One of the things I’ve experienced most clearly in the second half of my life – or, at least, since I hit my mid forties – is that our bodies fail us. We spend much of the morning of our lives paying attention to our physical appearance and deceiving ourselves into believing that we will never age, much less die. Then, somewhere during our thirties, we notice that when we are active things start to hurt the morning after. By our late thirties our bodies play a cruel joke on us. We wake up the morning after in no pain from the night before. We think that we’ve somehow turned back the clock. The the second morning comes, and things hurt more than they ever did on the morning after. We start to notice that there are things we just can’t do as well as we used to by the time we hit forty, and by forty-five we notice we can’t do some of those things at all. We begin to wonder if we are dying prematurely.
In February of 2006 I had my ankle reconstructed. I was one of those kids who was spraining his ankles every time he turned around, and I suddenly found myself falling down with little or no provocation. I found an excellent orthopedic surgeon and he put my ankle back together. It was when they gave me crutches to use during my recovery that I discovered I had torn my rotator cuff playing nerf football when I was thirty and my labrum tackling someone on a mental health unit when I was thirty-nine. I couldn’t use the crutches. Believing I still has the recovery ability of my youth, I scheduled shoulder surgery for October of the same year. After all, the deductible was already paid! I was finally starting to feel myself by Christmas of 2007 when my back, which had bothered me since an accident at work when I was twenty five, finally gave up the ghost. February of this year, 2011, I had back surgery. It was a great success, and I’m much better than I was, but I’m not good as new. I still have some pretty significant limitations around how long I can stand without having to sit down, and I’ll never be the weight lifter I once was. That’s not all, but it’s enough.
This situation isn’t unique to me at all. While the details may be different, in the second half of life we are all going to come up against some physical limitations. What will determine how much we suffer at the hands of our limitations are our thoughts about our limitations. We can get lost in self pity if we believe that we are the only person this sort of thing happens to at our age. It happens to everyone, sooner or later. We can become depressed if we focus on the things we used to do but now either cannot or should not attempt, but if we find new way to express our interests and passions then we might find our limitations a blessing in disguise. We can believe our bodies are about to die on us, or we can see the truth that they are just telling us to slow down a little bit and enjoy life for a change.
Isn’t that an interesting concept?