The Joys of Getting Older

I meant to have another bit of flash fiction up today, but my body hasn’t been cooperating the way I’d like. So instead I’m in the cafe of the local medical megaplex, awaiting my early-morning doctor’s appointment so we can figure out what’s going on and (hopefully) fix things rather quickly.

The details are a little too gross to mention here — I’ll just mention “persistent gastro-intestinal distress” for posterity and leave it at that. It’s been going on for a few weeks now, getting worse a little bit at a time, and when I finally mentioned it to my husband he strongly recommended I talk to my doctor about it. So I did, and here I am.

There are an increasing number of instances where my previous health plan — ignore something until it goes away — doesn’t work any more. Before I could simply stop doing what caused something in my body to go wrong and in a couple of weeks it would stop complaining and I could start doing it again. This worked for injuries sustained while running, drinking, eating seafood and a number of other mild ailments. After a while, you train yourself to think that your body is tremendously resilient, and will generally bounce back from almost anything you do to it.

Now, the ailments are either too obscure to figure out what I did to cause them or too persistent and fundamental to ignore until the ship rights itself. I find myself going to the doctor more and more often, and the number of pills and inhalers I take on a daily basis have edged up over the years. In the past five years I’ve been diagnosed with chronic depression, asthma, G6PD deficiency, diastasis recti and lactose intolerance. A lot of this stuff I’ve had with me for years, but my coping mechanisms for them have failed and I’ve needed a little extra help managing them.

My view of my own body is shifting as a result. The stories I tell myself about the way I work have been forced to make room for my own fallibility. I never particularly thought I was invincible, but I’ll have to admit that I thought I was a lot stronger than I am. And I don’t mean that in a tragic, self-pitying way. The title of the post isn’t sarcastic or ironic. It’s fascinating to watch the habits of my past catching up with me, forcing me to deal with their consequences bit by bit. I suspect by the time I’m 40, I’ll have completed my transition from teenager and young adult into…something else. It’s interesting to speculate what an “adult” me will look and feel like, what he’ll do, and how he deals with his limitations.

I’m not that old. I’m only 32 years of age, and already I’m getting to the point where my body is saying “No more, you can’t keep doing the shit you’re used to doing.” Its message is clear: adopt a different way of doing things, or things will go badly for you. I’m doing my best to heed the call, but it’s difficult to change the path I’ve walked for half of my life.

This story is writ large in our relationship with the planet. Good old mother Earth isn’t a spring chicken any more, and even though she’s not ancient she’s getting to the point where we can’t keep doing the stuff we’re used to doing. A lot of us know this, but it’s so difficult for us to change. If it’s a challenge for me to eat more fiber and leafy greens, to eat less candy, how much more difficult is it for us to use less energy, to switch from finite, dirty fossil fuels into experimental cleaner energies that haven’t been proven yet? How much harder is it for us to make systemic changes to the way we live?

Yet, we must or things will go very badly for us. Looking at the planet’s future in twenty years is a lot like looking at my own. We either learn to accept our limitations and work with them, or we continue to ignore the warning signs, the complaints, until the system fails and we can no longer ignore the consequences. We either change and become more sensitive to our needs, or we have change thrust upon us, violently and abruptly.

I have no idea what the doctor is going to tell me when I meet with him later today. We have no idea how climate change, the oil peak and a burgeoning population will affect our planet. But I am to make sure that the changes I need will be under my control as much as possible. We need to make the same commitment as a society.

3 thoughts on “The Joys of Getting Older

  1. I’d never have thought I’d feel as decrepit as I do at the age of 34, but on the plus side I’m delighted that we live in a day an age where it’s all very treatable. I’d say it’s almost magical if I didn’t know better.

    Re peak oil: Come and gone, so don’t stress too much about it. Hydrocarbons will be something which will continue to be used until cost of extraction becomes unfeasible and known reserves will be left in the ground for a cheaper alternative. If you want something to panic about, how about peak phosphorous? Changing our lifestyle is child’s play compared to changing the demands of our biological chemistry. 😉

    However if you want to consider alternatives, just remember that the manufacturing of a solar cell, or photovoltaic silicon in particular, is far worse in terms of carbon dioxide emissions than any coal plant we could come up with. I think a bigger challenge is for us as individuals to start looking at our net energy consumption in a realistic, before we start looking at solutions which are worse than the initial problem.

  2. I agree because to me at least, age is nothing but a made up number; it’s how you go about life that keeps you young at heart, regardless of age! Great write-up on how we can all strive to be a little younger, even if our number says we’re rather old lol:))

  3. What a revelation! I truly do believe you will be ok. Isn’t it amazing how you were able to cope with diagnosis that were always present? Know that you are not alone. You are heading down the right path and will undoubted bounce back. Thanks for sharing and all the best!

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