In September of this brand new year I will turn 54 years old. I have long since left behind my youth. My adult children are visible proof of that, along with the ever bothersome changes that an overworked, aging body keeps parading through my world every day when I awaken.
The arthritis is nothing new, but the symptoms of it are increasing, almost more rapidly than I could have ever anticipated. This makes me wonder how much of a connection there might be between this degenerative disease and my obvious menopausal drop in circulating hormones. I anticipated some relief when I stopped working full-time. I felt I would have an advantage by not putting as much stress on my hands and wrists, but with every passing month more lumps and bumps are apparent in my knuckles, my fingers twist more and the symptoms seem to be moving to other body parts.
I always said I could and would tolerate what was happening to my hands as long as I could walk, and walk comfortably. It would seem that my ankles and feet are now showing signs and protesting quite loudly. If I wear much other than the standard athletic shoe for very long I find myself hobbling gingerly, limping along with severe pain in my left foot. When I get up in the morning I limp until my feet have the chance to warm up and move for a while. My ankles crack and creak, as do my knees. I suppose this could be considered a positive in the sense that if I put my mind to it I might be able to coordinate those sounds with the ones that occur in the joints of my hands and amuse those around me with a catchy little tune.
Another quite visible outcome of this ladies change is the weight that has settled around my mid section. I have no illusions, nor have I characterized myself as slim for a long, long time. Three pregnancies, abdominal muscles that became less and less toned, a considerable lack of any formal exercise plan and you can imagine that sort of typical mom body. Somewhere, in the last few months though, there are changes taking place that are astounding. The waist that had some definition has disappeared. The semi-smooth back now has that oh so lovely layer of rolled tissue which protrudes from under my bra making any close-fitting garment look as if three people are squeezing into it instead of just one. I have gone up one pants size simply to be able to breathe without constriction around my middle.
I am seriously ready to turn every zippered pair of pants I own into flexible, stretchy top marvels that I used to fondly term grandma pants, except that those pants were always for the sweet older ladies who had that large mid-section. I am now one of those ladies.
I now feel guilty on so many counts. If I put one thing that isn’t a fruit or vegetable into my mouth I feel overwhelming guilt and shame, knowing that the cookie I so long for isn’t helping. For every strong desire I have to bend, stretch, walk, learn yoga, or hike in the woods I look down at the growing twisted appendages, feel the neck pain, and revile the aches as now more and more of me is letting myself down. I look at clothing that I long to wear and meekly pass it by, moving on to the sections that hold items designed to hide, not flatter.
I went looking for shoes today as I am fast approaching the point whereby I will be wearing my athletic shoes with everything. The choices are slim and I see the stodgy, solid, and supportive grandma shoes lurking in my periphery, gently calling me, their standard laces beckoning.
My body mocks me, taunting quietly with occasional memories of what it once was. I feel trapped inside a person I don’t really know anymore and I don’t think I’m ready to accept that this is the new me.