Body, body

Right here, right now, a light dusting of snow brightens the gray day. I am conscious of not having written in forever but I am trying not to let that flummox me. My fingers seem a little stiff, like my knees. Oh my knees. My knee. I have used it as an excuse to slack off everything. I don’t mean to judge myself; that is just the term that comes to mind. Slack. Slacking. Slacker.

This morning I woke at 4:30, restless and uncomfortable. The discomfort grew to the point where I was thinking about getting up and taking a bath, my almost nightly remedy for vague achiness. I was too tired even to do that, let alone get up for the day. I am so focused on my body, which is one big reason I haven’t written a blog since August. It’s been body, body, body.

It started with a little skin cancer on the back of my hand and then a special dental procedure and then all the preparations for knee replacement surgery, including getting rid of an infection, which involved a questionable succession of antibiotics. And then the surgery itself, on September 17, which went well by all accounts, and the rehab, which also went well, but I am still extremely focused on my body and its imperfections and the continuing recovery process. I’m not there yet.

On the one hand it is good that I am retired and don’t have to be fully functional in a day job. On the other hand it might help to have something to distract me from awareness of aches and pains and low energy levels. I do power through when I have something else to focus on. Like lots of family time, starting with a trip we took with the family to a destination six hours north, just two weeks after surgery. But wow, I did suffer some. And then a succession of visits and celebrations including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each time I have been brought up against my limits. Standing and cooking is hard on me. Being with the kids is daunting; much as I enjoy them I can’t handle them alone. I need days of recovery after each experience.

One of the biggest problems has been sleep. I got off pain medication pretty quickly because I didn’t like the side effects and the pain wasn’t bad enough to risk opioid addiction, God forbid. But I’ve been left with vague and sometimes sharp, tingly discomfort that is worse at night. After experimenting the doctors and I found a medication that at a low dose gives me at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep and often more. Getting to sleep is still hard and sometimes, like this morning, I wake up at 3 or 4, all antsy. Then I get up and walk off the jittery discomfort or take a hot bath and then maybe go to sleep for a few more hours. Every night of decent rest seems like a small victory. I would like to get off the medication (gabapentin), which is not addictive, but I am still dependent on it (there’s a difference, I think). I have tried going without it a few times and have had miserable nights.

In these past months I also edited a long memoir for a friend and I have played a role in Advent worship planning and leading. So I haven’t totally been lounging around. I have entertained a number of times, even if it is just making the main dish. I’ve kept the house cleaned and the laundry done and my husband and myself fed. If you go by outward appearances I am fully functional, maybe even back to normal. Other people see me say yes to most invitations, activities, and requests and walking at a normal pace, unassisted. They do not see my hesitation to commit to any activity that might involve walking more than a mile, total, or standing around for half an hour. They don’t see me shun the shopping mall, relying on meal kits to minimize grocery shopping, taking sleep meds, or rationing my trips up and down stairs, turning sideways coming down so it doesn’t hurt so much. Or if they do, or if I complain about these limitations, they may think my expectations, at age 74, three and a half months after knee replacement, are a bit high.

But with this last birthday, a month and a half ago, I was aware of how much older I feel than I did a year ago. This is what the knee injury (last spring) and surgery have precipitated: the inescapable awareness of aging. I feel older. Gravity pulls harder. It takes effort to feign energy and good cheer when I am just tired. Many days it is just too much work to push my physical limits as much as I should, continuing the painful stretches, getting out and walking. Will walking ever again be a joy and not a chore? Fortunately, I guess, sitting for too long is also uncomfortable. So I get up and move. It helps to have a destination, like a local bar called the Hideaway that has a great Moscow Mule.IMG_2549

I have no regrets about the surgery because I really had no choice. The knee wasn’t all that painful but it was unstable, not functioning properly. Now it is stable and functioning better, if not yet perfectly. I trust it will improve but I know that I have to keep working it.

The sun peeked through for a moment. I should get out and walk to the river and back. Maybe after lunch.




Blank Friday

IMG_0308Yesterday the little family, who had spent Thanksgiving with us, had to leave by 10 a.m. so my husband and I had Black Friday to ourselves. I spent it in front of the woodstove, reading. It was a Blank Friday.

I did not pick up the last of the toys scattered on the floor. I did not speak more than 10 words to Vic. I did not exercise. I did not go out of the house. I nibbled leftovers all day but, after making a breakfast frittata for everybody out of the leftover mashed potatoes with leeks, I did not feed anybody else. I did not go online and post pictures of our Thanksgiving table or our Thanksgiving snow. I did not go online, period. Continue reading


I just celebrated my 69th birthday. I should say “acknowledged” rather than “celebrated.” I try to put on a certain insouciance about my age but sometimes getting older is just plain discouraging. In fact, discouragement is the great bugaboo of aging. Discouragement, which can stretch out into depression, can make you feel really, really old.

Discouragement is just an emotion, however, and you can do something about emotions if you understand them. My discouragement often stems from comparing myself to others and to my former self.

I have just been at the Y, walking my three miles on the track. This is a prime spot for comparing myself to other people. I do not compare myself to the runners and joggers–well, yes, a little. I notice, for example, that a typical runner passes me every lap, which means that he or she is moving twice as fast as I am. But I am more likely to pay attention to my fellow walkers. Are they older or younger? Fatter or thinner? And, of course, faster or slower?

Today a remarkable number of walkers seemed to be older and faster than me, though several were older and slower. One was younger, fatter, and faster. Some were younger and slower and then they started running and were much, much faster. The pair of women who walk faster than me while talking nonstop were not there today, but another pair–younger, plumper, and even talkier–strolled the 1/10-mile oval like they owned it, ignoring the runners and the faster walkers, including me, who edged by them. They weren’t paying attention to anybody else. Why should I?

It’s just a way of entertaining myself, I suppose, but being with other people also helps me step up my pace. And keeping my butt moving is one way of overcoming the sloggy discouragement that goes with noticing my declining physical powers. Plus it also retards that decline.

Before that I had been to the radiology department of the clinic for a bone scan. Talk about comparisons. I measured 1/4 inch shorter than three years ago. Yikes. I won’t know the results of the scan for another week but it will probably show some decline in bone density. It goes with my genes, gender, and age. I can slow that decline with the walking, calcium, D, etc., but I expect to have a debate with the doctor about trying to reverse it with medication. The proliferating bottles of prescription medication on our shelves are discouraging signs of aging.

I suppose comparison can also be a source of encouragement. On the Y track I cruise past the obese walkers. Other women who were waiting with me in the radiology department were in wheelchairs. But I don’t feel superior to these people; only compassion–and respect for those who are trying their best. One woman was wheeled into the office in a wheelchair but got up and walked when she was called into the treatment room. I don’t think I’d consent to a wheelchair until absolutely necessary. I am grateful to be in pretty good shape. I’m pleased that, although I am shrinking in height (not good), I have also shrunk in weight (good).

One thing that I have observed about the aging/comparison/discouragement syndrome is that, as I age, I require increasing recovery time from almost any kind of injury or stress. Where injury is concerned, this can be discouraging. I dealt with plantar fasciitis in my right foot for three years before it finally went away.

The stress of travel, or planning a worship service, or hosting overnight guests–all of which I have been doing lately–often leaves me feeling inadequate and thus, discouraged. But then I realize that I am just tired. I was feeling discouraged yesterday. Then I had an introverty evening alone, watching my current favorite TV series on Netflix (the French crime drama Spiral); a good night’s sleep; those three miles this morning; and time to reflect on it all.

I’m not discouraged, tired, or even old any more. I am just 69.