Wednesday, February 26, 2020

On aging with grace

I've said for years that I want to age with grace. Now I'm there - aging - and the grace part can be challenging.

I've gotten used to healthcare professionals saying, "Well, this issue of yours is part of getting older." Like cataracts, not-so-good night vision, and sometimes forgetting people's names. I've had these issues for several years now, and I've resolved what I can and more or less accepted what is here to stay.

Now I have knee, back and hip issues, and I am not there yet with being graceful about them.

I've bought shoes with excellent arch support, and custom orthotics for those shoes, and my feet no longer hurt when I walk. That's a good thing.

I've been seeing a physical therapist, Paul, for several months. At his suggestion, I now go down stairs one step at a time, with the bad-knee leg descending first and the other leg descending to the same step. Like a toddler when they're first maneuvering on stairs. It takes longer to get down the stairs now, but my knee doesn't hurt. That's a good thing, too. Every now and then I try my old way of descending stairs, and sure enough, my knee hurts.

In Tucson, where we live in the winter, I have only four stairs to negotiate. In Seattle, where we live the rest of the time, there are 14 stairs. I struggled with them last summer - especially when carrying a laundry basket up and down - so we're remodeling our daylight basement this summer, turning it into a studio apartment for us, while the upstairs is rented out.

My back and right hip is a different issue.  I've realized recently that when I am on my feet for more than a few hours, I'm in trouble. Like last Saturday, when I went antiquing for three hours in the afternoon and then worked a volunteer shift at the asylum seekers' shelter for four hours in the evening. My back and hip hurt for three days, sometimes waking me up at night.

I talked to Paul today. He says I can stretch my back and my hips, and I can strengthen my core (I have exercises I do every morning for those things). But he says I also need to pace myself and honor my body's requests for rest. If I go, go, go - as I have for many years - my body will be unhappy and it will tell me so.

Paul also said the body works best when it is mobile - sitting, then standing and moving around, then lying down, then sitting. Variety. He says antiquing and similar activities (like Costco outings), where you walk a few paces, stop, turn your body to look at labels, walk a few paces more) is the worst kind of exercise. Paul calls it "strolling". That's why you see everyone in the checkout line leaning on their carts to ease their backs. So, starting today, I'm using the timer on my phone to remind me when I need to get up after sitting for half an hour, and take ten minutes to do something else. This practice is  a change for me even though I've known about it for decades. I need to modify my daily lifestyle habits. And I will do that. Because now it's not just a good idea. It's a pain reliever.

It's likely to be several years before I need a knee or hip replacement, and I'm grateful those options are available. Paul said this morning, "Do you know what people did 100 years ago? They went to the rocking chair."

Not me, not yet.

Here's one of the items I bought when I went antiquing on Saturday. It's a reminder to me as I age with grace.

Monday, February 10, 2020

"Life is amazing. And then it's awful."

I've always appreciated this quote:

“Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.”

Right now I'm relaxing and exhaling through the ordinary. We're continuing with our winter routine, enjoying classes and friends and activities and volunteering. Too busy, but most of it is very good.

It's good for me to remember, from time to time, that ordinary is just fine in a good life.