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Old and creaky

By Heather Oman

I have tendonitis in my hamstring. Or that’s what the doctor thinks. I have an appointment with a physical therapist this week for a full evaluation. I’m not looking forward to it. I try to avoid medical things as much as possible, not because I distrust doctors, but because my life is full of them. When it’s a life requirement to see a doctor every 6 months, it makes it a lot harder to voluntarily make an appointment for other stuff.

The result of my procrastination is that I’m in a fair amount of pain, and can’t really do much running. This is too bad, not only because the weather is finally getting to the point where running outside doesn’t feel like a punishment, but because I have recently discovered that when it comes to maintaining the shape of me, I have to do more. It takes more effort to keep the same results. I work harder, and often, I accomplish less.

I think that means I’m old.

Last night, I was moaning about my leg, and my husband was moaning about HIS legs. He was recently diagnosed with bursitis, a painful inflammation in his hips, and he had his own round of physical therapy a few months ago. So there we were, moaning about our aches and pains, and we laughed, because 10 years ago, such a conversation would have never taken place.

A good friend of ours, who is just over 50 and is active and energetic, is getting TWO new hips next month. TWO! He’ll have to use a walker for a few weeks after the surgery, and then spend his life explaining to the TSA that his concealed weapon is actually in his hips.

Yup, old and creaky. That’s us. I always think of myself as a young woman, but I’m realizing that, um, no, I’m not really as young as I once was.

I suppose there are some good things about getting older. I dress better than I did in high school. My hair is cuter, and my make-up is better. I see things a little clearer, and have a better understanding about the way the world works, and more compassion for the people in it. When my 3rd grader comes home despondent about how kids at school weren’t playing fair at kick-ball, I say a silent prayer of gratitude that I don’t have to worry about who to play with at recess anymore. And my husband points out that if for any reason he ever has to navigate the dating scene again, somebody should just shoot him to put him out of his misery.

I was in the changing room at the Y last week, getting ready to swim with my daughter, and a woman there was lamenting her posterior. Her own 4 year daughter old had told her that her butt was flappy. “I have a flappy butt!” she cried, turning to me, half laughing, half despairing. Well, I couldn’t help but check out her backside, and indeed, it could be described as flappy. But she pointed out that she was 42, had given birth to 4 children, and could still run a 5k in 26 minutes. We agreed that she should be grateful that her body worked as well as it did, and that she was as strong as she was (And she did look strong. I mean, can YOU run a 5k in 26 minutes? I can’t). In essence, she understood that while she was getting older and her body didn’t look like the way she wanted it to, she was still a vibrant, strong, beautiful woman.

But as we walked to the pool together, she said to her teenage daughter, “Hey, will you watch the little ones? I need to swim some laps, to work on my flappy butt.”

How do you feel about getting older? Is it difficult, or liberating, or both? What things do you miss about being young, and what things are you looking forward to?

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

17 thoughts on “Old and creaky”

  1. Our culture is definitely messed up. I try to be an example for my children, as well as for other women. I never criticize my body and I never lament my age.

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  2. There are occasional moments when my breath goes rushing out as I realize my age. What used to be "old" is now just "me."

    But I love myself right now. I, too, dress better, have cuter hair, and have less acne. I am more confident, and I have discovered talents and abilities I never dreamed I would have. I am surrounded by better people than most of the ones I knew in high school; and what's more, they are my family! I cannot run a 5K in 20-ANYTHING minutes, but I CAN run a 5K. There are aches and pains in my body, but there is joy and contentment in my life. The worries that come are sometimes very large, but they are usually related to something/someONE who brings me joy. Life is a challenge, and I love it!

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  3. I, too, "fight" the aging process even though it seems to be a very loving process by Father to help us gradually let go of our bodies in preparation for when we will have to exist without them again for a while.

    As I approach 50, I actually find it a bit liberating. I feel more comfortable and relaxed about who I am and what I think. I've made enough mistakes so far to know that I know nothing (haha!) I just wish I could have understood what I understand now when I was in my 20s. One of the benefits of aging, at least for me, is finally being free to be me.

