Sunday, April 7, 2013

Body & Soul: Fear of Aging

As a teenager I was oblivious to the world. In my twenties, it was all about me. When I turned thirty I decided to grow up, raise a family. By the time I hit forty, I couldn’t believe I was that old, how had time flown so fast. Now I’m on the verge of turning fifty and I’m afraid. I am afraid of growing old. It’s already happening but it seems to put moving at warp speed. I’m yelling and screaming, “Stop, stop” but no one is listening. Like the universe is going to put on the brakes for me (wouldn’t that be nice). What’s a woman to do?

We all have fears that we face on a regular basis, we women bare a great deal when it comes to our appearance. Our hair starts to thin, wrinkles appear, our breasts sag, it’s apparent we no longer look like we did in our twenties. We look at ourselves in the mirror, notice a few pounds we’ve gained over the years and ask what happened to my body? This isn’t the body I remember. Where’s the other body? The body I worked out every day to stay in shape. The body I flaunted- with pride! Does everything have to fade as we age?

Over a year ago I started having some discomfort in my right hip. Not one to head to the doctor the moment something hurts, I ignored it. The pain never stopped. Finally I made an appointment.

Diagnosis – Impinged hip

The ball in my hip socket scrapes against the side with each step I take. Apparently this is quite common in women after child birth.

Prognosis – Hip replacement

I was told I will have early arthritis and eventually need a hip replacement. This did not go over well with me. I’m only in my 40’s; hip replacements are for 80-year olds I protested. Isn’t there some therapy I can do I asked. The doctor told me it might help, but in the end I would still need a new hip. Off I went to therapy determined to prove this was all a mistake. I had high hopes the day of my  appointment but it was nothing like I had expected, in fact, physical therapy was a joke. I only went once. The exercises were impossible to do; I ended up in the shape of a pretzel. I decided I needed to start doing yoga daily so I enrolled in a class that met every week. This class was very different from other yoga classes I have taken over the years, we kept a journal and I had assignments. I was actually learning about yoga not just doing the poses. It was just what I needed and wanted. By the end of the class my hip problems were no more. I continue to do my yoga daily.

It’s funny how slowly these aches and pains creep up on us. Are these the signs of old age? The reminders we are approaching those golden years. Is this what it’s meant to be like? Do we give up and let the dark cloud of despair consume us? As I pondered these questions, other thoughts infiltrated my mind.

• Fear of losing my job
• Fear of my mother dying
• Fear my children will move away and won’t come home
• Fear I won’t have enough money when I retire
• Fear I’ll get seriously sick
• Fear I’ll be alone the rest of my life
• Fear my children will think of me as a failure
• Fear I will never make amends with my father
• Fear of trying new things because of my age
• Fear of making a job change at my age

If I were twenty years younger only one of my fears listed above would concern me, the rest would never be considered. If I lost my job I would simply go get another now. My children would still be young enough they would need me. I would also start saving for my retirement much earlier in my life. If I got sick my mother would be able to take care of me and I would have stayed in college and had my BA by now. I would have made more attempts to contact my father so we could work out our differences. I would not be afraid to try new things because I was 20 years younger. And finally, I have made a career change, it was no big deal. However, it's different now, no company wants to hire a 50-year old. So you can understand why I worry about all of them. 

This fear has depressed me, it's made me feel no matter what I do it won't matter in the end so why even bother. All the Botox in the world will not stop my body from aging.

I can feel the anger inside me rise and I know what will happen next. It is my family trait welling up and compelling me forward. It's telling me to not give up - fight for youth! I have no idea what this means but I feel the overwhelming determination to find out. My once dim outlook on the future is actually brightening. I use to think being stubborn was a character trait one had to overcome. I'm not so sure I believe that anymore.

To be continued...