I have been having a number of conversations in recent weeks with my peers (in age), and we are all a bit surprised by the increase in physical problems, sometimes chronic, that accompany us these days. I was fully prepared for these kinds of things to happen at some point, but I imagined it to be much later in life (say 20 or 30 years from now). I don’t remember my parents generation having so many physical ailments in their early 40s, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention as a child. Have we been a more active generation and worn ourselves out sooner? Is there something in the environment that is making us go weak in the knees, back, head, stomach, shoulder and (some unmentionable) places? Are we just a bunch of whiners? I have spent a great deal of time over the past few years getting comfortable with the Buddhist idea of impermanence and decay and death. I have plumbed the depths of fear of annihilation and come out much calmer about it, at least in the abstract, than I have ever been in my life. I stare more plainly and matter-of-factly in the face of death, and have a greater appreciation for life and the manner in which it connects us all. It has become a mantra of mine to say that any of us may be hit by a bus at any moment, and to focus on the here and now, for tomorrow may never be.
And yet, I find myself flummoxed by the aches and pains, especially when they are severe. I find I have a new (metaphoric) mountain to climb to deal with the fact of my body wearing out. It is somewhat more emotional and frustrating than I thought it would be, noting that at some point we can’t run as fast, lift as much, last as long as we once did. And something in the back of my brain questions whether this isn’t some passing thing, since the problems seemed so marked from just a year ago. Perhaps it is because I have tried and failed to treat a deteriorating shoulder that grows more painful by the day that I now look for and notice any pop or crack that seems oddly out of place in any part of me. Whoever said getting older isn’t for sissies was spot on. And probably cranky a lot of the time.