Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rant on Aging.

What matter of indignities age had in store for me... I had no idea. Ingrown toenails, fatigue, hematospermia, a growing paunch, lower-back pain, headaches that start from the neck, growing moles, cysts... and these are the external symptoms. It would require a team of specialists and a battery of high-tech equipment to chart the internal deterioration. The youthful feeling of invulnerability began to leave me around the time I reached age thirty, and it is nothing but a pleasant memory now. People warn you that it's going to happen when you are older, but no one really conveys the extent of ugliness that accompanies aging.

And this is all merely the beginning. I know that I look forward to all manner of surprises as I continue to experience the ravages of time. The body's breakdown gradually increases, until we are all a flabby and fragile mess. It is not surprise that my phone conversations with grandparents amount to a litany of physical suffering. Ordinary tasks such as mowing the lawn, or shoveling the walk become dangerous tests of endurance. I am constantly hearing about another body part in breakdown, and the possibility of many of these failures had not even occurred to me. The basic rule is that if it works now... it might not tomorrow.

All these sentiments are obvious. Anyone who expresses actual shock that he/she ages is either mentally retarded or hopelessly naive. But isn't it the case that actually experiencing this process is disconcerting nonetheless? We may think we understand what others are experiencing, but it is always abstracted until it's happening to our own body. That lump in the groin... that paroxysm of heart activity... that obscuration of the eye... these are all troublesome enough in theory, but only vague shadows until we live through them. We may believe that we understand when a loved one gets afflicted with something nasty, but we are still fooling ourselves if we think we know how they feel.

So what's the point? It may be easy to laugh at our age-obsessed society... our preoccupation with youth borders on the absurd... but the further we advance, the less humor we may be able to muster. There is a certain threshold beyond which changes in the body are almost always bad (and frightening). I suppose these are road signs on our path to mortality. Unless we take a short cut, or are forced off the road... we might as well try to take our time getting to that ultimate destination.

So the point is that to cope with the issue at hand I have resorted to a rather tired cliche, because it's more desirable than focusing on the ugly reality.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

youv'e got it , youv'e got it ! MP

12:06 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Carter's Little Liver Pills fill me with vibrant energy, keep me attractive and give me amazing sexual powers. Thomas Edison gave them a big thumbs up too.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

John,

You sure it isn't the Skittles and coffee for every meal that keeps you unnaturally young?

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Michael Breen said...

I think this is a bit overblown. I think Americans are a bit on the lazy side, we don't get enough excercise, and we generally don't eat well. I think the human body can fare very well all through your middle ages if you *really* take care of it. Excercise every day and eat very healthy. I know some people in their 40s here in Boston who are *very* active and who, it seems, eat well and they simply never complain about health issues. Then again, they've probably done that all their lives.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

mike,

Your assertions about the way Americans live certainly apply to me. I don't get near the amount of physical activity I should be getting. No doubt I know plenty of folks who are older than me that seem to be aging gracefully. Sometimes I feel like I am doing alright... lately not so much.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous jefg said...

Sitting on a bench last month, overlooking the Atlantic and the beach (so the setting might haven't influenced my mood), I had this thought...I wish young people should knew what it's possible to feel like when approaching sixty. Most of the time I feel like forty, and think I am. I've talked to many people about my age who feel the same way. So, don't dispair as the years pass by. Enjoy the day you're in, and know you can feel young for many years to come. I knda wish I had known this when I was 35, when I thought my parents were old and had to feel old as well. Now, I don't think they did.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

I agree with Michael's comments. All around me are people older than me, in much better shape. However, also all around me are are people younger than me, in worse shape. Each physical "problem" makes me that much more cognizant of my own fragility, but also serves to remind me that I do have the power to affect my own health.

Perhaps the New Year will bring a resolution that will stick this time. I'm thinking of starting either a couple weeks before or after January 1st, however, to avoid feeling that it is simply a frivolous resolution mandated by an arbitrary date.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

jefg,

thanks for the hopeful message.

dagrims,

resolutions are tricky business. two years ago, I had a good string of six months after several resolutions, but I had a stressful experience, and that was that.

1:29 PM  

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