She's sad. She's mad. She's infuriated. She's confused. She's determined. She's annoyed.
She's all of those things at the same time. She's crying in Italian restaurants. She's sharing her angst with me because I get it. It's like listening to myself.
We are active, speedy, fit women. We define ourselves as such. When the body - through normal wear and tear or extraordinary interactions with bullets - decides to throw a monkey wrench in our plans, we find ourselves moaning that (she) won't be able to hike the Grand Canyon or (me) carry grandchildren. It just doesn't seem.
Ellen's heard the same things that I have heard: You can't compare yourself to what was. You have to accept that aging is a process. You have to set expectations that are realistic. It doesn't help to moan about it. You'll be fine.
Those well meaning phrases mean the same to her that they do to me - nothing.
If I can't compare myself to what was then what shall I use as a measuring stick? Don't think I need a measuring stick? Have you ever exercised? We measure progress by how far we've come, what we can do now that we couldn't do a month ago, what we need to accomplish to move on to the next plateau. We take notes and record our progress and, in fact, are always comparing ourselves to what came before. Telling us to stop is like telling the tide to stop rolling in. It's who we are.
Aging may be a process, but that doesn't mean that we have to accept the consequences with equanimity. Getting old isn't for sissies and it's not for us, either. Old doesn't mean what it did when G'ma turned 60; at 89 she still bristles at the appellation. Old implies inability, restrictions, creaks and aches and deterioration. We may be older but we are not old. Not yet, anyway.... and not for a long long time, if G'ma is to be believed.
Realistic expectations vary according to who is doing the expecting. Dr. Boaz, my surgeon, expects that he will be replacing my hip this summer. I expect to be participating in a rigorous program of retraining instead. Those are two realistic expectations shared by two intelligent people who are at odds with one another. I go to visit him today; I'm bringing TBG along for protection. I think it is realistic to expect that, with hard work and diligence, I will be walking pain free and smoothly. I have no timetable any more. I am letting the work create the experience and the progress will come. Of this I am sure. My therapists tell me so - all 7 of them here plus the 3 in Chicago - so it must be realistic. If only Dr. Boaz could agree.
Telling me not to moan about it is self-serving on the speaker's part. Moaning is part of the whole. We are facing challenges which were unexpected, unintended, undesired. We had a plan for our future and then our bodies interfered. We knew we'd be agile and spry into our dotages; how dare our corporeal selves interfere with our expectations? They weren't absurd, we weren't planning on the Olympics or even the Senior Olympics, we were simply certain that our efforts in the past would be rewarded in the future.
And then our bodies got another idea. They decided to antagonize us. They are working against us. They are interfering. Yes, we have much to be grateful for, much to be thankful for, much to enjoy and profit from..... but we still hurt. Standing up includes a stab in the butt. Sitting for more than fifteen minutes brings a new and quite unenjoyable stiffness to the joints. Cracks and crunches emanate from our selves, often loud enough for others to notice.... and stare.... and worry.... and sympathize... and empathize.... and with all that going on what's a little bit of moaning among friends? We're not wallowing. We're just taking an honest look at the situation and reacting in kind.
And then there's my favorite one - you'll be fine. FINE....such a special word. Not excellent or over it or back to normal... just fine. Fine has never been enough for either one of us. We are perfectionists - in childrearing, in exercising, in life. We're not persnickety, we just have high standards. We're not outrageous, we just expect that, with determination and good form and following the rules excellence will come our way. Having bodies that preclude excellence, that will be fine but not perfect or even totally functional, this is new to us.
If we feel like moaning, cut us some slack. Please?