Nobody told me getting older was going to be like this.
Or maybe I just didn’t listen.
My very wise aunt once told me that aging requires more and more of your time and energy just to maintain where you are at that moment.
Getting older is a privilege. But it’s also a lot of work.
Forget about turning back the clock. For most of us, our focus is simply to stay put as long as possible.
When I was much younger, I used to have a morning and night-time ritual that consisted of two things; washing my face and brushing my teeth. That ritual has slowly expanded in the past couple of decades. I now have to go to bed and wake up earlier just to accommodate additions to the routine.
For starters, there’s moisturizing, and then more moisturizing, all in an effort to minimize the snow globe effect that occurs when taking off pants, tights or socks. Skipping the moisturizer means white flakes will flutter to the ground, scattering DNA wherever I undress.
There are the various creams, masks, and emollients applied to the face and neck to “erase” thin lines that are proliferating faster than I can eliminate them, or to reduce the puffiness and circles that appear for no reason. In our youth, those were signs of late-night studying or partying. Those tired eyes were earned and quickly disappeared. These only respond to extended vacations near a beach with daily massages. Or so I imagine.
Now there’s faithful flossing to maintain healthy gums. Oh I know I should have been doing it all along, but truth be told, I was in my late thirties before I took my teeth seriously. My gums eventually rebelled against being ignored, so now I comply with my hygienist’s orders while dodging the paw of my cat who sits on the edge of the sink and swipes at the dangling string.
Then there are the various vitamins and supplements we hope will lower cholesterol levels, stabilize glucose levels, prevent heart disease or stave off macular degeneration. Still other capsules help lubricate joints so sitting cross-legged on the floor for two minutes doesn’t cause stiffness that takes ten minutes to walk off.
That’s in addition to the medications taken regularly to treat a variety of inherited conditions, depending on your particular gene pool. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to wean yourself off a medication due to exercise or dietary changes, only to find yourself adding another.
And while we’re talking about exercise, it’s what we do to keep our weight where it is now without hope of returning to the nostalgic numbers of yesteryear. Now we sweat and ache just to maintain our weight and not gain more than we already have as middle age crept up on us.
I actually have to start my day with muscle stretches and yoga so that I can sit comfortably for a few hours at a time, or lift cases of water bottles from Costco, without incurring muscles spasms.
Speaking of water, who knew it would become so important as we got older? Dehydration happens more quickly now and exacerbates predispositions for a variety of ailments. So track your consumption of that too while you’re counting your steps, carbs, grams of protein, percentages of fat, and calories.
It’s easy to see how staying healthy can become a part-time job.
For women, there are also more frequent trips to the hair salon for coloring. Remember the days when you only went a couple times a year for a trim, and your thick, glossy tresses didn’t suffer? I barely remember them. Now, after three weeks, my gray roots betray efforts to conceal my age with makeup or wardrobe choices. It’s a sad fact that a colorist can see you more often than family or friends.
And don’t forget to leave room in your calendar for the variety of doctor visits that monitor your chronic-but-not-life-threatening conditions. Whenever a doctor says “I’ll see you in six months” I mutter under my breath, “I’ll see if I can squeeze you in”.
My friends and I consider ourselves basically healthy, and yet in the past year, we’ve visited the lab for blood work and mammograms, as well as the occasional x-ray, CAT scan or ultrasound. Among us we’ve seen the dentist, endodontist, internist, ENT, gastroenterologist, rheumatologist, urologist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, gynecologist, vascular surgeon, ophthalmologist and orthopedist. And sometimes specialists refer you to someone who’s an uber-specialist. Ever hear of a Urogynecologist? Neither did I.
It’s easy to see how your dance card can fill up.
To my young readers, one day this will be you. You probably can’t imagine yourself at our age any more than we could imagine the newborns we once held having jobs or driving cars. You’re probably not thinking about preventative care any more than we were looking into the best insurance company for youthful drivers when you were only toddlers.
But please also understand this.
I am simply observing and not complaining.
With aging comes the sad reality that not everyone reaches this point. This year alone, I’ve had the unfortunate occasion to attend the funerals of three people who passed and were younger than me, and I’ve heard of many more.
And so I gladly prioritize my physical health. My body is a gift and a blessing. Taking care of it is a privilege.
So I make the time. I download the apps that help me stay on track and organized. I schedule my next appointment before I leave a doctor’s office and never cancel an appointment without rescheduling.
And I pray. Every day I pray with gratitude for the good health I’ve been granted so far, and the body that’s been entrusted to me. I pray for discipline to make sacrifices, and discernment to make wise decisions.
God has been generous and gracious in giving me a life and this body to live it. I honor Him by being a good steward of that blessing.
So during this month of New Year’s resolutions and aspirations, let’s support each other in our efforts to stay healthy. Let’s encourage and pray for each other. And let’s not be too hard on ourselves. It’s easy to set expectations that fail to take into account how hard we’re already working.
Running in place is still running.
Scripture for Reflection
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Nobody told me getting older was going to be like this.