What’s it going to be like when I get old?
Ever wonder about it? I dreaded being a “youthful” teen. The thought of being on my own… in my own apartment, having my own career, paying my own bills… both thrilled and frightened me. Of course, I eased into adulthood by going away to college. Yes, back in the 1980s, I doubt anyone chose to attend UCSD just on the strength of their Liberal Arts program.
Many of us “Communication Majors” went there because the campus was minutes from the beach and the apartments were cool. Ah yes, for two years I had a cul-de-sac apartment with a balcony… with boys as neighbors. It was the perfect preview of what real life would be like, right? Well, not exactly.
Fast forward to graduation. Here we go again. This time the thoughts came posed more as questions:
- How am I going to afford an apartment?
- What am I going to do for a career?
- How am I going to pay my bills?
You’d think I’d have this figured out after 5 years in college. Think again. “On the job training” isn’t a course you take. Oh well.
I made it through somehow by sculpting out a career path in fashion and production, electrical contracting and office administration, and fitness and sales. Of course it completely makes sense that I now work in the wine importing industry. (I guess I’m not afraid of change). Did I mention I also sell chicken eggs from my little farm? Again… because THAT makes so much sense.
Most of my life is a blur now. Once I decided to work, I practically did little else except for that. Thankfully that changed. Our relocation to another part of the state allowed me to scale back into part-time work. I finally had time to enjoy life… in my 40s.
“Great!” I thought. “I can really slow things down.”
God must have been listening.
It just hit me like a ton of bricks about 5 months ago. I woke up on a Wednesday and couldn’t walk. It felt as if I had run a major race the day before… in heels! Unfortunately, for me… that feeling never went away. The pain in both feet eventually moved to both hands and both sides of my neck. Rest didn’t help (well, some but not enough). Pain relievers didn’t help (and I tried everything everyone told me about). Stretching didn’t help (again, just a little, but not enough).
It hurt to write. It hurt to drive. It hurt to live.
Luckily for me, my husband had taken a job around the same time that this started. As soon as we got our new health insurance cards, I was looking for a new doctor. Blood tests, x-rays, follow ups… eventually I was sent to a specialist who said what I had been dreading.
“You have an auto-immune condition called Rheumatoid Arthritis,” he said. “You need to do something about this because this could easily worsen and spread to your internal organs.”
Suddenly, it was as if I had just graduated. I had more questions racing through my brain:
- How safe is the medication you’re recommending?
- What if it doesn’t work?
- Will I ever regain use of my hands and feet again?
- Will I ever NOT be in pain?
- Will my immune system be able to handle having itself compromised?
After much discussion and many more hours of pain (and crying), I followed my doctor’s recommendation. One month later, I can finally see the light again. I can start to really laugh and smile. I can appreciate and now anticipate what “old age” feels like.
It explains so much to me about getting older… and why some men and women are seemingly just bitter and grumpy. They are probably mourning the loss of their loved ones or they are just in pain.
Aging isn’t fun and games. But neither is living in fear of getting older. All I can tell my friends who are youthful or feel young is that looks do fade, health problems do happen, but keeping a balanced positive outlook on life can carry you through so much of this “getting older crap”.
What your aches and pains are… are truly yours. Some may be able to relate to “how you feel”, but only you truly know. Surround yourself with people who care and can listen (more than they can dispense advice). But understand that it’s your challenge to get through. And just know that in time… with a little bit of support and maybe some medical help, you can embrace again your journey in this life.
For me… if that day ever comes where I need to walk with a cane, I plan to have a fabulous dance routine to accompany it.