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  4. I have a friend in her mid-fifties, and I often hear her say something like, "Nobody told me that being in my fifties would be so much fun!" She is charming and vibrant and intelligent and accomplished and is really enjoying what her stage of life has to offer. I look to her as an example of a great attitude. She could be bemoaning the effects of gravity and aging on her body, but she is celebrating the triumphs.

    Similarly, on every birthday, my mom says, "I'm just glad I made it to age __!" I struggle with my own body image, but I'm grateful for these women in my life who teach me the right way to think.

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  5. I think Jks is right on.

    I had an experience that taught me much which I’ll share. My husband and I bought our first home when we were in our mid-thirties. It had a small patch of green lawn in the back yard that had many dandelions and clover and other weeds mixed in. After a year I decided to really work to make and keep it gorgeous. I weeded and spread fertilizer and weed killer and worked at it and it became almost weed-free and lush. The next summer our state entered its fifth year of drought and our water was rationed and I watched our little lawn turn brown. It really bothered me. All that work and now it was brown!

    Fortunately, the next year water levels in the reservoirs went up and we were watering again that next summer. I had learned something from my drought experience; how annoyed I get when I work hard at something that nature will ultimately cause to decline. I don’t want to spend my life being annoyed by nature. So for the next year or two I just maintained the lawn: kept it watered and healthy and enjoyed watching my children play on it, but didn’t go overboard in fighting the weeds. Sure enough, two years later we were water rationed again, and again the lawn turned brown. But this time it didn’t phase me. My identity and sense of success was not, this time, wrapped up in huge efforts directed at keeping the lawn beautiful.

    I realized that similarly I was susceptible having an annoyed response to what nature will do to my body as I grow older and I wanted to be free of that response. So I decided to consciously do what my body needs to keep it healthy (good food, water, moderate exercise, cleanliness) but not to fight or try to stop the natural process of aging, but rather to see it as part of nature. It has been totally liberating. Now I am in my 50s. My body is sagging, but it works! My eyes need glasses, but they see! My face is more wrinkled, but I have skin and it’s clean! My bursitis kicks in, but I have Advil! I have gray in my hair, but I have hair! I have agespots on my hands, but they work! I can no longer do 50 mile hikes without pain, but I can still hike and enjoy the outdoors and it's glorious. And my sense of success or identity is not phased by my aging. I do not mourn it. I enjoy my body.

    I am thankful for the lesson my lawn taught me.

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  6. I'm not exagerating.
    It really happened this way:

    A few years ago, 2 weeks before Christmas, I was sitting in Relief Society wondering why I was not my usual stressed out pre-Christmas self. I sat there thinking, "Okay, I've been trying FOR DECADES to be calm at Christmas time, and to really enjoy it….and it is FINALLY happening." So then I go over and over in my mind, 'So what is the cause? Let me think so I can do this every year because I finally got it!….hmmmmm…" Then I SUDDENLY realized, "My last son just left on his mission….we are EMPTY NESTERS."

    While I truly do miss the days my sons were all home and all mine, I am LOVING this time of life!

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  7. I'm in my early 60's; my spirit still thinks I'm 18-20. A bonus of aging: I no longer care about what anyone thinks as far as their opinion of me unless I have done something to cause someone pain; I can let go of so much that used to tip me over because I now know 99% of it doesn't matter.
    I watched CBS's "Sunday Morning" with a segment about a 100 YEAR OLD MAN who still is competition skiing; bikes around 17 miles/day in the summer when he can; his drivers license will expire when he turns 106 and he and his wife still take motorcycle rides – she in the sidecar. Her comment is that its not worth getting her motorcycle clothes on if they're going less than 1000 miles. I'll never attain that level of physical ability (I don't have it now) but I'm really aware of how critical it is to keep myself physically moving and active because that's the real key to independence. I'm also simplifying my home and my life so encumbrances are at a minimum.

    It is so freeing.

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  8. I started working out 3 weeks ago, and I think I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life. I am stronger, can actually run (short distances), and most importantly, I FEEL great. I'm also older than I've ever been in my life, hitting those upper 30s. For me, the key is gratitude for the functionality of my body, and my goal is not a particular size, but a particular state of fitness. I'm trying to model good health for my daughter, so she doesn't grow up with the same hangups I got from my mom about sizes, stripes, and backsides.

