I celebrated my 38th circumnavigation of our local star on Wednesday, and was moved to ask myself, as I usually do about this time every year, “Where the hell did the year go?” (I have to admit, this temporal confusion isn’t anything new for me. I’ve never really had that firm a grasp on the whole “linear time” thing, and the older I get, the greasier that particular pig becomes for me. Days drag on such that they need to be measured in eras, but the weeks are fleet, and I swear, every time I look up, it’s almost Christmas…regardless of when I look up.)
Birthdays tend to move people to reflection, and I am no exception. I have, upon examination of personal trends, decided that I have definitely switched from the “gaining” phase of aging to the “giving up” phase. When you’re a kid, the older you get, the more opportunities, responsibilities, and freedoms you gain. It was a big deal when I was deemed old enough to cross the street alone using solely my own judgment. Then I gained access to a bike and both the ability and permission to cover some real ground. A few years later, I could drive a car, then go to college, then buy a car. Then I could get married and have my very own mortgage, and as many dogs as I wanted without having to get permission from my mom. (Just from Scott.) And I could eat sugary cereal breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I so wished. Now that’s the kind of freedom our forefathers dreamed of when they envisioned this great nation!
But that’s all taken a turn in the last couple of years, and one by one, I’m having to surrender things that I took for granted. I had to give up kickboxing because it hurt my hip too much to continue. I had to give up caffeine 2 years ago now, because it started giving me heart palpitations and anxiety attacks. Ditto Sudafed for my allergies. Then I had to give up chewing gum, in the hopes that my trick jaw would not get any trickier.
When that wasn’t enough, and I actually ended up in the ER for a dislocated jaw that wouldn’t go back, I had to give up yawning normally. Yawning! No longer do I get the satisfaction of a nice big yawn; I have, out of necessity, trained myself to do this tremendously unsatisfying and not a little uncomfortable closed-mouth sideways yawn, because you can’t just give up yawning; it’s physically impossible. But if I’m not vigilant, I can do myself an injury. Sometimes one gets away from me, and I feel the grinding of my jaw bones against each other, where they get stuck for just a moment, and I quietly panic until they’re back in their place.
So that’s fun.
I had to give up the Sunday special, chicken chilaquiles, at our favorite neighborhood restaurant because they lead to an excess of magazine reading time within a half hour of eating them. I had to give up high heels, yoga, and long walks, lest I cripple myself entirely, (though I’m still working on getting back into the latter two). And after recently taking a second sick day because of horrible, inexplicable stomach pain, I had to give up drinking soda, because it makes what I’ve diagnosed as acid reflux worse. The “rotgut” finally caught up with me.
While I admit that it’s a sign of maturity that you voluntarily stop doing things that hurt you in some way, I begin to live in fear of what I’ll have to give up next, just to stay alive and relatively (it’s always relative for me) functional. Driving? Solid food?
From an observational standpoint, it may seem that as people grow older, they become more concerned for their health, but from an experiential one, I would bet that a lot of them are just like me—it’s not so much a zeal for health as it is simply trying to avoid pain of one kind or another because ye olde carcass just can’t deal anymore. Yes, it’s for my own good, which is why I do it, but it’s galling nonetheless.
I tell you this much, though if it ever gets to the point where I have to give up chocolate to avoid that pain, I’ll give up breathing first.