Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting older--Where everything sorta bags, sags, wags or drags!

Caution & qualifier: Sorry Fred. This piece is about me feeling sorry for myself. But hey! It's my blog so I can.

Some wise person said there are three stupid stages in our life: Teenage years where we have time and energy but no money; working age: when we have money and energy but no time and finally; old age: where we have time and money but no energy.

If someone would have told me that I could go from middle-aged to decrepit in one lousy year, I'd have bit their head off! But that's exactly what happened.

Before my surgery on August 1, 2009, I was happy, carefree, enjoying life, and exercising with gusto. I was also writing novels with verve and inspiration. I was losing weight and feeling great. When the stainless steel blade of the surgeon's scalpel pierced my soft, unwilling flesh, my life force, energy and commitment came whizzing out in one ominous gush of energy. Not only that, but my body changed in so many horrifying ways that I am loath to describe them.

But I will, of course. (Hence the blog, for goodness sake!)

Long before my medical concerns appeared, the one feature on my body that I could automatically count on being the best was my legs. I took great pride in my legs.
Though they have always been short, they were at times shapely and free from bumps, bruises and blotches. But after the surgery and the dreaded development of debilitating blood clots, all of sudden I have tiny spider-like veins snaking their way across my feet and ankles. Dark red blotches where blood has obviously pooled mar my once perfectly clear skin and knots. I have a larger knot where a large vein now protrudes and any time I'm bumped or bitten by a predatory beast, instead of a cute little red dot, I have an enormous blood pool just below the surface of my skin which lasts for weeks instead of mere days. What's up with that?!

Another thing that really sends my up a wall is my arms.When did all the skin I had around the muscle of my arm decided to head south and now drip off my arms like turkey waddle? And when I get injured, instead of having a discreet cut or blemish, the miserable injury gets this awful blood blister just beneath the top layer of skin and spreads out like a map of Africa--add to that dark purple and black spots and I look like I've been beaten with a baseball bat. I didn't sign up for this.

Lets not forget what a lack of exercise can do to one's body after surgery. The effect is appalling and disgusting. Muscles turn to jelly, strength fails alarmingly and commitment--well my commitment to my weight-loss journey became a thing of the past. Added to that was the swelling of tissues because of the blood clot caused during surgery and you have one big ugly mess. (Are you appalled yet?)

Let us not forget about the joints--not that my joints would let me forget about them. While sleeping six months on my back, (I'll talk about that later, or not), when I was finally able to return to sleeping on my sides, my shoulders rebelled. No longer were they able to hold my body weight and I strained both shoulders which meant months of chiropractic visits. Sometimes at night I would wake up and both arms would be dead wood. How is the possible seeing that I was sleeping on only one arm at a time. There's just something so wrong about that. Luckily, the chiropractic care relieved some of that. But not all.

Let me talk a minute about canes, walkers and wheel chairs. Marvelous inventions until you have to avail yourself of them with limited strength in your legs. Then its rather humiliating to admit your too old and feeble to walk by yourself without assistance. Where are my carefree, effervescent simi-youthful days when I could skip and hop and jump my way through the life? Long gone, all of them. No more buoyant, jaunty steps for me. No sir. Just heavy, plodding, uneven steps that cause pain with every agonizing planting of my feet.And that's another thing. I had been suffering for a while with the usual pains of old age, when another enervating pain assailed me. This paralyzing pain is related to diabetes and sciatic problems. Combined together, the pain was draining. But right after surgery I thought the pain had abated. Unfortunately, when I was taken off my surgery meds of Vicodon and my beloved pain patch of Fentanyl, the miserable, grinding pain came back with a vengeance. Give me back my drugs!

Drugs! There's a paradox for you. Some people take drugs to escape, lose their minds in pleasurable euphoria. I, on the other hand, can't abide the sense of losing control that being on drugs causes me. Try a combination of Fentenyl and Codine and you have a laser light show in your brain. Not my idea of a good time. Before the surgery, I had all but thrown off my dependence on drugs. After, I couldn't control my blood pressure so my life is once again governed by the used of man-made drugs that have tremendous side effects. Not the least of these is weight gain.

Ah, weight gain. Did I mention that having blood clots in both legs caused me to gain 20 pounds in one week! No. I guess not. But there it is. What was a fantastic year of losing weight in 2008 was followed by a year of gaining a lot of it back again. I had no idea that cutting open one's body would cause a loss of motivation and drive. Maybe not for some, but it did for me. You can't lay on your back for several months and deal with the lasting effects of surgery and not lose something of yourself in the process.
It's like having the crank the old handle of a Model T. Unfortunately, the old motor just isn't going to kick over anymore and definitely not in the same way. I'm worn out, my energy reserves are drained, I can't find the motivation, the spark to kick start my life. Where's Nike when you need them? "Just Do It!"There are other complications that no one tells you about that are associated with surgery. Those are financial. But for this discussion, I'm not going to address them. Suffice it to say, the financial worry can be as devastating as the physical worry of getting older. The idea that one must continuing working in the outside world probably until death instead of retirement, does fill one's heart with aching dread. But that's a discussion for another time.

So yes Fred, this had been about me and my suffering. And people would say complaining has no place. But I find it cathartic. Writing out my feelings often facilitates recovery. It helps to unburden the soul and free the mind. Life is not about feeling good all the time. Who wants that *cough* *cough* *Mike*. It's not possible to achieve Nirvana in this life time. Thank God! Who wants Nirvana anyway? Who wants all that "enduring, transcendental happiness" anyway? Yeah! I do!

So to end this lament about old age, I just want to say that it's not for the faint of heart. It's not for cowards. It's not for weaklings. I take a person with strength of character to endure the pains and trials of getting older. My father will be 92 this year and what a strong character he is. Of course, he can't chew or hear and he's losing his memory, but he's got such a great spirit about him. He's always happy and cheerful. And "that's what it's all about Charley Brown." Learning to be happy through the pain, cheerful through the exhaustion and inconvenience of the age. I'm just having a little trouble. It all happened overnight for me. I wasn't prepared to have old age slap me in the face quite so soon. I was waiting for 80 or 90 to feel old. Physically that's how old I feel. Mentally I still feel like I'm eighteen.But take heart, all is not lost. Things are looking up. I'm back in the gym, I'm striving harder to write my feelings and working on book number six. I'm trying really hard to watch my food, not only the quantity but the quality. Improvement may be slower at this age, but not impossible. Today I'm actually going to talk to a therapist about my feelings of being yanked kicking and screaming into old age. Who knows? Maybe it will help. Prayer helps as well. What do you think? Can I pray that being fifty is the new thirty five?

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