’t for the faint of heart for a reason! The aches and pains and limitations keep creeping up on you. It sucks. At first it’s subtle and one day, WHAM!!! Things hurt. And get stiff. But then I remember an old commercial. It was for hair dye. Maybe it was Clairol. Can’t remember the specifics. Maybe it was for skin cream. All I clearly remember is what its intention was — to defy getting older. And that’s my intention.

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    • I’m of a different mindset. I’ve developed an acute sensibility to our youth-oriented culture, so I find most advertising irritating and when there are older people, they’re always rocking the Viagra or wearing diapers, but they all look about 50 and cast as senior citizens. If anybody would know about advertising, it would be you!

      My goal is to be able to kick someone’s ass well into my 70s. Can’t deal with the appearance issues – I never met the mark on that count, anyway.

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      • The commercial was for a beauty product but I didn’t mean appearance. I meant attitude towards aging/life in general. I fully intend to kick butt forever. My mother did, so I’ve had a great role model.

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        • My mother and grandmother are still kicking, so odds are I either have a long time to feel miserable or a long time to enjoy what I can. I do think it is a deliberate choice and I’d rather make it earlier than later.

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  2. So true how the mindset shifts — at least mine does, and I am in agreement with you on many counts. Thinking more about how can I continue running into my 50’s (lurking much closer than I care to think about), 60’s and 70’s, rather than how can I run faster? How can I stay healthy and enjoy active pursuits well past my retirement (whenever that pipe dream may occur), and not be burdened with costs and impairments of poor health and chronic conditions? How can I make a positive difference with my actions in the years I have left on this earth, which we are too often reminded may not be as long as we hope? Much food for thought in this post (not to mention, why waste so much time trying to recapture our youth, and instead embrace aging and move forward joyously!)

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    • I think it’s very difficult to make the shift from challenging athleticism to doing what makes your body continue to function and feel good. All your questions are good ones and the same kind that I’ve been asking myself. My eye issue really scared me, but I’m coming to terms with health becoming higher maintenance and higher priority. It also helps distill what is important and what is not. I have not reached an embracing/joyous stage, but then, that’s never been my demeanor. Challenges enliven me though, so it may all work in my favor!

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      • I didn’t say I was joyous about it, but the hell if I will spend time or money coloring my prematurely grayed hair even though I am still in my 40’s! 🙂

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        • Ha! I haven’t let go of that myself yet, since I started graying in my early 20s (family inheritance). I think there is some joy to be found in tossing off those high maintenance things and being where you’re at. I look forward to getting there myself.

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        • Ah! For me it was late 20’s it really started showing up (multiple generations of prematurely graying women on my mother’s side!) – and then I joke with my youngest son that once he was born, it was all downhill from there!

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  3. I loved every line of this post, but this line especially hit home… “Vanity is a luxury of youth.” Talk about hitting the nail on the head!

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  4. I can relate, but look on the bright side. As of June 1, most of my health care will be taken care of by Medicare Parts A & B (I pay a monthly premium for Part B) and my AARP Medicare Supplement Insurance, Type F, for which I pay an additional $160 a month. Less than I’m paying now for health insurance, and well worth the price for peace of mind. Is this a great country, or what?

    Yep, I’m turning 65. Michelle, I think you have a ways to go before you catch up to my age. Come to think of it, you’ll NEVER catch up. I’ve had the dry eye thing for several years, but probably not as bad as your eroding cornea. I use Systane eye drops every few hours and they do the trick. I try not to stare at the computer screen endlessly.

    Cheer up. You’re probably a much better writer at this age than you’ve ever been before.

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    • Nothing like turning 65 and still having all your wits (and witticisms) about you! There are a lot of positive aspects to aging and once my eyeballs heal up, I might need to write a post on the items in the “pro” column. For one, you start to care a little bit less each day about the inane trivia that passes for popular culture. That has got to free up a little brain space!

      As each day passes (and each medical issue accrues), I’m more and more grateful for medical insurance. Unfortunately, it is still linked to an employer and makes me acutely aware how quickly paid healthcare can evaporate. I hope that the Medicare system will be retained in one form or another when I am deemed eligible (once they bump up the retirement age to 80), but I am grateful for it for my older relatives who need it now.

      And cheers to being a better writer than I ever was before – miles to go!

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      • Sustainability of Medicare and Social Security depends in large part on our capacity for intergenerational justice. People in their teens, 20s and 30s are being fleeced. They’re charged too much for education that turns out to be worthless and leaves them buried in debt. Their outlook for jobs and income in North America and Europe is bleak indeed. We need to forgive their educational debts and create useful work for them.

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  5. I worked for a Vietnamese doctor who told his patients, “Remember how old you are.” I love the straight-forwardness of that.

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    • I like that statement as well, but depending on the person, it’s an equivocal statement. It can encompass a reminder not to overdo it or to value what you’ve gained along the way. Or both.

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  7. I’m trying to focus on the things I still can do and the things I still can learn. I definitely wouldn’t want to be that over-anxious, self-conscious person I was in my 20s and 30s. I just want to live a fulfilling life. I don’t care what age I am anymore.

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    • I generally focus on those things as well, but I have some growing pains to get through to adjust and become accustomed to changing health issues. I’m in absolute agreement about leaving behind self-consciousness and anxiety from earlier years. You have the right attitude – I’ll get there, eventually!

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  8. What’s that line — “no one here gets out alive?” Enjoy yourself while you can. I loved the line: Hysterical people make me deadly calm. Grumpy people apparently make me happy.” Treasure this perspective as it serves you well.

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    • I can be a very contradictory person that way! I think I’ll come around to a measured perspective…maybe…I’m a pretty intense person, so when somebody suggests that I enjoy myself or god forbid, have fun, I have to fight urges to be miserable just to spite them. There’s something wrong with me that no amount of good health will help! But I do have a sense of humor…

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      • Ha ha. You and I sound a lot alike in this way. I am not here to have “fun” and doing so sounds like an imposition to me. Sure, I’m the only one who suffers in the end, but for some reason I am contradictory and stubborn to prove some sort of point. It never works, but I too can be funny at times.

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  9. Try Yoga and some old Moody Blues. Namaste, Michelle…

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    • Would you believe I’ve been doing yoga in the last decade? Some people come out all calm and self-assured. Somehow, it doesn’t do it for me – usually I just want a nap, although it does help with flexibility and strength. But plop me down in the woods for a day and I’m as happy as a proverbial lark. Buffalo Springfield is my musical go-to bliss.

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      • OK- dig the Buffalo Springfield. Had me a good Neil Young session on Sunday, somehow inspired by Ross (on the Canada thing), then fell into Gordon Lightfoot. Why am I telling you this? I need to make dinner. Sorry about your eyes, by the way. I want to hear its healed soon.

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