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  9. Oh yeah, I'm with you! My body definitely can't handle the stresses it once could, but I'm sure more fit and look better than I did in my younger years. I do think women get more beautiful as they get older.

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  10. I enjoyed this post. I am trying to get used to feeling more old and creaky. I am not yet 40 though so I am also trying to keep it in perspective. I am also trying to not be bothered by losing youth in a society that idolizes youth but I will admit that I do NOT want to look pregnant if I am not. 🙂 I am reading a very interesting book called Mindful Eating. I like it very much and think the principle (basically, live in thanksgiving daily and really think about what you are putting into your mouth/life) is one that definitely applies to other areas of life. I do appreciate (now that I am old and wise 😉 the fact that I really don't care what other people think about my choices. I used to be bothered by that but not so much anymore. Very liberating.

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  11. I'm still in the struggle. I know intellectually that there is purpose in this process, but I'm mourning my old self (athletic, in shape, active) — all the more so, I think, because chronic illness closed off some of that person earlier than aging alone would have. Now adding aging onto the health stuff, and, well, for me, that is hard.

    On the flip side, I wouldn't trade what I have learned these past couple of decades. I wouldn't go back to a 20s body if I had to give up the learning and experience of being into my 5th decade of life.

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  12. I'm surprised at what a hard time I am having with aging. I have always been of the opinion that we should age gracefully – I just didn't realize it would come so fast! I am not ready to age yet! I still want to look like I'm in my 20s – not a middle-age mother to a bunch of kids. (But I am a middle-age mother to a bunch of kids) Then I realize that my oldest will be dating in a few years, and I really don't want to be one of those moms trying to look like a teenager still.

    Sigh. And yet I use $50 face serum and a push-up bra and recently gave in and highlighted my hair (I realized that if I wait too long, I'll just be fighting gray). No, I am not handling aging well at all.

    (And I know about doctor fatigue. I don't have that many doctor appointments anymore – I'm down to 6 month maintenance appointments, but I think I'm a year late to see my OBGYN because I just don't feel like it).

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  13. "very loving process by Father to help us gradually let go of our bodies in preparation for when we will have to exist without them again for a while."

    What a lovely insight, Roberta. Thank you.

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  14. I was in the store the other day and overheard two men discussing aging and how they have dealt with it and all the problems their bodies are having now. (I admit to eaves-dropping–it was just so fascinating to me that I hung around the shoe department WAY longer than I was planning. :)) Anyway, one of them said he would like to go back about age 25. The other said 35 then they both agreed that after age 40 it started to go downhill. The really funny part was when one of them said his age–75. The other guy said, "Wow. You're lots older than me. I'm 74!) 😉

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  15. I totally agree with the others on here about what they've learned over the years. In that way, I think mortality is very much giving me my money's worth and NO WAY would I EVER give that back. But I don't like that I'm starting to have problems with my teeth. And my knees. And my thyroid. And . . . Yep. President Hinckley was right when he said, "The golden years are laced with lead." 🙂

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  16. Ugh. Hamstring tendonitis – not fun. I'm walking around bemoaning the return of achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. Just dropped a wad on new shoes. I used to be able to bend-down and pick up toys off the floor without feeling my hamstrings screech, but not now. The irony? These young mother years ought to be the time we're in our best shape ever – because we need to be – so we can function. There's no option for taking a sick day, or even a slow day, but I'm in my worst shape ever. And nursing an injury or finding time to exercise the right ways is just hard. That said, I do like the older me. As you pointed out, we've come a long way and going back to the dating scene would be ummm…torture. Loved your post Heath. And I hope both you and Nate are back on the streets soon! (Running that is.)

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  17. I have no problem with getting older (yet — I'm only 32) and I don't think I've ever complained about my body (6mos post-partum) in front of my children. I'm fine with my changing body. I think it looks okay. I *do* have a problem with not being able to find clothes that flatter this body, though, and I know that my daughters have heard me complain about that.

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