Tag Archives: body

Overheard at Costco

“I sometimes feel bad about my saggy fifty-year old boobs.

But then I see saggy man-boobs, and it makes me  feel better!”

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Now, this is going to hurt a little bit

I’ve never been very good at this part. I have no tolerance for pain, little sufferance for suffering . I was the child who needed the lollipop before I got the shot. Anaesthetic is my favorite Triple Word Score move in Scrabble.  Raised on ibuprofen and OxyContin, discomfort has always been optional in this life. Mostly, it’s an option I’ve not taken.

But for two weeks, I have been sick with the flu. The real influenza, not some 24-hour bug.  As it turns out, the real flu is a debilitating and painful viral infection. What’s worse, it’s one of these $%^&*  Character Building Learning Experiences.

When you are in your latest-possible-forties and have the flu, you get limited sympathy for your troubles. Friends are sorry and offer advice, but they generally expect you to have grown accustomed to a few physical aches and twinges by now.  For a discomfort as temporary as the flu, they expect you to buck up and carry on.

Learning to bear suffering with grace is so … grownup. So dignified. So beyond my ken. Apparently, learning this discipline is part of my transition to this new place in life. Full womanhood includes accepting discomfort and bearing pain while staying focused on my intentions to be  awake and alive.

It seems that to be grown up is to know the difference between analgesia and anesthesia. It’s fine to slug down NyQuil for the flu, but there are no Band-Aids for the boo-boo of discovering a parent is losing his ability to communicate. There are no fizzy tablets that will ease the pain of a sibling’s sudden, but not unexpected, death. It’s undeniably mature to wake up to that old, familiar ache in the ankle or a hip and realize that this morning’s need for pain relief isn’t  a temporary situation, it’s the way you’ll wake up for the rest of your life . Difficulty  becomes an old friend we can count on to show up every day.

Pain is part of the way life is. Its presence does not diminish joy, unless I let it. We’ll never be friends, pain and I, but I’m resigned to learn to walk alongside it. Ignore me if I limp and whine for a little while. I’m only beginning  to learn how to take this in stride.

Body of Life

And it is always, eventually, about the body.

Although I try to avoid it, this business of growing older is inevitably about facing my diminishing corporeal capacities. This shapely body has grown merely sturdy; the long lovely architecture of bone becomes buried deeper each year beneath hard-earned muscle and the luscious endurance of fat.

I’ve grown used to the small indignities, like frequently needing reading glasses yet losing them often. Fortunately, I have not had to face this ignominy alone. Friends laugh in familiar recognition at my dilemma, and hand me their readers to see the memo or the menu.  Together, we have become people whose vision is better suited to the long view. We don’t need to remember everything, only what we cannot borrow or lend.

But privately , I’ve been forced to notice a deeper falling down, the kind we don’t share over a   casual lunch.  I live in this body like an old house. Its inner contours are well furnished and      familiar, but the siding is constantly in need of a paint job and routine maintenance and repair.  Of late, the girders and joists have begun to groan, reminding me that no house stands forever. My doctor swears I’ve lost a half-inch in height. And my knees demand professional attention.

So I’ll be away this week, attending to the needs of this body. I’ll be spending quality time with my orthopedic surgeon, and reflecting on the kind of  growth that only shows up on the inside.

Closet space

One of the first things I have to do in order to live big is to empty my closet. It is a walk-in closet full of clothes I cannot wear. I’m not really a packrat, or even a clotheshorse. But I count the season of my life in my attire, in the same way that some people keep letters and photographs. And this over-filled closet is, and is not, a metaphor.

What I wore is my way of remembering my body in the world. Something about the way the pocket sags on my grey wool cardigan is just the right shape to hold a memory: my first kitten, the one I brought home from work in that pocket, a big-eyed wonder with toxoplasmosis from living on meats scraps at Hot Sauce Williams Bar-B-Q. Two tailored dress shirts in purple and jasper shantung: pretty, shiny things that kept my breath alive inside two decades of navy flannel suits.

Some of these memories now serve me less well. These low-slung moleskin jeans belong to hips narrower that the ones I now call mine.  That pair of high-heeled gold satin slides with rhinestone buckles jumped the broom at my wedding, but they will not dance again. Although I treasure the joy I knew in them, my knees won’t bear them anymore. They belong to a life I no longer live.

But it is hard to let go. Will I someday forget the tenderness of my lover’s hand slipping a mother-of-pearl button through the loop of this jewel-neck blouse?

Blouses and suits lay coiled in bags and boxes. The leather arm of my first designer handbag desperately holds onto a two piece knit dress. The eyes of my high-lace boots stare accusingly. “Is this some kind of middle-aged dementia?” they ask.  Do I intend to invite forgetfulness by letting them go?

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